As a matter of fact the new S60 touch interface is now in focus ever since the iPhone was released. Although the touch interface was in development long before the iPhone was even rumored.
The Series 60 platform is always in continuous development ever since it was released 5 years ago, and the Touch version is the next logical step forward.
It is more of an evolution of the S60 UI, and not really an attempt to produce an iPhone killer. In fact it’s a matter of Nokia's politics to constantly improve their products and services.
Most of the SF readers should know by now that S60 is just one of the platforms that Nokia uses among its devices. There are a few more platforms ranging from the "dummy" S40 platform to the Linux powered Maemo platform that, by the way, features touch user interface (latest device is the N810 Internet Tablet with great high-resolution 4.1" touch screen and impressive 800x480px resolution which is th same as the Nokia 7710 that is powered by the Symbian OS and S90 platform, announced almost three years before the iPhone.) So, although the iPhone isn’t the first touch phone in the markets, there are lot of tendentious statements and people that claim that Nokia is copying the iPhone idea.
Just to be clear, I’m not ardently anti-Apple and I’m not trying to defend Nokia; there is no doubt that they were a bit surprised with the huge success of the Apple’s touch based phone, and so were forced to rapidly increase the effort and hurry up with releasing the 5th generation (code name) of the S60 platform. Especially considering the latest rumors that predict that Apple will release two new iPhone models next year.
At the Forum Nokia demo showfloor, we saw a demo of how the S60 Touch UI might look from the context of transitions – basically page-screens will transition in a smooth, transparent style that adds aestheticism to the interface.
Anyway, touch UI is something that I have wanted for such a long time. Although I have to be honest and say that I am not a huge fan of touch input. I do love it, so don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to destroy the touch UI reputation, not at all. I’m just trying to say that no matter how cool and useful touch is in some specific applications I still need a classic way of controlling the user interface. To be short, I’m an old school guy who prefers real, instead of the virtual girls ;-) Also I am probably more excited about the large high resolution screens that we will get next year than about the touch UI itself.
The main reason why I don’t like it that much is the fact that all touch devices including “mighty” iPhone have one huge disadvantage - it is the lack of stimulus for the sense of touch. When you touch it, it doesn’t touch you back, and therefore most of us still prefer the good old buttons instead of a piece of flat and cold glass.
We use our hands and sense of touch in exploring environments that have poor or no visibility and to deal with things that are right in front of us. Without our fifth sense and tactile feedback its hard to deal with the world around us, and especially with mobile devices. Based on my personal experience, it's hard to orient yourself and control the interface without seeing it. For me it is actually impossible!
The good thing is that the Finnish giant promises that the upcoming S60 touch interface will offer much more than vibrations and click sounds. Nokia is working on a real button-like response enabled with the two small piezo sensor pads under the screen that provides a "0.1 mm movement in the screen itself with exactly the same sort of fingertip feedback as with a conventional keyboard."
Also, S60 5th edition will be the first mobile software platform to deliver a complete Web video experience, because Flash Video will be natively supported and integrated with the Web Browser for S60. This allows people to view on-the-go Flash-enabled Web sites and Flash Video, such as YouTube, as you would do on your desktop.
From motion and orientation to proximity and light, sensor technology is expanding to new areas and shaping the future for mobiles. S60 brings sensor support to the platform, as a generic solution, enabling support for a range of sensors in S60 devices. These technologies open up a new kinetic world to the user and offer completely new opportunities for application and game developers.
Furthermore, the new UI Accelerator toolkit will allow device manufacturers to develop rapidly and easily, new impressive graphical effects and new types of interactions, further increasing the user appeal and excitement. You can have stuff like a music player with graphical equalizer represented in a 3D form. The accelerator utilizes very little power so you don’t run down the battery on your mobile device.
Last but not the least, the 5th S60 version is backward compatible and all existing S60 3rd Edition applications should run just fine on touch enabled devices unmodified. But Nokia will anyway provide tools for developers to further optimize the touch experience for their applications.
So, basically, the new UI will have four key elements: Efficient and Intuitive Touch UI with Tactile Feedback – Advanced Sensor Technologies – UI Accelerator Toolkit – Desktop-like Web Video Experience with Flash Lite 3 integrated in the S60 system.
As part of the Touch UI promotion NOkia has also released the Haze visual theme, which is available here by the wy, for 3rd edition devices only
The first 5th edition phone is expected to be released next year and from what I know the first S60 touch device will be a huge departure from the S60 phones that we use now-a-days.