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Android UI makes a case against Symbian

This year I decide to start using a connected phone. I’m initially exploring a couple of mobile platforms. One of them is Symbian which is owned by Nokia, the world’s leader in terms of mobile phone sales. The other mobile phone I am using is an Android powered Samsung Spica which I recently bought.

I’ve been comparing the two mobile phone operating systems. The Nokia 5800 XpressMusic running Symbian v5 and the Samsung Spica GT-I5700 running Android 2.1. I started out with v1.5 but I’ve updated my Spica to Android 2.1 already by flashing it with the official European release of Android for Spica. The first thing I got to compare was the free Map applications on both mobile phones. I compared OVI Maps on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic against the Google Maps on the Android based Spica on my trip to Matabungkay this summer.

After several weeks with my Samsung Spica, I have decided to write this post and give the point to Android when it comes to the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) factors. First of all, let me say that I have been using Symbian phones for so long and I find their mobile platform very mature. In fact their user interface is very user friendly when we it comes to non touchscreen mobile phones.

But the emerging next generation of mobile phones are touch screen devices that uses the finger and not a stylus. And I must say that when it comes to the touch screen UI of my Symbian based Nokia 5800, it really sucks. I’m talking about v31 of the Symbian v5. Update to the newer version isn’t available yet because of the way mobile phone OS are upgraded by country (which is entirely another problem).

The Android UI/UX is made and designed for touchscreens using the finger. For instance, buttons are much larger making it easy for user to click on them. One of the most glaring differences of the Android and Symbian mobile OS is the way they handle scrolling the screen. The Symbian UI has yet to cope up and implement kinetic scrolling. Kinetic scrolling allows users to browse thru long lists of data such as contacts with just a gesture of their finger. The most frustrating example is having to scroll thru my list of contacts on my Nokia 5800 XpressMusic phone. Nokia could have at least programmed the volume keys to allow me to scroll thru my contacts. On the Android based Samsung Spica, it’s simple an effortless experience to scroll to long lists of information by using just my thumb or pointing finger.

The other issue I am having with Symbian is when I have to type in information. On my Nokia 5800, an entirely new screen displaying the keyboard is displayed which makes it hard to look at the orginal information where the text field was being displayed. Try doing it with web forms that have captchas and you suddenly have to look back at the image. With the Android implementation of the visual keyboard, it’s different. The keyboard is overlayed on the screen that contains the text field and you can scroll the original screen to look at the image in case you want to take a second look.

The Android user interface is definitely better when you’re using a touchscreen mobile phone geared towards finger-computing. I’ve used the stylus for so long as I can remember and I have really found it to be such a hindrance. I think that the whole point of using a mobile phone with a touch screen is that you would be able to use it with only one hand when you need to. Although the Android UI is not without it’s shortcomings, it is definitely better than my current Symbian OS. Maybe once Nokia has provided me with an OS upgrade I’ll compare it with Android once more. Until then, I’m giving this point to the Android platform.

Gerry Ilagan

Gerry Ilagan is into mobile apps and WordPress development at @speeqs. He loves to write about electronics, the Internet of Things, mobile phones, and #crazyideas.

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