VentureBeat: Why can’t Nokia sell phones to Americans?

The question in the headline was attempted to be answered by VentureBeat in a recent article, but like we have discussed before the answer is not clear cut and is most likely not due to a single issue. VentureBeat talked with some analysts and journalists (not me) to come up with three possible reasons why Nokia is not having any effect on the US market.

  1. Nokia was too cocky when dealing with US wireless carriers
  2. Nokia phones are no longer the sexiest out there
  3. Nokia no longer leads on features

Nokia logo

The article also alludes to the fact that most Americans are cheap when it comes to cellphones and want the lowest subsidized price phone, even though the initial price has little to do with the full contract price people will be paying over the next two years. US wireless fees are significantly higher than other countries, but Americans seem to accept these high costs for a couple hundred dollar up front kickback on their phones and I don’t see anyway of changing this perception any time soon.

It is a bit strange what marketing can do to turn this around though since millions paid $599 for the original Apple iPhone that had far fewer features and capabilities than most feature phones. The UI was extremely cool and that eye candy alone was able to make Americans part with some big bucks and sign up for 2-year contracts. I also find it a bit contradictory that Apple was allowed to sell the iPhone without ANY AT&T customization and crippling (except for MMS and tethering) while devices like the E71x were gutted by AT&T and made worse than the standard E71.

I would love to see Nokia launch a major marketing campaign with a theme of something like, “Hello America, we are back to give you the best mobile phone experience” and then see some fantastic Symbian device that blows away all the rest. This is something that is possible since the smartphone market is still young and Americans are suckers for good marketing.

We all know that Nokia makes high quality devices, has the best RF reception, has the best media capture quality, and know how to roll out compelling devices. I know the American market is small in relation to the world, but think it is much more about mindshare here than marketshare and it would be sweet to see Nokia make a comeback in the USA some day.


8 Comments to VentureBeat: Why can’t Nokia sell phones to Americans?

Mike Maddaloni - @thehotiron
February 18, 2010

The iPhone has been such a success because it was marketed by Apple, the messy details of the AT&T contract were never disclosed upfront or ever really mentioned by Jobs, and that there were cool apps made for it. And costs never really factored into any of the decision-making.

The experience of getting a Nokia in the US is limited. The 2 flagship stores are closing soon, but there was only 2 of them. And when you went into the store, you were buying a device, not necessarily service, which is not the way it is by going into every other mobile store in the US.

It’s going to take more than slick European-styled commercials and marketing to appeal to US customers.


P.S. – And I agree on the E71x – WTF did AT&T do to it? One of my friends has one and I couldn’t figure out how to use it, and I can navigate an E71 in my sleep!

February 18, 2010

My comments would match Mike’s so no need to match them. What I will add to them is that as consumers we have allowed it so we can primarily obtain devices from carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc. In most other countries consumers can go to a “Car phone store” and choose from a multitude of devices from different carriers.

All devices are unlocked and all one needs to do is buy a SIM card, pop it in, charge it up and off you go. And when the time runs out go to a local market and charge it up again by buying more time and entering a series of numbers into an automated system over the phone.

The US has pre-paid phones but until we can get past living on the credit card I don’t foresee “Car phone stores” in the malls of America. Too bad. I get all my Nokia phones unlocked from Europe. There are no limitations to them by the US carriers and I usually have them long before the general public.

February 18, 2010

Two comments

1) If I pay full price for an unlocked Nokia phone, I still have to pay almost the same monthly fees to the carriers (T-Mobile now gives a discount worth I think about $20 a month and you may avoid some data charges with AT&T).

2) Prepay is popular in Europe partly because incoming calls are free under the caller pays principle. The downside of this is it is prohibitively expensive to call a European mobile from a land line.

BTW it is not true to say all devices are unlocked in other countries. Most devices are sold locked to the provider in most countries, pre-pay or not.

February 18, 2010

I’d have said Nokia wasn’t cocky enough.

Apple did well partly because they insisted AT&T didn’t mess with the iPhone. Microsoft are doing the same with Windows Phone 7 Series. They get it. Nokia seem to have either capitulated or taken their ball home.

February 18, 2010

As an American who buys nothing but Nokias, I do agree that most Americans are cheap. When I mention how much I have payed for my previous (UNLOCKED Nokia) phones, every one of them flinches! HAHA

I have been spoiled by being able to take my sim card and put it into any one of my seven or eight older Nokias laying around.

February 19, 2010

If Nokia wanted to still sell unlocked phones and get their name out there, they should sell a device that supports BOTH T-Mo and AT&T. Think about if the consumer had an option to choose what service they wanted or if they wanted to switch. If Nokia could show the average consumer that buying a phone un-subsidized is more beneficial, the consumer would be more willing to buy their devices. Unfortunately, Nokia needs to step up their game in the Ovi Store department. Although the N900 can do things on its browser almost every other phone can’t, that isn’t a device for everyone. Nokia doesn’t understand that in America, people follow advertising like it’s a religion. Whoever advertises more, wins. Simple as that. Verizon and AT&T are good competitor examples. Apple’s iPhone is another. Nokia – step up to the plate.

February 22, 2010

Nokia should make a phone that’s worth a hoot that will run on a network that people want to use (in the U.S.). In other words, give me an N900 that will work on Verizon!!

February 25, 2010

Having been a fan of Nokia since the 5120, I think part of the problem is the choice of Nokia phones offered by the carriers. I’ve been dissatisfied with AT&T’s offerings for years and started buying unlocked ones to get the features and styling that I want.

Nokia N8 Guide

Nokia E73 Mode Guide
Nokia N900 Guide