Devices Opinion

Nokia’s Top Man: “The Fightback Starts Now”

The fightback starts now. That’s the headline of the letter published by Nokia’s Head of Mobile Solutions, Anssi Vanjoki. I’ve interviewed the guy a few times and I really do rate him.

I was flying back from Qualcomm’s Uplinq event last week when the letter was posted to Nokia’s blog (“Conversations“). Since Friday, it’s received 355 tweets, hundreds of comments and it’s been the subject of many posts across the industry.

We’re an impatient lot in the mobile industry and as a result, I’ve read quite a few people saying ‘what do you mean, it starts now?’ wondering where the new hardware and services are to support this statement.

‘Now’ means that Anssi has begun his new role heading up the Mobile Solutions division, not that we should be seeing new devices, announcements and partnerships *today*.

Anssi’s letter indicates that he’s got the message. The big challenge at Nokia is to set about burning the old guard who refuse to admit there’s a problem with the company’s reputation, recent devices and developer ecosystem.

I’m utterly delighted to see such public discourse on the subject. I think it’s been long overdue. If anything, I’d like to see a regular series of letters from Anssi — perhaps even a video or two — where he can discuss what’s going on in the marketplace and what Nokia is doing to counter.

Nokia’s complete and utter collapse in the smartphone and premium segment is not a serious fiscal problem for the company (they’re still shipping millions of devices each day at a profit) but the reputation damage — and the chain-reaction of dissatisfaction that shoots from the West to the developing nations, is a big issue. Especially when you’ve got Android activating a couple of hundred thousand devices every single day.

I worry that we’ll this dissatisfaction when the N8 arrives. Although it’s a looking like a super-brilliant device, it’s useless in the context of an iPhone or Android. Because the platform’s been shunned by developers. All the cool stuff that the high-end smartphone users have become accustomed to isn’t quite available. I don’t think many natural Nokia smartphone customers will be parted from their Android or iPhone heaven yet. A serious, serious problem.

Anssi has game, though. I think — and I hope — he can get the division fighting fit. When I sit back and think of all the talented people and all the resources the company has, I can’t help but be positive.

Come on Team Anssi!

By the way, definitely DEFINITELY take some time to check out the Anssi Vanjoki videos we shot at Mobile World Congress. It’s important to get the make of the man as best you can — check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the interview. I think you’ll be impressed by the guy.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

63 replies on “Nokia’s Top Man: “The Fightback Starts Now””

Ewan I agree with your enthusiasm that Nokia are indulging in fighting talk, but sometimes I really do wonder about your analysis. It's occasionally a wee bit bonkers, no?

Take for example “Nokia’s complete and utter collapse in the smartphone and premium segment”. Eh? Firstly, they grew their smartphone sales globally 35% from Q1 09 to Q1 10. Fact. That is an astounding amount for the world's biggest phone maker, in one year. It is HUGE. Secondly, SOME people didn't like the N97 and Nokia admitted it was not what they'd hoped it would be in terms of user experience. But it has been very successful commercially and it's their highest-end device. So I would say your statement is basically false.

Then: “I worry that we’ll this dissatisfaction when the N8 arrives. Although it’s a looking like a super-brilliant device, it’s useless in the context of an iPhone or Android. Because the platform’s been shunned by developers.”
Not this boring old chestnut again. Consider: Nokias (and particularly the N8) are well renowned for having lots of the stuff already built in that iPhones, Androids and the rest have to attempt to make available as apps. Consider: Lots of the apps you get for other platforms are just dross, frankly. And difficult to find. And most of those apps on other platforms, due to the competition in iPhone marketplace, and the very poor implementation of Android's market, are losing their developers lots of money which is a road to nowhere, as covered by Tomi Ahonen:
Consider: People that buy Nokia/Symbian phones do not have the same appetite for apps that iPhone/Android users do.
That said, you have a point in that yes more apps can and should be introduced for Symbian, but we're seeing the results of a short period of uncompetitiveness from Nokia so it's not surprising that devs have temporarily gone elsewhere. As developing for Symbian, and routes to market have already improved considerably, and will continue to do so, the market opportunity there will become increasingly apparent to developers as will the challenges of iPhone/Android and we'll see a shift back.

“All the cool stuff that the high-end smartphone users have become accustomed to isn’t quite available”
That really isn't true in many cases, even most cases. Every time I see another announcement about iPhone or Android I chuckle and think that hundreds of millions of Nokia/Symbian users have been enjoying such and such a feature for literally years, and at better quality and lower cost.

