The Symbian OS is powerful. Extremely powerful. There’s nothing that you can’t do on Symbian that you can do on the other platforms. The same can’t be said about the other platforms. Allow me to illustrate.
iOS is not open, there’s no secret about that. Although Apple is becoming more flexible on the kind of apps you can use on the iPhone, there are still a lot of things they don’t allow. That is why the jail-breaking scene is so huge – it allows you to do some simple to complex things that Apple won’t allow. From turning the phone into a Wi-fi hotspot(coming soon in iOS 4.3 maybe?) to displaying more info on the lock screen or transferring files via Bluetooth – features that have been available on Symbian devices either out-of-box or through apps for ages. We often take these features for granted. It’s when you don’t have them that you realise the central role they play in your mobile experience.
On to Android, the new kid on the block. Just after I got my Android phone, my first after a series of Symbian devices, I noticed something quite disturbing. The APN settings were not copied from the SIM card/carrier or where ever they come from! This NEVER happened with any of my previous Symbian devices from both Nokia and Samsung. Even the ones I imported from around Asia and Europe. I had to go through many hours of searching and trying deferent combinations until I got it right. So much for first impressions. So, you just got an Android phone with a front facing camera. You should be able to make regular video calls over 3G right? Wrong. Android doesn’t support the standard protocol. The same protocol that’s on many feature phones from many manufactures! You have to get apps like Skype or something – major bummer because if like me, you had a deal with your carrier for free/subsidised 3G video calls, you’re out of luck.
On both Android and iOS, data can be used without warning. For the first time I’ve had to get a data plan for my phone. With Symbian, there’s a pop-up with options to choose the network to connect to when a connection is needed. There are no services that use data in the background unless you allow them to, i.e, you have more control.
The connectivity on Symbian is unrivaled. From Bluetooth connectivity (v3.0 on the N8) for headsets, keyboards(Android lacks this) and file transfer(iOS anyone?), to the FM radio(iPhone again) and FM transmitter(both lack it), there is no competition. Some older Symbian devices even have Infrared ports(like the legendary n95).
The Symbian touch UI is probably one of the most complex on the market. People who hate it probably don’t know how to use it. There’s also an advantage to it – if you can use a Symbian touchscreen phone then you can probably use any touchscreen device that has and will ever come out without reading the manual!
There are some major kinks that Nokia/Symbian need to work out on the UI front though. If they are able to sort that out in a huge way, Symbian will become/remain the top smartphone OS of them all.