Re: Time for a Change of Plan, Nokia ..? (@Nigel)
I received a brand-new, fully unlocked N8 from Nokia because I'd turned up to a developer day. So although I haven't upgraded it to Belle, I think I can claim unadulterated experience of Symbian's last commercial stand.
Problem one: consistency. It felt like three or four separate widget sets glued randomly together. I'm talking about things like the bundled applications exhibiting at least three different types of scroll view. In the settings there were still a few that required me to poke at and drag a nub on a scrollbar. In most of the apps they'd settled on a direct manipulation metaphor but with no inertia. In a few they'd decided to go with direct manipulation and inertia. So the experience is muddled and confused, and basically relies on me learning to adjust my expectations on how to scroll content for each individual app by rote.
Problem two: tacked on touch screen hacks. To enter text into a text box in Symbian as shipped on the N8 you tap the text box. You're then taken to a completely separate, mostly blank screen — often with almost no context — to enter your text. When you press okay you're taken back to the screen with the text box and the text box is filled with whatever you just typed. I don't care how hard it was to hack an on-screen keyboard into the OS, that's just unacceptable. And, again, I'm talking primarily about the bundled apps, supplied right on the handset, not third-party offerings that someone somewhere couldn't be bothered to adapt.
Problem three: incredibly poor use of screen real estate. I seemed forever to be having to navigate little pop-up menus down three or four levels just to access basic app functionality. Again I suspect a junior somewhere was told to 'make the menus work on touch screens' and given about three days in which to do it.
Problem four: poor development environment that fosters all of the above problems. On my developer day they'd invited an ex-employee who was then gainfully employed outside the company in Symbian software creation to evangelise about the state of the platform. He primarily boasted about how incredible it was that he'd managed closely to duplicate an iOS app he'd built while only spending about three weeks on replicating things like animated transitions between views that iOS gives you for free. They made lots of promises about QT Quick, which at the time still hadn't even shipped, showing how neat it was that if we (i) put a graphic down on the canvas; and (ii) put a touch area in front of it then we've managed to reproduce something a bit like a button. It doesn't give any feedback cues on user interactions or anything, but obviously as a developer you should be implementing that stuff yourself for every single app, right?
As a mature platform with a history of techy users I'm sure Symbian is just feature packed. But as a user I don't care when even the basic features are so obfuscated that I have to spend days learning the phone before I can use it.