Symbian adds support for pushier e-mail

Version 9.5 of the mobile operating system also promises better memory usage, cheaper handsets and location-based services.

Symbian has announced an updated version of its operating system for mobile devices, which promises better memory usage and integrated push e-mail support.

The company also claims that Symbian OS 9.5 will now be more affordable, meaning manufacturers can use it in lower-cost phones and not just the high-end smart phones for which the system is best known.

The new version was announced Monday at the CTIA Wireless 2007 event in Orlando, Fla. Speaking to ZDNet UK, Symbian product manager Ian Hutton explained that the use of demand paging--loading a part of the disk's library into physical memory only when it is needed, rather than preloading it--would make handsets based on version 9.5 quicker to start and more responsive.

Demand paging also means "less RAM being used on the device, so our manufacturers have the option of putting less memory into the phones if they wish to," said Hutton, adding that "build costs will (therefore) be coming down to the point where Symbian OS will be available for not only high-end but also mid-range phones."

RAM defragmentation--similar to the way users would defragment a PC's hard disk--is also built in to free up further memory. Hutton said that Symbian expected to see a "20 to 30 percent reduction in average memory usage during device use," with a potential for reduced battery usage.

The other big advance in the new version, Symbian says, is the integration of ActiveSync for over-the-air connectivity with Microsoft Exchange servers. ActiveSync has previously been included only in Symbian-based handsets as a manufacturer's add-on. Hutton indicated that improvements have also been made to the operating system's calendar application and contacts database. In a possible reference to the recently announced version 6 of Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS, he added that Symbian was "making sure that we stay very competitive in the enterprise space for corporate users syncing data back and forth."

On the networking side, Symbian OS 9.5 also has an improved SIP stack and supports the ability to have the handset switch between Wi-Fi and 3G connections.

The new version also offers increased support for location-based technologies such as GPS navigation. According to Hutton, the new mapping application APIs (application programming interfaces) will dramatically reduce the cost to a manufacturer of enabling its handsets for location-based services.

Handsets loaded with Symbian OS 9.5 will start to become available in the middle of 2008.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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