Why Symbian Signed must die

With the latest S60 “3rd Edition” phones (such as the N95, N81 etc), Nokia in their infinite wisdom, has decided for us that we users don’t want to install “freeware” apps any more. These phones now require all apps to be “signed” – they don’t give the option to the user to install an unsigned app.

Nokia says this is supposed to protect users from “bad” apps. So what is the result? Freeware developers now release “unsigned” versions of their apps and provide step-by-step instructions for users on how to get their own “developer” cert and sign the app themselves.

See the irony yet? Nokia told us that users wanted to be “protected” from “bad” apps, yet what we really see is users going to the trouble of acting like “developers” so they can sign these “bad” apps and get them installed on their phone. They clearly want freeware, whether it’s officially “approved” by Nokia’s “Symbian Signed” or not.

And with all these pseudo-developers requesting certs so they can install these “bad” apps, guess what? Nokia’s certificate creation site “Symbian Signed” can’t handle the load. It has been mostly down for weeks. Here’s what it says today:

Not to mention all the support costs for Nokia and the overall costs to the entire ecosystem (where about 90% of S60 3rd edition discussion seems to be about signing and certs). Hopefully Nokia will wake up and put an end to this ridiculous nightmare soon. Here’s a few reasons why the time has come for enabling users to install unsigned apps on their 3rd edition phones, just like they can on 1st and 2nd edition phones:

  • The overhead of depending on Symbian Signed for signing promotes bug-ridden software that is never updated.
  • It is destroying the Symbian third-party ecosystem (which is where all the best Symbian software has always come from)
  • It leaves the door open for competitors like Apple, Microsoft, RIM, etc. and dilutes Nokia’s significant lead in third-party developer support.
  • If plain users, through step-by-step guides, are signing apps, there is really no argument for the “all apps must be signed” restriction

The signing debacle is nothing new, but the prolonged downtime of Symbian Signed is.

Nokia, please. It’s time to close the door on the the Symbian Signed experiment and let us install the apps we want on our phones again.

UPDATE: Monday February 18, 2008:

Today the site says:

Note their words “huge demand for developer certificates”. Nokia doesn’t that tell you something? And by the way, it is Monday February 18, folks, and the ability to get certs is still down.

UPDATE: Weds Feb 20 the saga continues:

So now it looks like end-users and hobby developers cannot get certificates at all, meaning they cannot write code or experiment with freeware on their Symbian S60 3rd edition phones anymore. I cannot tell from the above message whether this the new permanent policy or just more “damage control”.

29 comments for “Why Symbian Signed must die

  1. This is truly annoying… especially when it seems that most people (inc. me) only want to install small apps like RotateMe. Long live the person who finds an easy fix to this silly signing process. I wouldn’t mind it if it was actually working. Very disappointed!

  2. Exactly. We’re still not able to create dev certs (February 19). Now it says "The current demand for Developer Certificates is extremely high (tens of thousands of requests) and has the potential to cause significant site slowdown.
    Whilst there remains heavy demand, impacting commercial users for paid Services; Express Signed, Certified Signed, Developer Certificates will be available intermittently until the load is balanced."

  3. I’m thinking the easy fix is to figure out the hash, CRC16, and CRC32 used to check for changes in the swipolicy.ini file, once that is done, then people will start to realize that a small firmware modification can not only allow them to install whatever they want, whenever they want, but it also has the added benefits of never having to sign anything ever again, as well as access to AllFiles and TCB capabilities.

  4. Yes, It is Crazy! i just want to sign rotateMe 2.0, largetime 1.02 screensavers and other freewares for my brand new N95! it is so frustrating to wait and wait and wait and suddenly you cannot sign unless you have publisherID that cost more than $200.. i got the n95 8gb two days ago, the only thing i want is to install nokmote, rotate and simmilar freeware applications but i can not

    its really p***ing me off, ill wait till 25th see what they gonna do about their signing policy. if they gonna charge $200 for a bloody publisher ID then ill ditch symbian and go with windows mobile.

    i got 14 days peace of mind so i can send the phone back.

  5. I have the same problem. i just bought a N95. why do i choose this phone? because there are a lot of applications for symbian system and that was the most important reason for me to choose this phone. But now, without the cert. , i can not install most of the apps. My phone has no difference with any other simple phone! If symbian decides to change the rule, i will choose a windows mobile phone without hesitation.