I think intelligent developers that are not afflicted by fanboyism will at this stage at least be starting to seriously consider putting out their wares on Symbian, it's got a great future ahead.

Hi Alex! Good to hear from you. I wasn't talking about sales when I wrote 'complete and utter collapse in the smartphone and premium segment' — indeed, I was careful to point out that the company is still shifting millions of units a day. I was talking about sentiment, I was talking about massive missed opportunities. I'm talking about the fact that the N97/Mini is currently the handset maker's top of the range consumer smartphone device (leaving aside the N900) — and that simply doesn't cut it in the high-end market. Nokia agrees:

(Quoting from their Q2 earnings release that I documented back in June:

“During the second quarter 2010, multiple factors are negatively impacting Nokia’s business to a greater extent than previously expected. These factors include: the competitive environment, particularly at the high-end of the market, and shifts in product mix towards somewhat lower gross margin products.”)

The developer ecosystem is not an old chestnut. It's absolutely critical to the success of their handsets.

I'm accustomed to you putting another point of view, Alex, but some of your text is absolute nonsense.

Here is why the Nokia N8 is rubbish (from a consumer viewpoint).

1. Can I buy my shopping on the train with it? No.
2. Can I book a 'streetcar' from it? No.
3. Can I check out the funny clips from Britain's Got Talent with the Britain's Got Talent app? No.
4. Can I find out when the nearest tube shuts? No.
5. Can you tell me where my nearest tube is? No.
6. Can I order a book from Amazon with 1-click? No.
7. Can I use Rightmove to find a house to buy/rent? No.
8. Can I check out my Starwood Preferred Guest points? No.
9. Can I play Words With Friends (Scrabble) with my wife? No.
10. Can I get my files on-the-go with Dropbox? No.
11. Can I use LogMeIn to access my desktop remotely? No.

I could go on.

It's not about 200,000 apps. It's about a handful that really matter to many consumers now. The paradigm has shifted and I couldn't care less whether Nokia is renowned as having lots of stuff built in. That's last-century thinking. Of course it's got a calendar, an address book — but everything else, I want the market to provide.

If I work really, really hard, I can get access to some services that I indicated above on the web. But I can't find native apps. Because the developers either can't be bothered or literally will not deploy for the Nokia platform.

This isn't the developer's problem, though, Alex. It's not the fanboy's problem either. They're perfectly happy on iPhone and Android. The problem is Nokia's. Because many of their customers — the ones they were talking about in their Q2 release — are now evaluating the company's products on a completely different plane. And even the N8 is found wanting. Because it's about the market. It's up to the market to provide the services to enable consumers to augment their experiences. And the market has, unfortunately, spoken. Nokia doesn't compute at the moment.

The fact that I might only bother to use 5 or 10 or 20 apps in a given year is irrelevant. I like the fact I could (or can) with an iPhone or Android phone. I absolutely can't with a Nokia right now though. When it comes to spending the 600 quid's worth of operator subsidy, those burned by the N97 (and there were a lot) are unfortunately going to be looking elsewhere. Consumers will be giving the N8 a very, very close look before (I fear) deciding 'no thank you' for now.

Thanks for the reply. Yes, it would be nice to have these apps on Symbian of course. But I think you think that apps are the be all and end all for everyone out there (and I always think globally) who's considering buying a Nokia smartphone (specifically). And yet looking back over the last year, while Nokia had few apps, and an Ovi Store in need of improvement, and their best was the N97(/mini) with all it's alleged crapness, and Nokia apparently had no or rubbish marketing and while lots of shiny Android phones and the iPhones were out there and hyped and marketed no end, – while all that was happening – Nokia grew smartphone sales 35% globally, and the N97 alone was deemed a commercial success!

So how, exactly do you explain that? Either you're wrong in putting apps on anywhere near as high a pedestal in the consumer mind, or many tens of millions of people buy things they really don't want. Which is it?

> the Nokia N8 is rubbish (from a consumer viewpoint)
What – so in the consumer mind the N8 is rubbish, PURELY because it doesn't have as many apps (those specifically as you suggest, or indeed any others)? Are you seriously suggesting that? So the consumer (even the high end market incidentally) completely bypasses the AMAZING spec sheet of the N8 which outclasses everything else on the market in terms of hardware, OS and price (apart from say screen res which is where HDMI out helps a bit, and res is arguably not that important)?

