Nokia's latest smartphones will get new features faster

Improvements to Symbian user interface coming sooner than expected

Nokia is changing the way it updates smartphones based on the latest version of Symbian. Instead of receiving big upgrades, the products will be upgraded on a more continual, incremental basis, Nokia said on Thursday.

For its updates, Nokia will no longer refer to Symbian 3 -- which is used on, for example, the N8 -- or the planned update Symbian 4, according to the company. Instead, much of the work that has been done to improve the user interface on what was version 4 will arrive sooner to existing products, new CEO Stephen Elop said during a conference call, but didn't elaborate on a more detailed schedule.

Symbian 3 is an improvement over previous versions of the much-maligned OS, but it still can't compete with the usability offered by Apple's iPhone iOS and Android-based smartphones.

The change is possible thanks to Nokia's decision to now solely focus on the Qt development platform, which is used to build user interfaces and applications, for both internal and external development. This will also be a boon for developers, according to Nokia.

It is a good move by Nokia, since the company's original plan wouldn't have allowed existing smartphones to be upgraded and developers would have had to rewrite their programs, according to Martin Garner, director of mobile Internet at CCS Insight. Garner also liked that Elop talked a lot about the importance of developers during the conference, which was a change of pace from Nokia's old guard.

So far, Nokia has started shipping two smartphones based on Symbian 3, the N8 and the C7. Two more phones will start shipping before the end of the year, including the enterprise-centric E7, which comes with a 4-inch screen and a QWERTY keyboard.

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