(originally published at http://blog.symbian.org/2010/02/19/ideas-at-mwc/)
I’ve spent the Tuesday morning two weeks ago volunteering in the ideas.symbian.org lounge at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The place, full of soft pouffes, maintained in yellow-white-black design, and also decorated with huge bath-ducks (that’s a Symbian’s mascot these days) attracted many business people, who either wanted to rest for a while with a tasty-yet-free coffee (the bartender didn’t share recipes, so no open-source here, Symbian 😉 ), have a little chat in this quieter place, or just use the free WiFi access.
Having an opportunity to talk to some of them I tried to inquire for ideas they could share with Symbian to improve future devices and our experience with more and more capable smartphones. That’s no surprise that among people who visited the lounge many used Symbian (and in particular Nokia) phones for a while, but abandoned them for the sake of BlackBerries or iPhones. The very common words repeated in these talks were that these competitors bring speed, simplicity of the software (watch the huge scrolling menus) and intuitiveness (shall I mention kinetic scrolling yet?).
There were of course some hardcore Symbian users or partners, who had very precise ideas what they need from the platform, and knowing where it’s going they just wanted to take advantage of the new business opportunity.
Someone mentioned he would like to have Symbian extensible for embedded platforms. I imagine he could use it for his own brand coffee machine, radio or something else yet (i.e. have you seen the QT-based coffee machine? http://twitpic.com/l8yzz).
Other idea was referring to more flexible software payment framework. The developer could charge for the software usage rather than for downloading it from the Ovi store (that would boost the number of freeware applications, and let the user choose more wisely, depending on how they actually like the application, instead of a quasi-blind shoot, based on the last comments, description and a couple of screen shots…).
There was also some interesting vote from the person who actually worked with Nokia, and couldn’t understand why there is no profile scheduler anymore (that’s something that sets your phone to silent automatically everyday from 10pm to 7am). I was able to help with the software I used in the past (feel free to try it yourself at http://www.drjukka.com/ ). And that’s good that Symbian allows the independent developers build additional features, but I don’t see any reason why the top-shelf phone like Nokia N97 shouldn’t come up with that feature built in! I remember this was available in Nokia DC4 business phones like 8310 or 6310i. OK, for now problem solved. But then again, if someone has been fighting so long to allow fair usage of Internet browsers in Microsoft Windows (in Europe Microsoft is supposed to show the screen to choose one of the alternative browsers at the first use), why shouldn’t we do the same with Symbian? All the necessary applications should be built in, but with possibility of replacing them with our favorites (this also applies to the contact list, web browser, calendar, etc.).*
A resume of interesting ideas seen this day:
Idea 1: Make my email as easy and as intuitive as in Blackberry (there are so many solutions: default messages application, Nokia email from http://email.nokia.com/, custom clients like Gmail Java application, Mail for Exchange, but I cannot say I stayed with one of them because it fulfilled my needs)
Idea 1.1: Give me the scroll/touch panel of BB to allow quick navigation (isn’t it a patent though?)
Idea 2: Allow for the after-Ovi-store payments (as a framework for the application)
Idea 3: Use phone as GPS, and introduce the toll device built-in!
Idea 4: Make my shopping list intelligent (count the days after we have to buy the same product: milk, bread, corn flakes, fish) and adaptable (scan the bar code and add it to a product list?)
Idea 5: More battery life (really, and something like 2 weeks at least; remember that we don’t wind up watches since at least the early 90’s…)
Idea 6: Give me back my profile scheduler!
Idea 7: Make my Internet connection stable and easy to set up (this applies to constant querying for the access point, especially in the add-on platforms like Java or WRT).
Conclusion that comes to me after this day is that ideas.symbian.org, although seems to be a gate to ground-breaking features of the future, rather shows where Symbian is these days. What I wrote here is just a fraction of the ideas already placed on the website, but maybe it will work as a therapy for the platform development. Because the first step in learning is to acknowledge and not stay in denial.
*Correction. There’s an option to change default applications in my Nokia 5800. It’s in the Settings>Phone>Application Settings > Default apps. But so far I couldn’t make use of it.