Nokia World 2010: Will the US media ever understand Nokia?

Nokia World 2010: Will the US media ever understand Nokia?I have lots of respect for Peter Rojas and everything he has done over the years with Gizmodo, Engadget, and GDGT, but I have to say I disagree with many of his points made in his latest editorial titled Nokia’s Fear of Failure and one of the most glaring problems I have with his article is this statement: “Just wait until you see how bad the new N8 is compared with the iPhone 4 or any of the top-tier Android phones.” Really Peter, have you tried the latest software and hardware of the Nokia N8? It is actually quite good and I am more pleased with it than I ever expected I would be. As a person who has used all of the latest smartphone platforms I would have to say the N8 can easily hold its own against the top smartphones today. Some aspects are the almost the same as Symbian S60 5th Edition, but Symbian users like this familiarity for the most part and keeping some of this will let them use their new device without having to relearn the interface. ┬áThere are also several new elements to give the customers a feeling that they have a competitive device. The home screens look a lot like Android and the extremely fast, faster than iOS, cover flow media player UI is fantastic. The Nokia N8 will sell millions in countries outside the US and unfortunately I think only a few of us who buy them SIM unlocked here will get the chance to experience a very good Nokia product.

I agree that there are problems at Nokia, as we have seen with their steadily declining market share and falling profits. They haven’t had a good high end smartphone for a couple of years now after releasing the “flagship” N97 with old internal hardware and an operating system not optimized for touch. Nokia fired their CEO and another VP has resigned as they start to show outwardly that they are serious about change. These leadership changes will take some time to have an effect, but I think their decision to move to an OS powered by Symbian (the new Symbian from the Symbian Foundation that is) was the right move last year and it shows in the four new products they announced and are showing off here at Nokia World. The experiences I saw across all four devices were fairly consistent so even a low to mid-range device owner will see fresh UI aspects.

Apple has a single device, I guess up to three, if you count previous generations of the iPhone that can still be found compared to something on the order of 10-20 current Nokia S60 and S40 phones (dependent on region) so the amount of money Nokia spends on R&D is definitely going to run at a MUCH higher rate. Nokia spends money reaching the entire spectrum of mobile phone user while Apple focuses on just the high end buyer who has money to spend. Nokia also spends money on various technologies, sustainability issues, services, and much more to do their part to help the planet. If they spent money on a single device and platform, I would have to say it would be scary how fantastic that product would most likely be.

I understand that large companies like Nokia, and Microsoft too, have trouble bringing all the players together to launch successful products, but I do not agree that Nokia lost their way regarding innovation. I think the innovation judgement is highly dependent on your perspective as a consumer and your definition of innovation. The N8 itself has some pretty innovative functions and capabilities, such as USB-to-Go, 12 megapixel camera with the largest optical sensor ever seen on a camera phone, pentaband WCDMA so we don’t have to worry whether or not it supports T-Mobile or AT&T 3G in the USA, Bluetooth 3.0 implementation, and more. How about the Nokia X3 Touch and Type? This phone may not appeal to the smartphone enthusiast, but what other phone have you seen that is dirt cheap and give you a full phone keypad (millions of people still prefer these) with a decent touch screen display and powerful applications? Nokia still does innovate and I don’t think the US media gives them enough credit for the things they do.

Much of the innovation in Nokia products is related to services too, especially when you look at services impacting developing countries (such as Ovi Life Tools and Nokia Money where Nokia’s innovation has led to families having gained valuable tools to live a better life.

I don’t think Nokia is as broken as the US media seems to think it is and having spent some time today with several new Symbian^3 devices I think Nokia is on the right track with such a consistent mid to high level operating system that should encourage developers to bring products to their platform that will at least sustain the millions of consumers they currently have with products coming in the future running MeeGo and Symbian^4 bringing more from other platforms.

Am I off my rocker and am I looking at Nokia through rose colored glasses? This is Nokia Experts so I am obviously a fan of Nokia products and services, but if you follow my writing you also know I don’t hold back punches when I see mistakes and missteps by Nokia.

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23 Comments to Nokia World 2010: Will the US media ever understand Nokia?

Ricky Cadden
September 14, 2010

The problem is that so much of the mainstream tech hear ‘Symbian’ and immediately think ‘old and busted’. There’s literally nothing that Symbian could do – short of shutting its doors – that could convince some people otherwise. It’s why Anssi specifically mentioned this in his speech. I personally don’t find anything wrong with the Symbian UI – I like the icons and fonts (better than Android’s, that’s for sure, and I hate the stupid squared-icons of the iPhone), and the interface isn’t that convoluted.

