Symbian OS was one of Nokia's mobile operating systems for mobile devices and smartphones, with associated libraries, user interface, frameworks and reference implementations of common tools, originally developed by Symbian Ltd. It is a descendant of Psion's EPOC and runs exclusively on ARM processors, although an unreleased x86 port existed.
In 2008, the former Symbian Software Limited was acquired by Nokia and a new independent non-profit organization called the Symbian Foundation was established. Symbian OS and its associated user interfaces S60, UIQ and MOAP(S) were contributed by their owners to the foundation with the objective of creating the Symbian platform as a royalty-free, open source software. The platform has been designated as the successor to Symbian OS, following the official launch of the Symbian Foundation in April 2009. The Symbian platform was officially made available as open source code in February 2010.
EPOC is a family of graphical operating systems developed by Psion for portable devices, primarily PDAs. EPOC came from epoch, the beginning of an era, but was backfitted by the engineers to "Electronic Piece Of Cheese".
EPOC16, originally simply named EPOC, was the operating system developed by Psion in the late 1980s and early 1990s for Psion's "SIBO" (SIxteen Bit Organisers) devices. All EPOC16 devices featured an 8086-family processor and a 16-bit architecture. EPOC16 was a single-user preemptive multitasking operating system, written in Intel 8086 assembler language and C and designed to be delivered in ROM. It supported a simple programming language called Open Programming Language (OPL) and an integrated development environment (IDE) called OVAL. SIBO devices included the: MC200, MC400, Series 3 (1991–98), Series 3a, Series 3c, Series 3mx, Siena, Workabout and Workabout mx. The MC400 and MC200, the first EPOC16 devices, shipped in 1989.
EPOC16 featured a primarily 1-bit-per-pixel, keyboard-operated graphical interface — the hardware for which it was designed did not have pointer input.
In the late 1990s, the operating system was referred to as EPOC16 to distinguish it from Psion's then-new EPOC32 OS.
EPOC32 (releases 1 to 5)
The first version of EPOC32, Release 1 appeared on the Psion Series 5 ROM v1.0 in 1997. Later, ROM v1.1 featured Release 3 (Release 2 was never publicly available.) These were followed by the Psion Series 5mx, Revo / Revo plus, Psion Series 7 / netBook and netPad (which all featured Release 5).
The EPOC32 operating system, at the time simply referred to as EPOC, was later renamed Symbian OS. Adding to the confusion with names, before the change to Symbian, EPOC16 was often referred to as SIBO to distinguish it from the "new" EPOC. Despite the similarity of the names, EPOC32 and EPOC16 were completely different operating systems, EPOC32 being written in C++ from a new codebase with development beginning during the mid 1990s.
EPOC32 was a pre-emptive multitasking, single user operating system with memory protection, which encourages the application developer to separate their program into an engine and an interface. The Psion line of PDAs come with a graphical user interface called EIKON which is specifically tailored for handheld machines with a keyboard (thus looking perhaps more similar to desktop GUIs than palmtop GUIs ). However, one of EPOC's characteristics is the ease with which new GUIs can be developed based on a core set of GUI classes, a feature which has been widely explored from Ericsson R380 and onwards.
EPOC32 was originally developed for the ARM family of processors, including the ARM7, ARM9, StrongARM and Intel's XScale, but can be compiled towards target devices using several other processor types.
During the development of EPOC32, Psion planned to license EPOC to third-party device manufacturers, and spin off its software division as Psion Software. One of the first licensees was the short-lived Geofox, which halted production with less than 1,000 units sold. Ericsson marketed a rebranded Psion Series 5mx called the MC218, and later created the EPOC Release 5.1 based smartphone, the R380. Oregon Scientific also released a budget EPOC device, the Osaris (notable as the only EPOC device to ship with Release 4).
Work started on the 32-bit version in late 1994.
The Series 5 device, released in June 1997, used the first iterations of the EPOC32 OS, codenamed "Protea", and the "Eikon" graphical user interface.
The Oregon Scientific Osaris was the only PDA to use the ER4.
The Psion Series 5mx, Psion Series 7, Psion Revo, Diamond Mako, Psion netBook and Ericsson MC218 were released in 1999 using ER5. A phone project was announced at CeBIT, the Phillips Illium/Accent, but did not achieve a commercial release. This release has been retrospectively dubbed Symbian OS 5.