  6. Symbian can get more money and Nokia may lose much more money.

    Anyway i wish Symbian can consider more before make this decision…
    Just like this article’s author said, Symbian may lose the future.

  7. Basically the system is in a mess, but it is no fault of nokia’s because they don’t own or control symbian. It is symbian’s fault for making it difficult for developers to get apps signed for everyone which forced developers to release unsigned apps.

  8. There is no intent to prevent long term access. The Symbian Signed infrastructure hit a step change in demand. In periods of overload we have a policy to prioritize the service to ensure professional users can continue their work.

    — The problem is shown in this link (i.e. a massive spike)
    — The underlying reason was posted in our developers forums here https://developer.symbian.com/forum/ann.jspa?annID=36
    — Free Developer Certificates *already* downloaded over the past years are valid for 3 years, There are millions and millions of developers who *are* not being impacted by this outage.
    — We have been trying to contact the developer of RotateMe to get the app signed (for free) and awaiting response?

    If anything, this underscores
    (1) How Symbian OS is around an order of magnitude more popular than iPhone or any other mobile OS.
    (2) As the smartphone OS market leader, Symbian OS is solving real world mobile developer problems every day, not preaching to the faithful on podiums with powerpoint.

    We just ask our developer community to be a little patient

    Bruce Carney
    Director, Developer Programs & Services

  9. Thanks for posting, Bruce.

    I’m sorry I missed your call and I hope you are able to call back.

    It’s great news that you plan to restore the ability of people to get devcerts. And I understand and have read all the reasons and reported causes for the Open Signed outages.

    I also agree that the volume of certs does suggest the popularity of the platform.

    However, all this misses the point. Please see my response in a follow up post: http://www.toyz.org/mrblog/archives/00000381.html

  10. It’s silly that I need to get my own certificate to sign my applications that I wish to install. Nokia has in essence lied to the buyers of the N95 by telling them the phone is "open to anything" when in fact it’s not.

  11. well the phone that is dubbed
    "The Nokia N95 is what computers have become" is now misleading. after enjoying my nokia n95 i may aswell start saving up for the iphone.

    the reason i got the n95 was because of these "freeware apps". but now since i cant install them i see no point in keeping the phone.

    symbian signed & nokia you should be ashamed of yourself, letting down the devolopers that. a once simple and very straight forward process has now changed my opinon of nokia phones. for every software that needs signing i no have to submit it to the gods of symbian signed. i say gods as they have all the power and sometimes they give light and some times they snatch the light away.

    i do care and although im not a developer but i no plenty why do you want to kill off freeware? u feel the need to test everybodies codes? what is the point of beta versions if you want everything to be perfect?

    are you trying to impress anyone?, reading your online forum from the thousands of "happy" forum visiters suggests you are not doing anything. when are you going to start listening to the voices of symbian fans from around the world as one phrase goes "if it aint broke, dont fix it!

    what else is there to say? if you really want to listen why not allow an online chat with the unhappy people and understand their problems. im sure you have over heads etc but why charge per certificate. i and im sure many more would happily pay for a certificate. with the demand you have im sure you would easily make your money.

    so please symbiansigned.com and nokia listen to the people and allow us to use our phones the way we want to, no restrictions on installations.

    set the devlopers and their apps free!

    help us to help you.


  12. I wish I never bought my N95 8gb. It’s supposed to be a "smartphone", but all smart free applications I cannot install! Will this be solved ever or should I change phone and OS? Why spend a lot of money on a smartphone, without smart applications!

    From a disappointed user…

  13. totally agree. its now march 8 and bruce’s comments are only words. my old certs DONT work and the still haven’t opened up. this is the last time i buy nokia & symbian. long live the iPhone & more flexible OS’ like Android & dare i say Windows!

  14. Symbian Signed must die? Well, it’s dead already, so just bury the corpse, and allow ordinary symbian users to enjoy their phones freely! This should be addressed to Nokia, I suppose.

  15. First, one should make distinction between Nokia, Symbian and Symbian Signed. So, blame the right company for the right reasons. Otherwise it becomes so obvious that you are complaining about something that you have no understanding of.

    Symbian Signed focuses on application quality. Use only Symbian Signed applications and you will have less problems even though, maybe, less applications too.

    As an end-user you should not care about the Symbian Signed process but instead demand that developers release only (self-)signed applications which you can install directly on your phone.