No matter what Symbian or Nokia does, it’s going to get dogged, so long as it’s called Symbian.

Inacurate
September 14, 2010

I think you are standing proud with a level head while defending a company you believe in. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, in my opinion your post here is very unbiased, very accurate with details and information.

Yes, their products since the N95 haven’t exactly won any “innovation awards” but I think the fault is NOT with their products, but the metric by which they are compared.

The N95, from 2007(that is Two Thousand and Seven people) going on three years ago, is missing on a few hardware features that Apple’s latest and great iPhone 4 now contains.

It’s biggest shortcoming, from the media’s perspective, is only its operating system – from TODAY’S stand point! That says quite a few things about the product, both bad and good.

Until the iPhone 4, people should have been just as hard on Apple for releasing such laughably pathetic hardware with a poor feature set. A tiny 2MP camera with no flash? No 3G? No microSD? They were Nokia’s opposite yet they squeezed by because as far as metrics were concerned, touchscreen > *All.

The media and their pundits, with the Apple fanboys(Who make up a piddly small segment of the market for such a loud, error prone voice) are the ones of their rocker. The term “reality distortion field” was invented for a justifiable reason.

David
September 14, 2010

I agree with you Matt, particularly your comments about innovation. Nokia continues to innovate, and is doing so on a global scale impacting millions of people outside of the scope of most North American bloggers and media.

In terms of being “broken,” the mobile industry has always moved fast, but recent years have accelerated that pace. Nokia didn’t react quickly enough. They relied for too long on their foundation around the globe which provided a huge market lead. They also didn’t correctly anticipate or respond aggressively enough to the success of the entry of Apple and Google in the mobile space. As a result, they were slow to respond to the shifts in the market, and when they did, they did so in a lackluster fashion (5800, N97). What I’ve seen in the last two weeks, however, indicates to me that they recognize that more drastic, deep changes are necessary, rather than simply adding touch capability to essentially their existing offerings.

The US media doesn’t get Nokia. They won’t until Nokia makes significant in-roads with North American carriers, and is willing to play by (certain) NAM rules.

No analyst or pundit predicted where we are today, and none can predict what will happen next. Nokia has many challenges, but to dismiss them as a mobile player out of hand is a mistake, much like their mistake of not taking the iPhone seriously in 2007.

George
September 14, 2010

You nailed it. You have Nokia-colored glasses on. You stare at Nokia products all day long so you think they’re already there, but the reality today is the S60(N97) and the already dumped Maemo (N900). THAT is Nokia’s markeshare in the high end. You would be delusional to call that competitive in today’s high end market.

There’s no MeeGo on the market, no S^3 or S^4. None, zip, zilch, nada.

You want to compare future Nokia products to shipping iOS and Andorid then Apple should be able to tout iOS 5 and Google should tout Android 3, but they’re not. They compete with what is on the Market TODAY and Nokia competes can only talk about what will be released soon… eventually… one day… in the future… who knows when. Empty words…

We’ll see what happens in a few weeks but to pretend that Nokia hasn’t dropped the ball for the last 5 years is disingenuous to Apple, Google who have worked hard to get MULTIPLE versions of their high end smartphone OS out. What does Nokia have to show for it? And in case you forgot, we’re discussing released products, not future flights of fancy. Who knows with new Management Nokia might kill MeeGo just like they did with Maemo and all of the other previous unix based OSes. There is absolutely NO reason consumers should believe that Nokia will stick to their guns. This is FACT because of their track record. Nothing more, nothing less.

The US market will pay attention to Nokia when they have something to show for it. There is simply nothing worth their time today.

So don’t pretend Nokia is already there when they’re not. The N8 has some nice specs and some potential. Let’s see if people buy it first before you call it a success. S^3 is a touch version of S60 but don’t pretend its in iOS or Android league.

If it is as good as you think then the customers will buy and developers will write cool and compelling apps. Until then they should be called what they are, a has-been trying to get out of the low-end.

Wake up and smell the coffee, friend. Nokia has to put up a fight we’ll see if they step up.

Robert Najafabadi
September 14, 2010

If only if Nokia had lots of apps/games like Apple and Google as well as a few top-ter phones that compete ageist android species that is at a low price on contract then it would shut the US media up. Or they could go the the RIM rout and market the site out of the their phones and then every buddy will have a Nokia phone and laugh at people with stupid Blackberry curve 83XX.

Come up Nokia just play some-ball with the carriers.