The first phone using ER5u, the Ericsson R380 was released in November 2000. It was not an 'open' phone – software could not be installed. Notably, a number of never-released Psion prototypes for next generation PDAs, including a Bluetooth Revo successor codenamed "Conan" were using ER5u. The 'u' in the name refers to the fact that it supported Unicode.
In June 1998, Psion Software became Symbian Ltd., a major joint venture between Psion and phone manufacturers Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia. As of Release 6, EPOC became known simply as Symbian OS.
Symbian OS 6.0 and 6.1
The OS was renamed Symbian OS and was envisioned as the base for a new range of smartphones. This release is sometimes called ER6. Psion gave 130 key staff to the new company and retained a 31% shareholding in the spin-off.
The first 'open' Symbian OS phone, the Nokia 9210 Communicator, was released in June 2001. Bluetooth support was added. Almost 500,000 Symbian phones were shipped in 2001, rising to 2.1 million the following year.
Development of different UIs was made generic with a "reference design strategy" for either 'smartphone' or 'communicator' devices, subdivided further into keyboard- or tablet-based designs. Two reference UIs (DFRDs or Device Family Reference Designs) were shipped – Quartz and Crystal. The former was merged with Ericsson's 'Ronneby' design and became the basis for the UIQ interface; the latter reached the market as the Nokia Series 80 UI.
Later DFRDs were Sapphire, Ruby, and Emerald. Only Sapphire came to market, evolving into the Pearl DFRD and finally the Nokia Series 60 UI, a keypad-based 'square' UI for the first true smartphones. The first one of them was the Nokia 7650 smartphone (featuring Symbian OS 6.1), which was also the first with a built-in camera, with VGA (0.3 Mpx = 640×480) resolution.
Despite these efforts to be generic, the UI was clearly split between competing companies: Crystal or Sapphire was Nokia, Quartz was Ericsson. DFRD was abandoned by Symbian in late 2002, as part of an active retreat from UI development in favour of 'headless' delivery. Pearl was given to Nokia, Quartz development was spun off as UIQ Technology AB, and work with Japanese firms was quickly folded into the MOAP standard.
Symbian OS 7.0 and 7.0s
First shipped in 2003. This is an important Symbian release which appeared with all contemporary user interfaces including UIQ (Sony Ericsson P800, P900, P910, Motorola A925, A1000), Series 80 (Nokia 9300, 9500), Series 90 (Nokia 7710), Series 60 (Nokia 3230, 6260, 6600, 6670, 7610) as well as several FOMA phones in Japan and Siemens SX1(VGA Camera, MMC card, Bluetooth, Infraport, radio) - the first and the last symbian phone from Siemens. It also added EDGE support and IPv6. Java support was changed from pJava and JavaPhone to one based on the Java ME standard.
One million Symbian phones were shipped in Q1 2003, with the rate increasing to one million a month by the end of 2003.
Symbian OS 7.0s was a version of 7.0 special adapted to have greater backward compatibility with Symbian OS 6.x, partly for compatibility between the Communicator 9500 and its predecessor the Communicator 9210.
In 2004, Psion sold its stake in Symbian. The same year, the first worm for mobile phones using Symbian OS, Cabir, was developed, which used Bluetooth to spread itself to nearby phones. See Cabir and Symbian OS threats.
Symbian OS 8.0
First shipped in 2004, one of its advantages would have been a choice of two different kernels (EKA1 or EKA2). However, the EKA2 kernel version did not ship until Symbian OS 8.1b. The kernels behave more or less identically from user-side, but are internally very different. EKA1 was chosen by some manufacturers to maintain compatibility with old device drivers, while EKA2 was a real-time kernel. 8.0b was deproductised in 2003.
Also included were new APIs to support CDMA, 3G, two-way data streaming, DVB-H, and OpenGL ES with vector graphics and direct screen access.
Symbian OS 8.1
An improved version of 8.0, this was available in 8.1a and 8.1b versions, with EKA1 and EKA2 kernels respectively. The 8.1b version, with EKA2's single-chip phone support but no additional security layer, was popular among Japanese phone companies desiring the real-time support but not allowing open application installation. The first and maybe the most famous smartphone featuring Symbian OS 8.1a was Nokia N90 in 2005, Nokia's first in Nseries.