You're radically overestimating the importance of apps I think to the general consumer mindset. However, they certainly have some importance. So, as I've said, we're in a lull of developer support for Symbian right now, due to all the reasons everyone knows. I think lots of it will return. As Symbian gets easier and better to develop for (and it's already come along leaps and bounds) and the Ovi Store with it's multiple proven successes offers a constantly improving route to market, and not least considering the far smaller competition in the Symbian app market, you'd be a pretty stupid developer to sit there and let that increasingly large opportunity to make money pass you by – and if you did, well others will step in. The tide is still away from Symbian, sure, but it will turn and probably sooner rather than later.

> you'd be a pretty stupid developer to sit there and let that increasingly large opportunity to make money pass you by

Oh, and if it's not money from the consumer then you'd be a pretty ignorant digital agency / company / charity / government agency to ignore offering or indeed insisting, that your apps are on the handsets that 40% – 80+% (thinking globally, again) of smartphones that are in the hands of your customers / donors / citizens.

The past is not an indicator of future success, Alex.

The N8 is 'rubbish' in the context that, if it doesn't do the things consumers want it to do — all these whizzy apps — it'll be a failure. I don't think the specs themselves sell it.

The Symbian developer lull — which I certainly agree with — is nothing short of catastrophic for Nokia. It's going to be a hard slog for them.

I really want to believe everything Anssi says about Nokia being in the process of jumping back on its feet. I really want to believe that!

But then the word Symbian creeps in again and reminds me of certain facts…

I believe developing for Nokia used to be hard work – it was a lot simpler developing for the iPhone or for Android. My hope is that this changes with QT at least that is what I hear developers saying.

Amazing debate guys! I personally agree with Alex but know that Ewan points encapsulates the main issue plaguing Nokia, apps. Apps, regardless of their actual use are the driving factor behind the success of Nokia's rivals. In addition to the Western world's bias to North America. For me a 12mp camera with xenon flash, radio etc far outweigh the need for other things. But for most consumers of Nokia's competition a 1 click native app for things holds a great appeal. Rather than argue the point, Nokia just needs to invest in getting developers to make these apps for them. I mean its incredible to imagine that Ngage basically opened up the development of games on phones as a serious and now Nokia is laggin behind in that area. Just give the masses in the West what they want, apps and end this debate.

I do not think that Apps are that important in the long run. The novely wears off as they say. Most people want a phone that works well, e.i. good call quality, battery life, comfortable to send SMS and mail from and of course have a good music player and camera. These are the functions people use 95% of the time.

I do not think that the iPhone is so popular because of the App Store. I think it is because of its extremely simple eye candy UI. Most people want simplicity, and not use energy to find out how things function or install this to be able to do that etc. This is in fact the whole success of Apple. To me, their products are not any better, or superior compared to other products. It’s just simpler. Easy does it.

I also think it is worrying how the press is so consumed with Apple. Gizmodo has fallen out with Apple after revealing the iPhone 4, but something good has come out of it. Now they dare to write negative things, and to me the site has got more credibility than other popular sites that obviously love Jobs and Apple and are not able to talk about things objectively.

Sorry if this got a bit off topic with regards to Apps, but I believe that the picture is bigger and that the consumer’s view is very complex. People are by definition superficial and driven by emotion. Hence the success of Apple.

I’m going to keep this simple. iphone/android are for those who aren’t tech savy. Just look around at your own friends as an example. I bet the friends you have that own that iphone/android device have never owned a smart phone before. The most tech thing they have every done is log on to face book. And that is who these devises are geared towards. Maemo/meego/symbian are the total opposite. They can’t really put them in the same category. But then again thats just my opinion.

Because the delivery mechanism is still rubbish.

In many ways there's nothing that special technically about iPhone apps – in fact you could claim (from a tecnical perspective) that the Java applets we've had around for years are superior. But we all know that's not true. What Apple have really sorted out (in a way that Nokia are still struggling with) is the delivery mechanism.

Focussing on specs completely misses the point – it's like only caring about how many megapixels a camera has. It's the image quality at the end that really matters.
Although as an engineer I think it's cool to know how fast the processor in my phone is, I think it's a sign of desperation when you have to rely on that for marketing. What you should be saying is “fast enough that it never gets in your way” (assuming that it in fact is, of course ;-)).

I guess it all comes down to whether you view mobile phones as general purpose computers, or an appliance. Most people want an appliance that just works.