Bas Heetebrij
September 15, 2010

I do agree with your article, Matt. Two months ago I left Nokia for an Android phone, feeling that what they were bringing out was too little too late. Maybe that decision was a little premature.

Now I have preordered an N8, and I’ll see how it goes. If I don’t like it, I’ll happily return it, but I am certainly giving it a shot.

If I keep it, I have to sell my almost new, unbranded and sim lock free Nexus One. Anyone interested? :-)

rh
September 15, 2010

I think that Nokia makes solid smartphones at a variety of price ranges so that they are accessible to a wide variety to people. Their best offerings are not available on contract from any carrier. Because of this they are judged as $600 smartphones that deliver the same value that one can get from a $200 phone on contract with most carriers.

Until they can launch a top of the line smartphone with Verizon or AT&T for $199, they will be judged harshly. They have expensive phones with unfamiliar Operating Systems that offer less value per dollar than what is available to the average consumer elsewhere.

APS
September 15, 2010

I think you’re spot on. I always listen to Mobile tech roundup and hardly ever hear you talking about Nokia more than any other company. In fact imo you quite often miss opportunities to point out features that Nokia’s have had for years when talking about other devices.

Carniphage
September 15, 2010

I think you mis-understood Peter Rojas’ comment about Apple’s R&D budget vs. Nokia.

The Apple figure is not the iPhone R&D budget. It’s the entire R&D budget. For phones, iPods, iPads, Mac, AppleTV, iLife, Final Cut Pro – the whole company.

Despite spending a quarter of what Nokia spends, some people consider Apple to be a more diverse and innovative company.

C.

absolon
September 15, 2010

Nokia’s problem is not USA only. In Europe where I live, all my friends (and me) switched from Symbian to Android. I’ve been Symbian user for years, but last year I gave up. It’s not about Symbian. It’s about build quality and third party software. Look what happen with great E series. E50 (rock solid, metal housing), E51 still good materials, extremely fast Symbian. Then E52 – plastic all around, WTF? And 3rd party software – I can not afford to pay 20$ for simple weather software. It’s ridiculous! AppStore or AndroidMarket offer such software for free or for 1-2$. Recently Nokia reduced cost for developer (and signing process is going to be faster). But is not it too late? I hope not, still believe Nokia and Symbian will rising like Phoenix and one day I will buy brand new Nokia with smile on face :)

Stoli89
September 15, 2010

I was listening to Joshua Topolsky’s most recent podcast go on about how he felt Nokia was a bit prejudicial toward to emerging markets. That somehow, this European Company with Finnish roots was too fair skinned to view the developing world…”in a fair way”. Wow…it really struck me how unfair and ugly the US tech media has become toward Nokia and Symbian. Akin to tea-baggers marching on Washington without understanding history or background beyond a superficial brainwash from Glenn Beck. Seriously, Nokia as a prejudice corporation? Really? The only one with a fully open source OS that gets pummeled by the analysts for it democratization of the smartphone space. A company that has brought critical services to emerging markets with massive scale and measureable results. The most trusted brand in India. I was a bit shocked with this statement from a self-proclaimed expert sitting upon his silcon throne. Something is really wrong with the US media…it has driven itself of a cliff.

vl
September 15, 2010

Very nice article. Agree with you on many points. I live in US and it is really funny to read all the articles on Nokia on tech blogs and big news agencies like Bloomberg, etc. What people don’t realize is that a lot of people in and behind the media in the US OWN Apple or Google stock, therefore it is really not that surprising how biased they are. They are looking out for their investments, that is all. OF course a lot of it is just pure ignorance and lack of real time experience with a Nokia-Symbian phone. Symbian 3 is going to be a lot of fun to play with.. and N8 will sell very well. But even then, most of the US media won’t change its tone toward Nokia

Manu
September 15, 2010

I don’t see this article written with Rose tainted glasses ! (LOL)

Infact, you’ve indeed made very valid points in response to arguments made by ‘Peter’ on his blog. It would be childish to compare R & D budgets of co’s like Apple Inc or HTC with giant like Nokia. It quite apparent that Apple/ HTC etc are catering to niche Market segment whereas Nokia deliver products for almost every market segment.

As @RickyCadden made reference from “Anssi Vanjoki” speech from yesterday, the problem lies in the fact that people hear ‘Symbian’ & just rules out the potential of underlying device. I personally don’t any issues UI of symbian. No doubt I’ve been Nokia user since 2001-09. But even the people who aren’t long term Nokia users find UI the critical problem as depicted by US media. Obviously, there are other areas of concern !!!