Symbian OS 9
Symbian OS 9.0 was used for internal Symbian purposes only. It was de-productised in 2004. 9.0 marked the end of the road for EKA1. 8.1a is the final EKA1 version of Symbian OS.
Symbian OS has generally maintained reasonable binary code compatibility. In theory the OS was BC from ER1-ER5, then from 6.0 to 8.1b. Substantial changes were needed for 9.0, related to tools and security, but this should be a one-off event. The move from requiring ARMv4 to requiring ARMv5 did not break backwards compatibility.
Symbian OS 9.1 and open source development
Released early 2005. It includes many new security related features, including platform security module facilitating mandatory code signing. The new ARM EABI binary model means developers need to retool and the security changes mean they may have to recode. S60 platform 3rd Edition phones have Symbian OS 9.1. Sony Ericsson is shipping the M600 and P990 based on Symbian OS 9.1. The earlier versions had a defect where the phone hangs temporarily after the owner sent a large number of SMS'es. However, on 13 September 2006, Nokia released a small program to fix this defect.
Support for Bluetooth 2.0 was also added.
Symbian 9.1 introduced capabilities and a Platform Security framework. To access certain APIs, developers have to sign their application with a digital signature. Basic capabilities are user-grantable and developers can self-sign them, while more advanced capabilities require certification and signing via the Symbian Signed program, which uses independent 'test houses' and phone manufacturers for approval. For example, file writing is a user-grantable capability while access to Multimedia Device Drivers require phone manufacturer approval. A TC TrustCenter ACS Publisher ID certificate is required by the developer for signing applications.
Symbian OS 9.2
Released Q1 2006. Support for OMA Device Management 1.2 (was 1.1.2). Vietnamese language support. S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 phones have Symbian OS 9.2. Nokia phones with Symbian OS 9.2 OS include the Nokia E71, Nokia E90, Nokia N95, Nokia N82, Nokia N81 and Nokia 5700.
Symbian OS 9.3
Released on 12 July 2006. Upgrades include improved memory management and native support for Wifi 802.11, HSDPA. The Nokia E72, Nokia 5730 XpressMusic, Nokia N79, Nokia N96, Nokia E52, Nokia E75, Nokia 5320 XpressMusic, Sony Ericsson P1 and others feature Symbian OS 9.3.
Symbian OS 9.4
Announced in March 2007. Provides the concept of demand paging which is available from v9.3 onwards. Applications should launch up to 75% faster. Additionally, SQL support is provided by SQLite. Ships with the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD, Nokia N97, Nokia N97 mini, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia 5530 XpressMusic, Nokia 5228, Nokia 5230, Nokia 5233, Nokia 5235, Nokia C6-00, Nokia X6, Sony Ericsson Satio, Sony Ericsson Vivaz and Sony Ericsson Vivaz Pro. Used as the basis for Symbian^1, the first Symbian platform release. The release is also better known as S60 5th edition, as it is the bundled interface for the OS.
Symbian OS 9.5
Symbian^3 is a big improvement over previous S60 5th Edition and features single touch menus in the user interface, as well as new Symbian OS kernel with hardware-accelerated graphics; further improvements will come in the first half of 2011 including portrait qwerty keyboard, a new browser and split-screen text input. Nokia announced that updates to Symbian^3 interface based on Qt framework will be delivered gradually, as they are available; Symbian^4, the previously planned major release, is now discontinued and its intended features will be incorporated into Symbian^3 instead, named as Symbian Anna.
Symbian OS 10.1
In the summer of 2011 videos showing an early leaked version of Symbian Belle running on a Nokia N8 were published on YouTube. On August 24, 2011, Nokia announced Symbian Belle officially for three new smartphones, the Nokia 603, Nokia 700, and Nokia 701. They also announced that Belle would be coming to all existing Symbian^3 devices in the fourth quarter of 2011. Symbian Belle adds to the Anna improvements with a pull-down status/notification bar, deeper near field communication integration, free-form re-sizable homescreen widgets, and six homescreens instead of the previous three.