Nokia has today officially unveiled its latest version of the Symbian operating system for smartphones. Named Belle, the new system will aim to deliver numerous user interface enhancements, many that users will be familiar with from Google's Android OS.
The update to Symbian will ship first to three mass-market smartphones, the Nokia 600, 700 and 701, and will be available to download on the Nokia N8, E7, X7, E6 and C7 handsets in the coming months.
The overhauled Symbian OS now strongly resembles Google's Android platform in the way that users interact with it and how key information is displayed. With Belle, users can customise six home screens with resizable widgets. To insert and rearrange these widgets, users perform a long-press touchscreen gesture, as in Android. Any key difference between Belle and previous versions of Symbian is that all system messages and communication notifications will appear in a pull-down notification overlay, which can be accessed by swiping downwards from the top of the handset's display. This notifications curtain will also have one-touch toggles for key hardware features like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.
Nokia has also simplified the way that applications are displayed for users in Belle, removing folders from the main menu and displaying all apps in one single list view.
One of the more innovative changes in the Belle OS update will be the integration of near-field communication (NFC) services in Nokia's new handsets. In a demonstration video posted to the Nokia Conversations YouTube channel, NFC is used to transfer files between two compatible devices and to pair a handset with NFC-enabled accessories, like a Bluetooth headset.
Nokia didn't announce a flagship model to champion the Belle update, but instead launched three low- to mid-tier models to be the first phones with Belle. The 701, 700 and 600 all include 1GHz processors, penta-band 3G radios, Wi-Fi, GPS and NFC. The 701 is the big daddy of the bunch, with a 3.5-inch AMOLED display and 8GB storage, with the 700 and 600 both sporting 3.2-inch displays and 2GB of storage. All three models will be in stores in Q3 of this year, although no specific Australian information has been released at this time.