I agree with @Stoli89, Nokia is most trusted brand in emerging super powers like India. I’m bit amused at comment in mentioned in podcast as it appears nothing more then “Prejudice” on part of Joshua Topolsky.

Having said that I’m also in agreement with @Absolon. Most of my associates are based in U.K & Ireland. Late last year most of us Nokia users gave up for Android & iOS. The reason wasn’t neither ageing Symbian nor Oomph factor of Apple’s or Android eye candies. The problem I faced was Nokia services was falling apart. N-Gage was shunned, Messaging was getting pathetic with each passing day, Ovi store offered nothing to inspire, confusion regarding adequate support for multiple models, meaningless shift to Ovi branding, falling apart customer support & finally un ending wait for real high end phone which packs decent specs with stable & refreshed OS.

Ennis
September 15, 2010

IMHO, Nokia has realized its mistakes and is trying its best to change. It is a mammoth organization and the change in direction can be compared to the steering of the Titanic. It takes time and effort. We must only hope that they turn fast enough and avoid the iceberg. I for one, hope and believe they can make the turn well in time.

George
September 15, 2010

Here is an interesting article.

http://daringfireball.net/2010/09/nokia_next

Interesting no? Nokia and its supports keep saying, look, we have HDMI, the best camera and this and that (going off check list).

They haven’t realized that software is the key! Because it’s about user experience.

Nokia supporters should admit that the emperor has no clothes. Maybe then they’d listen and actually do something about it.

Matthew Miller
September 15, 2010

George, seems to me that this article is written by someone who has never used a Nokia device and doesn’t understand much about the company. It is easy to armchair quarterback things we see on the surface, but you have to go much deeper than that to understand the culture and desire to reach the world that is core to Nokia.

George
September 16, 2010

True, internet blogs can be like that.

No one disputes that Nokia is a leader in the low to mid-range.

What the original poster can’t seem to understand is that American analysts / bloggers don’t care about the low to mid-range. Americans care abut the high end and that is the context of their criticisms regarding Nokia.

Nokia’s high-end, N97 and N900 are really an embarrassment when compared to current Android / Apple offerings.

The N8 while nice hardware wise, is mid-range by sheer fact of the rudimentary nature the OS.

MeeGo looks prettier but whether or not it will bring something new to the table remains to be seen.

If the N9 (and just to be nice we’ll throw in N8 and E7) are successful next year this time, then Nokia is again a legitimate player. Until then, they’re just a has-been clinging to the glory of by-gone yesteryear.

Davo
September 16, 2010

Nokia 4 life! I stand by them. I ordered E5 yesterday, can’t wait for it to arrive.

[...] Nokia World: Will the US ever understand Nokia? [...]

James
September 20, 2010

Don’t blame the US media for Nokia’s problems in the US. American smartphone buyers look at what is available today and pick Android, Apple or RIM because they are better than what Nokia offers. Nokia has also never been easy for developers to work with compared to Apple and Google. Nokia has been slow to recognize that it has problems. Market share in the US smartphone market is so low that Nokia is not really in the discussion any more and only has itself to blame.

[...] care much for the US attitude and perception of the smartphone market. I talked a bit about the US media and how they focus on the high end smartphone market with love for iOS and Android. This [...]

DynamiteDonald
September 21, 2010

Carniphage, do you like the post the same rubbish on all these sites. What does the NSN R&D budget have to do with the Nokia handset buget? Apples products are tightly connected, NSN, and Nokia Handsets not so much.

programmer1
September 22, 2010

Well I would say it is at least partly Nokia’s fault too. Nokia has never tried marketing much in the US, never launched many products here and importantly never tried telling people (in US and Canada) “Look! You can do all this on your Nokia phone!”.

It is easy to trash a company when a blogger and his/her audience have no emotional connection and no real experience with the products. It is up to Nokia to build those connections. I see iPhone and Android ads all over the place. Nothing wrong with that, thats how you do business. Why can’t Nokia also try to do marketing and also user education programs about what Nokia’s products are and can do?

Many of my friends are actually surprised that I can actually check email on my phone (5230) because all of them assume that a Nokia phone is so dumb that it possibly can’t even do something as basic as checking email.

Sure, none of my friends are “blown away” by a phone like the 5230, but once I show them they begin to understand that you don’t really need an expensive top-end Android or Apple phone to check email, facebook or the news or weather. Thats a user education problem that Nokia has never bothered to correct here sadly.

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