Orange Labs UK deliver Orange Wednesdays to Symbian using Qt

Orange Wednesdays screenshotUK telco Orange has a longstanding commitment to cinema. Since 2003 they have run the widely popular ‘Orange Wednesdays’ campaign that gives Orange subscribers a raft of opportunities to compliment their movie-going experience. Chief among the benefits is a 2 for 1 movie ticket deal every Wednesday.

Given the success of Orange Wednedays, a smartphone app was a logical extension. Last year Orange UK launched its Orange Wednesdays application for iPhone, and work was also undertaken to examine how to provide the same experience for the large number of Orange subscribers using Symbian devices.

This year, Orange UK has used Qt to deliver the full Orange Wednesdays smartphone app experience to their Symbian user base, meaning their Symbian users can now:
• See the latest film releases and browse full listings
• Rate a film, read reviews from film fans and submit their own
• Watch trailers for upcoming films
• Find their nearest cinema on a map
• View cinema details including showing times
• Every Wednesday, get 2 for 1 cinema tickets

The team at Orange Labs UK was looking for an Orange application to test and demonstrate Qt’s capabilities. Orange Wednesdays was the ideal candidate: it had a rich user interface with multimedia, maps, etc and was perfect for understanding Qt’s potential.

As the original platform, the iPhone app was used as the basis for the user experience. Could Qt give them a comparable user experience on Symbian-based Nokia touch devices? The development team at Orange Labs UK took the challenge on. Rather than using the Symbian native UI or just copying the iPhone UI, they took clues from the forthcoming Symbian^4 UI and built their own application template based on that. The process ensured a consistent look and feel for the app across Symbian^3 and in future Symbian^4. It also demonstrated how, using Qt, it is possible to provide a competitive, high-quality experience on existing Symbian touch phones.
Orange Wednesdays screenshot
The Orange Labs UK team’s objective was to target existing Symbian phones and any future S^3 devices, such as the Nokia N8. They chose the Nokia 5800 as their reference device for development, as it is one of the most popular Symbian devices, and if the experience was good on the 5800, it could only be better on phones like the Nokia X6 and Nokia N8.
The development team used the Qt 4.6.3 SDK, built their own UI controls using QGraphicsView and wrote their own algorithm for kinetic scrolling/bouncing, as they were not yet available in Qt. Building these things increased the overall development time, but these components are reusable in future apps.

Taking advantage of the smart installer
The Nokia Smart installer for Symbian solved the team’s problem of getting the Qt libraries on to older Symbian devices; it takes care of downloading and installing the required libraries on the customer’s phone as part of the app installation process. The team also appreciated that the smart installer allows users to run other Qt apps, although this feature will become less relevant as new Nokia devices such as the Nokia N8 ship with Qt inside them.

Orange Labs UK and their experience using Qt
Orange Labs UK Head of Device Development, Rafel Uddin had the following insights about his team’s experience using Qt to build Orange Wednesdays for Symbian.

“Overall, we think the application is an excellent showcase of what is possible with Qt on Symbian. It is the first Qt application from Orange for Symbian phones.

“The developers love Qt – the learning curve is not as steep as it used to be with Symbian C/C++.

“It is very clear to us the value Qt brings to developers by abstracting a large portion, if not all, of the code from the underlying platform, thus making the application portable across supported platforms.

“We would like to thank Forum Nokia and Ovi Store for their support and a big HURRAY to the Qt team at Nokia for bringing Qt to Symbian – it is truly miles ahead of the old S60 C/C++!”

Download the Orange Wednesdays application for free on the Ovi Store. Please note, you need to be an Orange UK customer to take advantage of the 2-4-1 cinema ticket offer, all other functionality is available to everyone.

Orange Wednesdays screenshot

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