The Symbian operating system appears primarily on cell phones and smart phones, and offers a broad array of personal information management (PIM) features, including contact and calendar management and a robust library of third-party applications. Yet because the operating system is usually tailored to individual hardware (in other words, it can look and act differently depending on the phone that's running it), there are only so many conclusions we can draw.
Ease of use
As we just mentioned, your experience with the Symbian operating system will depend on the phone. For example, on the keyboard-equipped Nokia 9300, we found the Symbian operating system fairly easy to navigate, though it certainly wasn't as intuitive as, say, the Palm or Windows Mobile systems. On the candy bar-style Nokia 6682 phone, the interface struck us as downright confusing, and data entry was as painfully slow as you'd expect. Overall, we'd say Symbian has the steepest learning curve of all handheld operating systems, but just how steep depends on the hardware.
The Nokia N95 runs Symbian OS and is packed with powerful multimedia and productivity features to suit the needs of the most demanding user.
The Symbian operating system incorporates full support for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, though again the ability to create and edit these documents or just view them depends on your hardware.
When it comes to messaging, Symbian is as versatile as any other platform, it not more so. Out of the box, it supports the usual POP3, IMAP4, and Webmail accounts. If you want something a little more robust, you can choose from several push e-mail solutions, including BlackBerry Connect and Visto. The operating system also supports Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange for maximum compatibility in the corporate world.
The Symbian operating system is pretty adept at multimedia, with integrated support for audio and video playback and recording, though not all those capabilities are realized on the devices themselves. The Nokia 9300, for instance, comes with both an MP3 player and the mobile version of RealPlayer, which enables playback of RealAudio, RealVideo, and MP3 files. But it cannot capture audio or video.
A recent check of software site Handango revealed more than 5,500 third-party applications for the Symbian operating system--not quite up to Palm and Windows Mobile levels, but far more than you'll find on other smart phone operating systems. That's another big point in Symbian's favor, especially if you're weighing it against other phones.