Nokia Symbian Belle pictures and hands-on

Nokia might be gunning full steam ahead for Windows Phone 7, but that doesn't mean that the company is forgetting its Symbian roots just yet. Indeed, it's just released a new update for the proprietary operating system. 

Belle, which follows on from Anna (see what they did there), brings new enhancements and tweaks to Symbian making it more “Android-like” than ever. 

Wanting to bring you the low-down first hand, we met up with Nokia to have a quick play of the new OS on the Nokia E7

The first thing you’ll notice is that you won’t notice much at all. There is a lot of behind the scenes tinkering and it’s more of a refinement of Anna rather than a complete overhaul. Remember, Nokia is supposed to be all about Windows Phone 7 these days.

Still, the most noticeable of the tweaks include the ability to now have six home screens (very much like Android) and these can be filled with shortcuts to apps and widgets. 

Widgets also play a bigger part with Belle, making it easier to add them to your numerous homepages and move them around. Hold down your finger on one of the homepages and you are presented with a menu to add to your heart's content (well, until you run out of space). 

If the idea of widgets and multiple home screens sounds like something you would get on a Samsung Android handset, then the addition of a notification panel that slides down from the top of the screen will really complete the picture. 

It seems Symbian now follows the same basic user interface principles adopted by Google and Apple; people want access to quick settings and notifications from a menu hidden at the top of the screen. It’s easy to use and hey, if it works for others, why not here too?

Elsewhere on the UI front, Nokia has ditched folders within the applications' menu pages so everything is there to see, and on a 1Ghz or more processor, the OS really flies. It’s much smoother and faster than we’ve previously seen with Anna, or even before that. 

On the software front, Nokia has updated the browser. Now called Nokia Browser, it purports to be a lot faster. Sadly, when we played with the phone, we were in a poor area for reception, although, when we did get a connection, the Pocket-lint home page loaded very quickly. It’s certainly improved. 

Aside from the interface, Nokia has added NFC support - something we weren’t able to test with the E7 (no NFC), but judging from the numerous demos we’ve seen from the company, it should make pairing with headphones, speakers and advertising billboards a lot easier. We’ll let you know how we get on when we get our hands on a Symbian Belle handset

Our time was brief with Belle, but we were left with the impression that it essentially refines what is out there rather than offers a completely new start. The move towards a more Android-like interface and approach will question why you don’t just go for Android, and as we know the OS isn’t destined for great things.

Still, if you find yourself with a Nokia handset sporting Symbian Belle, you could do a lot worse.