I have to agree with Ewan here and disagree with Alex. Forget globally for a minute and lets focus on the western market. I think that looking at past or current figures is dangerous as a company can fall from grace very quickly in consumer minds. Sentiment shift is key, not just looking at current sales figures. Forget people like us who are switched on about the latest features etc. It is the general consumer mindset/normob that is critical, as stated by Ewan.
A decade ago Sony was recently a powerful brand name and had its own superior prestige and premium pricing and for a variety of factors, has fallen from grace (what has happened to Sony Erikkson or the stranglehold they had on the TV market) and is now seen in the same light as Samsung, LG etc. Apple before the ipod release in 2001 was plodding along going nowhere. Look what a drastic change that has happened in less then a decade, with Apple now the 2nd most valuable company in the world behing Exxon (I think). My point being, that things can change for Nokia much faster then people think.

It should be panic stations at Nokia (they are not going bankrupt tomorrow obviously), its ok selling millions of cheap handsets in India, however the highly western market is still very crucial for profitablity and its influence worldwide.

I always look at the ground level for consumer trends etc. not just the echo chamber we tend to live in such as tech blogs etc. and I was in the Bullring in Birmingham recently. There was an excited group of people queueing up (when was the last time you saw people lining up for a bloody new phone!!!) for the new iPhone, and right outside the Apple store was one of those temporary popup style stands set up by Nokia. It was such a contrast, the Nokia stand had a few half hearted staff with the OVI banner and a few Nokia phones on display and people were walking past it not giving it the time of day and couldn't be bothered. It's such a small thing but it made Nokia look so sad, behind the times, out of touch and frankly desperate. I asked a few passers by if they could name a Nokia model on display or what the OVI store was and they didn't have a clue. I wish I had recorded this, as a Nokia exec this would give me sleepless nights.

Also, can technical people stop saying that Nokia users have enjoyed these features for years. Its what the consumer thinks that matters, Apple did not create the first mp3 player or google the first search engine, it not what you do but how you do it/present it. Consumers dont care about every HDMI out feature etc or Nokia's superior 200MP camera, its the allure of the brand which Nokia has totally lost.

In the fickle minds of most consumers having a Nokia now means you are out of date etc. Its not purely a technical battle of hardware feature vs hardware feature as discussed by tech blogs etc. but the branding and perception of the phone you have by your peers of what has now become in the west a lifestlye product. I am not an Apple fan etc. but am so shocked that Apple product launches are becoming big national events and dominating consumer mindshare and think some technology people are totally undervaluing the power of this from a marketing, social behaviour, branding perspective.

P.S. Apps aren't being overyhyped by Ewan, I was shocked to hear in a coffee shop a few months ago two 'older' ladies at least in their fifties discussing how good the red laser app was on their husbands iPhone for shopping and how they were going to get one because of it.

Why do Apple ads keep hamering the app angle over and over again, and not the fact that they have a better battery or a 5MP camera instead of the old 3MP camera, surely there is a reason for this. Go into an Apple store and people are messing around and fully besotted with Apps on the iPad, they are not asking the staff member “does this new A4 chip have 256mb ram, or is the screen resolution less then the Dell streak!” So the “AMAZING” spec sheet arguement from Alex about the N8 is total nonsense from a consumer standpoint. Do you think the consumer is sitting there in carphone warehouse with a spec sheet comparison table. The Playstation 3 has a killer spec, compared to the Nintendo WII but look how that turned out.

Can I get my files on-the-go with Dropbox? No.
Can I use LogMeIn to access my desktop remotely? No.
Both aspects are covered via ovi-files and/or Usb-on the go

Oh come on Andre! That doesn't stack up AT ALL! They're different technologies. As a geek I am tickled pink by the USB-on-the-go and Ovi Files functionality. But the consumer increasingly branded — that is, they're hunting for LogMeIn or DropBox, not some alternative.

I was just saying, the possibilities and implementations both exist, in a sense 😛
Whether it's integrated as well as it should be is an entirely different story. That's a rant I'd rather not get into though 🙂

Right, but what's your view when it comes to the common-or-garden consumer who's being bombarded every night on TV and every day in the newspapers about the 'app world' and who decides they'd like to use DropBox on their Nokia N8?

How is that consumer going to react when they realise that DropBox have made a strategic decision not to bother with Symbian? Meanwhile their friends are happily dropboxing away on other platforms.

Fair enough, I'll hand you that point. It's true that the VAST majority of consumers would love this “cool” factor and it's an issue but I feel that Nokia has started to address already with regards to the Qt SDK, cross platform compatibility, free Symbian signing for developers and the $50 yearly charge to publish in the Ovi store are all great steps in the right direction.
The problem for Nokia, as always is a lack of exposure, be it from the blogosphere, the press or their own PR department!