    I am not blind to the truth here, I just state a fact: Symbian Signed is required and by intent beneficial, only the fact that the process was abused by developers and end-users got us the the current crippling limitations.

  16. Freeware should be free both to develope and to use! This will never change…

    Today end-users have to sign their freeware by themself. End-user shouldn’t have to care about this process. It’s too complicated and this will kill symbian.

    Either make the signing process optional or remove the cost for freeware signing. This is my suggestions. I prefer the last one since I like the id

  17. I agree that the intent of Symbian Signed was beneficial. However, that does not support the argument that Symbian Signed actually IS beneficial.

    I agree that for the sake of pedantry, one should make distinction between Nokia, Symbian and Symbian Signed. However End-users (and for the most part, freeware developers) don’t really care about those distinctions.

    Fredrik has nailed it: "Either make the signing process optional or remove the cost for freeware signing."

  18. Well, this symbian signed move has surely make 1 potential customer -which is me- not buying Nokia N82.

    How about thousand of others?

    Did you guys from Symbian think about what’s going to happen next?

    Well, windows mobile / Iphone / android surely will be my next choice. So with the others I’m certain.



  19. Well simply fuck symbian signed people will find another way to bypass the hex that does’nt allow the unsigned sis files to be installed. There has been several tries as shown in this link some ppl were able to do it but some ppl’s phone crashed. Here is the link remmember it at your own risk guys. I have no guts to try it on my N95, plus is way to much complicated for me to understand 😀 If u manage to make it work pleasssssssse send me an email. Cuz i need some1 that i can ask abt it. Thx in advance


  20. this is total garage by nokia and symbian i just want to put shutup which i paid for on my n95 and now i cant im on the verge of switching to an apple iphone at least they dont lie (nokia freeware isnt free it now cost over 200 dollars)

  21. I’m gutted, been using windows smart phones for 5 years, had 3 of them and they were great. Moved to symbian 8gb n95 as thought it would be better (according to what i had heard) love the phone, but cant install unsigned software.. i.e. all the software that i would want to install..
    Gutted , totally Gutted. And tied in to an 18 month contract now.. Gutted…
    Will go back to windows when i can. this phone crashes pretty often too, almost as much as my last windows 6 smartphone.. love the phone, but .. gutted what a shame.

  22. R.I.P Symbian… If its not become "open" once again, im pretty sure that its gonna lead to a total destrution of the S60 platfrom eccosystem… No one, and by that i mean NO ON wants to have an Symbian phone withut the right to install what they want – when they want..

  23. Personnaly I think Smair is just waiting for Nokia to contact him to buy over his application. He obviously was the first to develop it so Nokia can’t develop the exact same things without legal hassle.

    I just find Samir is not right as he’s not even supporting people who donate – as I could read on many posts. I’ll take your money, that’s a fact.

    So we face 2 thiefs : Nokia for selling restricted phones and Samir for ripping money without return.

    Anyway, it keeps my view on Nokia : you must be damn stupid to release a phone which includes Accelerometers and not even using them – standard – to switch portrait to landscape. Maybe they’ll learn by buying and studying the iPhone…

  24. Its just an elaborate plan to make some money out of it all. Symbian os is death and its time for people to switch to other systems like windows mobile 6 or 5. They have come up with this so that they could milk the last cow.

  25. Shit! I have spent the past week trying to sign .sis files without the stupid publisher ID, spend 200$ for an ID?

    I can’t install SHIT on my N95 8GB!

  26. Symbian’s DRM policy has deterred another customer. I will return my new Nokia 5800 XpressMusic because it doesn’t let me run the applications I would like to. I’m quite impressed by the hardware but if you buy a phone you should own it and not be artificially restricted by DRM measures! The certificate and signing process should be optional.

    I only wish I had found this Blog earlier…

    Symbian? FORGET IT! Never again! Go Android!

  27. I’ve just spent the better part of the last hour jumping through all the hoops required to get “rotate me” signed, and I’m still not there. This is a bad joke, right? Nokia felt some sort of weird guilt about their success and decided to screw themselves — is that what happened? Maybe a vestage of their Christian heritage? I’m just askin’.

    Listen, if I’d known it was going to be all this, I’d never have purchased my N95-3. NEVER. Here in San Francisco, Nokia ran ads touting how they’re left their device open. Right. Another joke.

    I see an iPhone in my future. And no more Nokia for me.

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