Symbian UI

symbianfoundation.gifIf you follow my blog you will know I was disappointed with S60 5th Touch. Nokia has always stated that S60 5th was never intended to compete with the iPhone. I can see why because touch bolted onto S60 was never going to be elegant.

Nevertheless, the price point for the 5800 has been very attractive, particularly here in the UK, although the Comes with Music variant has been spectacularly unsuccessful.

I met Scott Weiss the new User Interface Technology Manager for Symbian Foundation at a mobile event earlier this month. He said S60 5th is considered an interim touch solution.

Symbian plans state that the Symbian^4 release will include a Qt extension called Orbit that will replace the existing Avkon UI library of the Symbian…

"A new “Orbit” extension library for Qt, which contains more than 50 widgets tailored for mobile user experience, and which will provide a replacement for the existing “Avkon” widget set; A new “Direct UI” interaction and navigation logic, combined with finger-optimised layouts offering excellent touch and hybrid-device user experience"

Meanwhile, Scott is championing the idea of an additional new non-touch UI and a XML-based alternative to Nokia’s Orbit and DirectUI.

I am curious how deep Nokia will go with Qt. It seems that Nokia will be heavily relying on Qt to simplify development and provide for improved mobile user experience. Will Qt really give developers enough (API) control to allow them to forego the Symbian API for the majority of applications?

If the existing Avkon UI library is removed, this will imply a binary break for existing Symbian applications. Conversely, if the Avkon UI library isn’t removed, the Symbian OS will have multiple UI personalities and become confusing for the end-user. It’s a tough call.

Krzysztof Choma, who I worked with while I was contracting at Symbian, provides a great summary of Orbit and DirectUI vs Avkon on on his blog.

UPDATE: My post caused an article and discussion on IntoMobile and Scott has since recorded an audio interview on IntoMobile to clarify the situation. Items of note in the interview are…

  • Nokia will be deprecating the S60 brand (I read this as phasing it out). Phones will be branded ‘Symbian’ or 3rd party branding.
  • Symbian previously suffered for not having a UI. It now has S60, UIQ and MOAP.
  • New Symbian UI overhaul in 2011/12. Incremental improvements until then.
  • Qt may become only framework for development with Avkon removed (this is still a proposal). This would break all existing applications on new phones.