I think it's gone beyond PR … there's not much you can do when the developer ecosystem isn't there (at the moment). I really hope that will change, especially with Qt — but we're talking years, I fear.

Years is way too long. Apple's store took off in a matter of a year, I see no reason why without the right sort of approach that Nokia couldn't do the same on a similar time-scale.

That would require a deal of thought and a blog post! 😛
I'd have to get back to you on that one.

Nokia are dead on their feet. Their eco system is screwed, and now they are playing catch up when the goal posts are moving all the time. All you are getting from Nokia is spin, nothing else AND that is part of the problem. They make gimmicks on their handsets instead of designing a first class GUI, they listen to PR companies who know nothing about phones, who think of stupid PR campaigns that make Nokia look stupid and uncool. They used to innovate now they buy components that they can use in more than one handset to keep costs down. So the components they use in the latest flagship products have already been used by their competitors who are already moving on to the next thing.

Their sales figures are strong because of the “emerging markets” but in western markets, well I believe their figures about as musch as the..”Ooh you wait, wait to you see the new Nokia XXXX we are bringing out in 6 months its an iPhone/Blackberry/Android killer” that I have heard at least 3 times a year for the last 4 years from Nokia.

As for the Nokia N8 having an amazing spec sheet, well that's great, the reality will be it still has a crap GUI/Menu System, feel old and clunky, will have apps that feel like they were designed and built 6 years ago, will be buggy until they release the 2nd or third firmware update and have very few add on aps that anyone apart from geeks want! It will be too consumer unfriendly, it will be a pain to do simple things and it it will feel like a dinosaur. HDMI on a phone..oh for f***s sake NOKIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! make a freaking decent GUI first!!!!! This is a typical example of the problem with Nokia.

I tell you this, I will be very surprised if their are cues round the block for the N8 like there seem to be with the iPhone on every release.

I work for Nokia so can’t really comment – there is a bright light at the horizon and I’m sure Nokia will rock you guys in the foreseeable future. It is funny how some of the “old” competition never gets any mentioning. Is it because Nokia is actually the only one from the old crew of mobile brands that is actually working hard on challenging the new kids in this industry? Anyway both Alex, Sunny and Ewan has some interesting points.


John, Your last point is very interesting. I do think Nokia has big challenges ahead…Apple and now Android have moved the cheese quite far. However, if you look at Nokia’s actions with Symbian^3&4, as well as Meego, what we see is a two-pronged strategy where one will appeal to the appliance users and the other to the general purpose computer users. I do think consumer expectations will also change over time. Here, and with Meego, Nokia is pre-positioning a very interesting platform much more capable than either IOS or Anroid OS to move upstream. With Qt, SDK’s and the developer friendly terms now with OVI, I do think developers will see Nokia as a more lucrative and interesting ROI target. For one thing, the opportunity for exposure is simply greater because, for the moment, the total number of apps (competition) is less. Just as importantly, developing for Meego brings developers access to Symbian, under Qt.

I’d have to disagree here. I’m working in an office doing Mobile development. Virtually everyone here that has a Smartphone has an iPhone or Android device. The rest being Blackberries or non-smartphones. I don’t know anyone in the office with a Nokia Smartphone. I would suggest that most peple who have a Nokia Smartphone don’t even treat it as a Smartphone, they got it as an upgrade and wanted the big camera, flash etc, etc. They don’t use Mail or any other similar features.


“To me, their products are not any better, or superior compared to other products. It’s just simpler. Easy does it.”

But that’s the whole point … being simpler, easy to use is why people like them. What’s the point of a feature if it’s too much effort to use it.

I think people like the original Nokia UI that became the S40 UI. I saw the latest iteration of S40 running on a BB type device and it looked really good. Easy to make calls, msgs etc.

On the other hand S60 is a nightmare … surely no one can like that?

Nokia need to worry IF they want to be the market leader for the top segment in the western world.
They need to get emotion into the game. Seduce the possible buyer, and caress the excisting loyal customer. As it is now, Nokia is too geeky. And they have always championed function over lovely UI and hardware design (some hardware designs have been epic though). They DESPERATELY need to make the UI seductive, simple and retain its super functionality.
When it somes to hardware I would do the following, have three segments to focus on, e.g. “Entry level”, “Middle level” and “Prestige level”. And I would cut down drasticly on how many devices were manufactured a year.
“Entry level” – 4 devices
“Middle level” – 3 devices
“Prestige level” – 1 or 2 devices

At the top level, hardware is important, especially with regards to design, but the absolutely essential thing is to focus on software that works spot on out of the box, and reliable quick updates.

