The Nokia Belle update is here, but is the end of Symbian hardware nigh?

Nokia Belle N8Nokia has announced that its latest update to the Symbian operating system, Nokia Belle, is now available for download. Announced in December last year, Nokia Belle caused controversy at the time due to its long gestation period, as well as for dropping the Symbian name.

Previous updates always used the Symbian name in the title — Symbian Anna for example — but not so with Nokia Belle, a move that at the time came without explanation. The company’s head of marketing later said it was a question of “flexibility,” and that the Symbian name would continue for developers rather than consumers.

It’s here now though, and Nokia promises phones will “feel like new” thanks to Belle’s performance improvements, plus the various new and updated features on show.

Belle Features

Here’s what users can expect to find with Nokia Belle. The number of homescreens has been upped to six, and as the real-estate has been boosted and the Live Widgets are now selectable in size, the OS will make better use of the space too. A new notification bar has been added, along with more information provided on the lock screen, plus tweaks to the application launcher, the camera interface and the web browser.

Provided your phone has an NFC chip — the C7 for example — Nokia Belle will add the software side to enable its use. Although wireless payments aren’t available, there are tap-to-share services, the ability to read NFC tags, accessory pairing and of course, Angry Birds Magic.

Nokia Belle is compatible with the Nokia N8, E7, C6, C6-01, X7, E6 or Nokia Oro, and the update begins rolling out today in various locations around the world. Due to its size, it’s not available as an over-the-air update, so you’ll have to use Nokia Suite on your PC to apply it to your phone. If you’re unsure of what to do, Nokia has some instructions on its support pages.

Future Hardware Plans in Doubt

While new software updates are always good news, things may not be looking too rosy for new hardware featuring Symbian. The OS has been on life-support for a while now, following several years of bad press, changes to its licensing and eventual abandonment by Nokia in favor of Windows Phone.

Now though, Nokia has cancelled all but one new Symbian phone release, according to CEO Stephen Elop said rapidly falling sales and increased competition from other low-end smartphones had caused the company to lower its sales expectations, lending more weight to talk of a Symbian hardware cull.

Nokia 801 LeakThe final Symbian phone could be a good one though, as it’s suggested it will be a successor to the Nokia N8, which is still one of the very best camera phones on the market, despite it being more than a year old.

In addition to the leaked Nokia 803 from December last year, another possible candidate has recently appeared too. It’s being called the Nokia 801, and said to feature a body similar in style to the N9 and Lumia series, a 4-inch screen, a 1.4Ghz processor and a 12-megapixel camera.

Whether Nokia sticks to its initial plan of continuing to support Symbian software until 2016 remains to be seen, but even if they do, it’s looking like there may not be any new hardware on which to feature it.

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