PermaLink Discovering Symbian Smartphones09/24/2005
After looking for a suitable smartphone for a while, I ended up w/ a Symbian phone, the Nokia 6620.  I thought I'd end up with a Linux phone like the Motorola A780 or a Windows Mobile phone, but it turns out Symbian has the largest installed base...a huge 39 Million Symbian OS phones.  My main goals were to get a GSM smartphone that can run GPS navigation software and MP3 software, while having the usual requirements of bluetooth, VGA camera, speakerphone, and memory card slot.  The 6620 met my expectations and a lot more The only thing I wish is that the CommonTime folks would port mNotes to it, but they only support the Symbian UIQ series at this point  That's one confusing aspect of the Symbian OS.  Even though there are a lot of Symbian phones, it's not that obvious that there are multiple subtrees; i.e., they are different versions of the Symbian OS and different hardware platforms, so software needs to be recompiled and ported to run on each version, unless that software was written in Java which has great support in Symbian phones.  For the Symbian OS, there is the old S40 (series 40), the S60, and the S80, and the UIQ version.  The most popular, by far, is the 60 series.  Within each series, there are also multiple versions of Symbian OS with the S60 up to 8.0.  The S60 7.0 (what the Nokia 6620 runs) seems to have the largest installed base of users.   Symbian could have even more software by now, but their development tools cost at least $1K if you want to code in C++, although they are supporting Eclipse more for their Java development.

Because Symbian has been around for a while, there are a huge number of good freeware applications.  My most used list includes:

MapViewGPS - a moving/topo map program which can share waypoints and routes with OziExplorer.  You can get local Boston NOAA nautical maps from the MassGIS site; others can get NOAA's ENC maps or NGS' DNC maps.  You can also get national USGS topo maps from their data gateway (you can find maps using their seamless data browser).  The USAPhotoMaps program can also download maps from Microsoft's TerraServer.
OggPlay - one of the best examples of open source, this is an MP3 and Ogg music player that can be skinned.  Ogg Vorbis takes up half the space as MP3 files and sounds better.
TaskSpy - Task Manager for Symbian so you can monitor tasks, memory used, and kill tasks.
FExplorer -  an extremely good file explorer and screen capture program
Autolock - locks the phone on bootup or after a period of time (it's amazing how many phone makers just can't get this feature right)
- when you get the itch to play those old classic video games (sadly sound doesn't work on the Symbian port)
IPView - shows your TCP/IP network configuration (extremely helpful if you're trying to route data through a cellular network)
PuTTY - ssh and telnet client (hard to use w/ just a phone keyboard, but cool nonetheless)
Themes/Skins - for changing the look of your phone:,6566,034-301,00.html

QuickOffice - for reading MS Word/Excel/Powerpoint files (free Standard version is read-only)
ReadM - an eBook reader for all those free eBooks
PowerCall - displays large image of caller and lets you send an SMS message to tell them you're busy

And of course, Symbian has some great 3rd party commercial software:

TomTom Mobile 5 - great user interface, but the TomTom USA folks have decided the US market isn't big enough and only sell a European version; US customers are stuck with buying a version for their particular Symbian OS off ebay or from a UK reseller, then buying the PDA version to get the US maps
Destinator SP - also lets you send/receive locations via SMS and navigate to the SMS sender's location; North American version includes USA and Canada maps
Smart2Go - not quite as mature a user interface as the others, but has a large POI database and you pay once for all platforms
SmartMovie - lets you convert and watch videos on the phone
Papyrus - what Symbian should be copying for their organizer feature
Handy Day - another great organizer Symbian should copy
Agile Messenger - the Trillian/Gaim of the Symbian world (no Lotus SameTime support though)-:
IM+ - also supports the Jabber protocol

Other cool hacks:

- You can
surf the net on your phone using your computer as the router over bluetooth by using GnuBox or by using Blue Soleil.
- One of the irritating things about the Nokia is the lack of a real 3.5mm jack for external headphones.  Nokia did this so they could sell headsets that have an answer button and a microphone, so some folks have figured how to hack these headsets so they have a
3.5mm jack and even a volume control.
- You can add contacts and calendar entries to your phone via
Nokia's SMS page.
Comments :v

1. Illarane12/07/2005 06:40:46

AFAIK, there's a GNU GCC build which will cross compile for Symbian that you can compile C++ software with.

2. Markus Sinner10/06/2005 22:04:52

I installed a Symbian SDK without spending "at least $1K". The only cost you will have is a licence for a Windows OS - what most people should already have.

Further information at


3. Alpesh09/29/2005 18:12:51

I still thinks my Mxp200 was better than Nokia 6620.

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Full-stack developer (consultant) working with .Net, Java, Android, Javascript (jQuery, Meteor.js, AngularJS), Lotus Domino