Since all manufacturers get a lot of bad press about where they manufacture their mobile devices, especially Apple, I would do a big deal about that as well. Nokia should do its outmost to manufacture its mobile phones in Finland or somewhere else in Europe AND talk loud about it. I think one would be surprised how many people would be interested in buying a more expensive phone if they knew it did not come from a “sweat shop”.

andref1989 covered Ovi Files, but if businesses concentrated more on mobile friendly web-sites instead of “apps” that do the same thing they would have a bigger market –

you don't need a separate app for each thing: Think browser/GPS

At the end of the day, and yes, I have read all posts/comments on this page, its not entirely all about apps, Nokia needs to stop using discounted, old, and borrowed tech from older devices in their new devices. I could go on and list all these, but will just mention a couple of examples.

Batteries. – With the money Nokia spend of R&D, why have they not encompassed Battery tech, why have they not looked ahead, for smaller batteries which supply the same about of output, and high mAh? We know its possible with the right investments, but Nokia continue to ues old tech.

OS – To me, Nokia's OS over the years has also been recycled, and reused, and stretched to the point that there isn't much else that can be done with Symbian. Its like having several bottles with the same content, but different labels on each bottle. We are getting fed up of the same bitter tastes.

For the high end mobile space, Nokia need to stop penny pinching, and look forward, and invest in the latest cutting edge hardware. A device with the fastest GPU, CPU, more RAM than you can throw a stick at, all of which should not of ever been used before by Nokia, or anyone else for that matter.

Then comes the old saying, well Nokia is a Manufacture of a device, just like a car company, if they made the perfect car, nobody would buy another one because they have the best available, maybe Nokia after afraid that if they did indeed churn out the best possible mobile device, with the fastest processor available, the highest amount of RAM, and the best new GPU, then maybe Nokia would worry that sales for high end devices would decline year on year? I don't know.

I was one of the many that got stung by Nokia with the Nokia N97, the flagship device that OPK said on stage is Nokia's best mobile device ever. Oh dear oh dear. I love its form-factor, but its like a Ferrari with a Reliant Robin engine.!!! Terrible performance, so much so, I sold it recently.

Fantastic points, *especially* on the battery. I know it's nice that the same battery works in the E51/E62i, but was that evolution? No. Totally with you.

Faster, better, quicker.

That isn't the issue, surely? You're blaming DropBox and LogMeIn — when the customer is going to blame their 'stupid Nokia' for (the perception of) not being good enough?

I totally agree with the point that the lack of apps available on Nokia phones is barrier to a lot of people. It's getting to the stage where choosing a Nokia is going to be a choice that needs to be justified.

I used to justify that on a couple of counts:
– better voice quality (I use my phone to make calls)
– rock solid enterprise messaging (mail 4 exchange – I need my email and contacts wherever I go)

Then my E71 gave up the ghost and I got an N97 mini. All of a sudden, both of those key features that Nokia had in their favour disappeared. The N97 mini has gone back for repair 4 times; none of which fixed the problems.

So I got an E55. Apart from the implementation of M4E being completely different, it regularly (i.e. around once a week) fails. The voice quality is back to what I need, but not being able to rely on PIM and email coming OTA is a showstopper.

So now I have an HTC legend. And while there are a couple of things I still don't like about that, it's looking to be way more reliable than either of my last two Nokias.

Why would I get a Nokia phone in future?

The novelty might wear off, after you've selected an app capable phone instead of a Nokia…

And Ewan's point below is bang on – I may not need 200,000 apps, and many of the 50 or so I download in the first week are going to be unused after a coulpe of weeks, BUT the one or two that won't be a novelty are likely available in the Apple and Android app stores, and very possibly not in the Ovi store.

Do they? Who are “these people”? Well if they do that's fine but personally I think it look like it's 10 years out of date. Nokia used to be LOVED for their menu systems, it is what consumers knew. They grew up with Nokia, it had be come the de facto std. Now it's just a mess. You can't move from one Nokia to the next without it being different, so consumers just become confused.

Rubbish. All the devs I know, and I know a few having developed with nokia since 2003 have dumped Nokia and moved to iPhones/Android. Even they cant be arsed to mess around with a Nokia just to get it to work properly.

Nokia's bread and butter ARE the “non-tech savy”. The developing countries of the world rely on Nokia. This is a huge chunk of the 35% growth Nokia experienced. If they continue to produce phones that are technically superior but lack everyday usability, where does that place them 1, 2 and 5 years out?

