In all the delightful sentiments about renewals and resolutions, the start of 2014 is also the scene of a smartphone goodbye that deserves more than the whimper it has received. While the handsets are still out there, Nokia closed the doors to the App Store and the application signing process today. With no new handsets being designed, no updates to the Operating System, and now no central App Store for third-party app distribution or app signing and certification, it’s fair to say that Symbian is mostly dead.
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Mostly dead, as Miracle Max would say, means slightly alive, and while the big guns have left the building, there are still countless Symbian handsets still out there, still in service, and still available for the dedicated developer to reach out and market to (as well as continue to provide security updates to their own apps).
As All About Symbian’s Steve Litchfield points out, developers still have three major routes left open to them; the App Store is frozen but still accessible, so the last update for their app is still available; developers can ‘self-sign’ any updates to their applications, or they can distribute ‘unsigned’ apps that will run on hacked.jailbroken firmwares (which are becoming more prominent).
I cut my teeth in the smartphone world with Symbian OS (and used to write at All About Symbian) and while it is sad to see it fall out of favor for solutions that are arguably less technically adept, I’m glad to see that the pioneering spirit that infected the Symbian community lives on. While Nokia have moved on to alternative Operating Systems, once they made the decision to scale down on Symbian OS they did not abandon the platform overnight.
It has taken three years to reach this point of ‘freeze’ and that has allowed third-party developers time to switch to other platforms, it has allowed the regular user on a two-year contract to see out their 24 months with a phone that was supported until the end, and it allowed the community who wished to stay be ready for the moment where they would be left to fend for themselves.
Farewell Symbian. I hope that other mobile platforms fade away into the digital darkness they do so as gracefully as you.