Nokia launches two phones running an updated Symbian OS

Nokia launched an updated version of its Symbian^3 mobile operating system on Tuesday, along with two phones running the software, the X7 and the E6.

The launches are a sign that Nokia hasn't abandoned the Symbian OS in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone yet. The new software, particularly, shows the importance of Symbian in the transition to Windows Phone 7, and represents a crucial step in an effort to close the gap with rival operating systems, according to a research note from analyst CCS Insight.

Symbian Anna, as the new software is called, has a faster browser and a portrait-mode virtual QWERTY keyboard, Nokia said. It also has usability improvements including smoother scrolling, and a new version of Ovi Maps, with better search and new public transport routes. Enterprises get expanded security functionality and hardware-accelerated encryption, Nokia said. In all, there are over 50 enhancements in the new version, it said.

Nokia also launched two new smartphones running Symbian Anna: the X7 and the E6.

The X7 has a 4-inch AMOLED touchscreen with a resolution of 640 x 360 pixels, an 8-megapixel camera that can record 720p video, and Internet access over HSDPA (High-Speed Download Packet Access) networks at 10.2 Mbps (bits per second).

The Nokia E6 has a physical QWERTY keyboard below its 2.5-inch, 640 x 480 pixel touchscreen. The E6 includes Microsoft Communicator Mobile, a presence management and instant messaging app, and can access Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint servers.

Both phones will start shipping during the second quarter and will cost €380 and €340 respectively before taxes and subsidies, a spokeswoman said.

Symbian Anna will also ship on Nokia's N8, E7, C7 and C6-01 devices, as will be available to download on previously purchased models of those same smartphones.

What happens next with Symbian remains to be seen, but the Anna upgrade is the first in a series of enhancements planned before Nokia's adoption of Windows Phone. A Nokia presentation at the 2010 International Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing in December accurately detailed Symbian Anna, although it put its arrival date in the first quarter. That presentation also detailed further Symbian upgrades, including a new look and feel for the user interface and support for smartphones with dual-core processors.

Nokia's efforts to improve Symbian have also been evident on the company's Beta Labs website, where it allows users to test ideas under development that may become real products. Drop allows users to send images and links from a browser to a Symbian smartphone, and the Bubbles application adds shortcuts in the shape of floating bubbles on a new unlock screen.

Despite these efforts, analyst IDC expects Symbian's worldwide smartphone market share to drop to 20.9% during 2011, compared to 37% in 2010 and 45% in 2009. By 2015, the operating system will be nearly extinct, with only a 0.2% share, the market research company said in a recent report.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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