We are to grow from 4.5billion subsriptions to near 6 billion subscriptions in the world over the next 4 years. Tomi Ahonen believes this will largely come from the developing nations.

Now, give someone in Africa the choice of the N8, the E55, the iPhone, the Samsung H2, or the HTC Droid Incredible. Honestly, which one is the buyer going to choose. They will be going with all the cool features that aren't on Nokia's platform.

Take your personal preferences out of this whether you are a Nokia fan or not. Now put yourself in the place of the non-technical, non-geeky, unadvised typical buyer/subscriber. You walk into a store with no knowledge of Nokia's superior technology. You are handed the above phones and get to play around with them for 5 minutes each before deciding which one you want. Remember, you are not privy to your biases or knowledge of any of the manufacturers, you are just playing with the above phones.

How many buy the Nokia Phones? I don't think one gets sold. Honestly, I don't. I have been in the stores in the states and listened to the sales chaps going about selling the phones. They push the “cool, in style” phones because they know they sell. Remember, the sales guys are all on commission! And the apps currently are what make them sell.

That really isn't just my view, it is a simple fact in the states.


Hi Ewan,

I think that not only you, but everyone who is arguing in favor of Apple not only in this discussion is making a fatal error: all their argumentation is based on the assumption that userfriendlyness, an app store or the mobile web experience are the only USPs (Unique selling points) existing. But they are not. In fact, there are many USPs. The reason is simple. People are different and therefore have different preferences. USPs can be design, price, form factor, size, brand, battery life, voice quality, reception etc. Of course, user friendlyness or services like an app store are also USPs. But there will always be people who absolutely prefer a certain form factor like clamshells or sliders. Others would never ever buy an iPhone because they prefer a physical (qwerty) keyboard. Some people will never buy an iPhone because they don`t like the brand “Apple” and prefer e.g. Sony Ericsson, no matter how much more userfriendly an iPhone would be. Apple could introduce a cheap iPhone Nano, but there will be people who don`t care and still choose an even cheaper device because price is their main preference. I could go on and on with this. These are the reasons why the LG Cookie, the Samsung S5230 Star or the Nokia 5800 are selling so well, despite the existence of the iPhone. This is the reason why we don`t have only ultra thin handsets or only clamshells or only touchscreen phones.

These are given facts. Some may not like it, but that`s the reality. We don`t need to argue whether this is irrational or not, because people behave the way they do, no matter what a guy in a black sweater tries to tell them.

Of course, I reckon that there are certain trends emerging in regards to the preferences of people. A company who can jump onto such trends and exploit them can be very successful, at least for some time. Even better, some companies even manage to create such trends. These companies can be even more successful. But it is a common fact that trends come and go. I don`t doubt that Apple created such a trend and is doing quite well at the moment. What Nokia curently does is adapting to some of theses trends created by Apple and creating additional products with USPs that can adress these trends. We can argue about the importance of the preference “user friendlyness”. It is quite possible that this is more than just a trend, but it will never be the sole buying criteria because of the above said.

They'll buy the Nokia because a) they will know full well who Nokia is b) it will actually be available and c) it will be cheap.

Usability is important, but like apps, is, perhaps, over rated at the moment. Perhaps it is better to it's poorly understood. Usability is not a universal thing – it is not the same everywhere or in every segment – i.e. the slate touch phone and heads-down, touch led, UI is not the answer to all things.

I'd also contend usability is easier to fix (than say logistic and distributions chains).

The scenario above does play out in Europe and similar markets in a number of segments (notably high end), but it is not universal. For the emerging markets the big things are likely to be power and cost.


Usability IS important, it's more important than features. What good is a feature if I can't use it.

I would contend Nokia made it's name on the usability of the basic Nokia UE, the UE that led to S40. To most people this is what they think of when they think Nokia. the S60 UE just seems to have been an overcomplicated mistake. Using an S40 device is much more pleasant and less effort than struggling through the S60 menus and icons.


Yes, the App Store took off in a year but it was built on lots of pre-existing technology, experiences, marketing and knowledge that game from the iTunes Music store which went from selling Music to becaome PodCast delivery engine to Video sales and rental. All of these aspects were in place to make the App Store what it was on launch. Even the Podcast section was important as it allowed users to add content.

While Nokia and others can build all this (as Google have proved) it's not a simple case of 'build it and they will come'.


