Nokia confirmed what many believed to be a long-due announcement. Symbian is officially dead. During an earnings call yesterday, the Finnish company confirmed that the 808 PureView, released in 2012, was the last device on the Symbian platform. “During our transition to Windows Phone through 2012, we continued to ship devices based on Symbian. The Nokia 808 PureView, a device which showcases our imaging capabilities and which came to market in mid-2012, was the last Symbian device from Nokia,” Nokia's 2012 Interim Report (Page 36 in the PDF) said.
The announcement confirmed reports which date back to before the launch of the 808 PureView, that the device would be the last Symbian phone. Earlier this month, there was talk that Nokia would finally admit the end of Symbian at the announcement as Nokia’s CFO Timo Ihamuotila noted that Q4 would be the “last meaningful quarter for Symbian.” The 808 PureView was a one-of-a-kind phone, which had a 41MP sensor and is widely regarded as the best smartphone camera in the market. Meanwhile, there are already murmurs that the much-praised PureView technology will be seen in yet another Lumia device, the Nokia EOS, later this year.
The 808 PureView had a 41MP sensor
Giving their Lumia range of smartphones the front stage yesterday, Nokia said revenues from Symbian have been declining steadily as the company started cutting costs and efforts dedicated to the platform. At the earnings announcement, Nokia said that the number of Symbian phones sold in Q4 was 2.2 million units, half as many as the Lumia range, and less than 15% of Nokia’s overall volume of smartphones, 15.9 million devices.
Things were much different before Android and iOS came on the scene. Symbian was the world’s biggest smartphone platform till as late as 2011, when Android surpassed it. Conceived in 1998, as a joint effort between Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Psion, Symbian was found on several devices, including a number of Sony Ericsson and Samsung phones. Nokia’s Symbian range ruled the market, but the partnership never really worked well and a decade later, the Espoo-based company took all control of Symbian. To lure other OEMs and developers, it made the platform open-source. However, that strategy did not succeed either and a lack of takers meant market share was on a steady decline.
Symbian’s fall is in large part blamed on the huge drop in sales in China, where Nokia saw a 69% tumble. “On a year-on-year basis, the decrease in Greater China net sales was primarily due to our Smart Devices business unit, most notably lower net sales of our Symbian devices,” Nokia said. Besides, R&D and marketing costs were also lower because of the decreased focus on Symbian. Symbian, it was said, was pulling down Nokia.
Another huge factor was Nokia’s strategy for a sales revival that was based around Windows Phone devices and Nokia’s own S40 proprietary OS (namely the low-end and mid-tier Asha line). In the last quarter, Symbian accounted for only 2.6% of smartphone handset shipments across the world.