Ideally Merge Phoneness and Flexibility

Its kind of weird. I sort of sit with two platforms as my current: Symbian and Maemo. Both are featured on Nokia’s devices, which I guess makes me more or less a fan of Nokia than the platforms themselves. But, both offer two sides of use that I really like, and wish that could be merged for something better.

Symbian’s Phoneness

I like the portrait-centric aspect of the Symbian platform. Not so much because I’m on the phone all the time (meaning voice calls), but it seems a simpler and more appropriate type of use. Even when doing things like browsing or listening to music, I find that I hold the device in a portrait mode and use it efficiently there. It was originally designed for buttons and one-handed use, and even with the badly grafted-on touchscreen artifacts, it still remains to be the kind of paradigm that just makes sense for a lot of mobile uses.

And this is where Symbian shines. Its user interface is built to respect this paradigm and from there all of the user’s needs are addressed. Now, there could be fewer menus, and a better usage of screen elements – for example, on-screen buttons are too large for some items – but its solid and just works well.

Maemo’s Flexibility

On the other side of that Maemo has shown me how a flexible mobile platform can be better tuned to how you use a mobile device. Some time ago, I embarked on re-using my N800 and simplifying my use of it. What I found was that the Maemo platform responded very well to this kind of flexible, targeted use. It wasn’t so much that a Symbian device couldn’t do that – I’ve got an N97 now that has mostly assumed this role – but that the Maemo platform afforded a better opportunity to tune a more personal usage of mobile so that I could be more productive and better utilize the limited resources of a mobile device.

With the newer Maemo platform, things have taken a considerable step up. There’s a much more vibrant/loud/responsive community, and a ton of work to be done to make not only the platform, but everything that it touches more malleable around the idea of open/transparent/refined processes. Its been here that I’ve had to be more flexible with my perceptions, as well as with how I perceive mobile. And in return, I’ve seen all kinds of seeds for growth.

So Where Does That Land Me

Depending on the day, I think I waver too much. Having had plenty of time with the N900 and in using the N97 as my personal device, I can see the advantages and blurring lines that are happening with both of these platforms. In a respect, you could say that they are pointing towards the same goals, but from different directions.

In my spare time (what little there is), I interact with the Ideas.Symbian and Talk.Maemo communities. In both places, I look for viewpoints and perspectives, engage with developers and usres, in the hope that I could better see out of a mobile platform the kind of use that I (personally) need. I lend a thought or two where I can, but mostly just sit and watch and think through how these two platforms have enhanced my perceptions of mobile.

Weirdly enough, I started with the Palm OS. This platform had the best mix for my needs then. It was also so simple (designed to respond to simple uses simply) that it just felt natural. I’d love to see either or both Symbian and Maemo get to that point. Then I think that I’d see from mobile exactly what got me sparked with this genre in the first place.

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