I think the reason that some of the 'Old Competition' don't get mentioned is that basically they are mostly moving over to Android. Apart from a few Sony Ericsson exceptions and Bada from Samsung it seems to be Android for the high-end market that S60 is attempting to be in.

First let me state that this discussion seems to be a first. At least about Nokia.

And second just to be clear, users, or Developers don't give a whit about the OS. It does not matter what the OS is, but let me explain, The users only see's the User Interface, not the OS. If apple OS or Android took several menu's and obscure dialog boxes to get things done, neither would be in business.

Nokia needs to address the UI in a concerted effort to improve usability.

Developers only want an SDK that makes building applications, apps, quickly and without heartburn. And makes them a lot of money. Forget the OS,

Thirdly make good hardware, the N97 was junk, go into any mobile phone store and find a N97 on display (I know, fakes) that isn't broken. Really makes a bad first impression.

Lastly, Nokia! Choose a direction, and commit, stop vacillating, and go. The iPhone IS NOT the be all, end all of mobile phones, but it's simple and usable. work on releasing some of your own great back lab devices, go your own direction. Make it solid, simple and functional.

Oliver, how do you account for Nokia's recent financial statement citing seriously challenging competitive conditions in the high-end bracket?

In the states it doesn't look good at all. The average consumer (in the united states meaning just about everyone) just buys whatever the tv tells them to. I love my N900. But at the end of the day the average joe will never know that they don't need 200k apps. And Scott ask your friends what phone they had before they picked up that iphone or android device. Btw i'm currently downloading a torrent, listening to music and posting this on my N900 just throwing that out there.

Hi Ewan,

I won`t argue about Nokia having a serious, serious problem in the high-end bracket. To me, this was clear for some time. Nokia has currently no real high end device that can compete with a Droid X, iPhone 4, HTC Evo 4G etc., either on a hardware or software side. But does not being able to fully compete in a certain small market segment ultimately mean Nokia is doomed? I don`t think so. Does it hurt? Obviously. I would never deny these facts. They have to adress this issue, not so much because of the money, but because of image. In certain market segements (high end) and certain regions (North America), Nokia has an image problem too, resulting of above said. But again, does this means the company is doomed? No.

The N8 won`t change this. It is on par in certain criterias with the best of the best. But it is not better, except for the camera. Nokia needs a true N95 successor. A device that innovates. A device that pushes the envelope further. It could have some shortcomings, but it has to be a demonstration of sheer power and vision. Something that was lost some time ago, but was the soul of the N-Series.

Nokia is in indeed in a very interesting situation. Upcoming devices based on Symbian will sell very well, but they are not a solution for the high-end, at least in the way we see it today (app-centric). Nokia said the future N-Series devices will all be MeeGo based. This is what I think will happen: MeeGo won`t pick up the fight against the next Droid, HTC or iPhone incarnation. I firmly believe that Nokia is opening a new frontier in the war for mobile dominance. It is preparing its troops for the war over the internet of things. It won`t be MeeGo vs. Android or iOS. It will be MeeGo vs. Chromium and Windows Phone 7. I may sound crazy, but to me, Google and Microsoft are the only real enemies after we have left the app-era behind. The internet of things will be dominated by the web. Yesterday, we saw the very first move from Youtube in this direction. Apple will play only a very very minor role in this age. The reason is simple: the best part of Apples` success is based on control. But Apple can`t control which ads are shown on a HTML5 Youtube site. But this is another story…

So the big picture looks like this: Nokia will continue to loose market share and sales in the high-end bracket for the next three to five years. However, Symbian devices will continue to sell very well. They have some very good products in the higher midrange or lower high-end (N8; N97 mini), the midrange is also quite good positioned (C6; X6) and, as always, the lower midrange and lower end is looking better than ever (5230; C5; E5; 6700 slide). E-Series is also doing good, the rumored E7 looks like a real winner and could very well end up as a E93 successor.

The first MeeGo device won`t win any iPhone user over, because when launched, its most outstanding features (NFC; predictive context; etc.) will be in their infancy. But someone has to do it. Again. What most people forget is that someone needs to innovate. Refinement comes later. Nokia has a chance to show that they can do both. They did so in the past, so not all hope is lost.

So the fight back has started. However, I think that many don`t understand which fight Anssi Vanjoki means. I`ll say it one last time: it is not the fight about the high end market as we know it today. It is the fight about the way we communicate and live in the next 10 to 30 years. Many say Nokia is doomed, it is adopting to slowly, it is dated. I watch Nokia very closely. They lost some unnecessary months, which is a long time in the fastest moving industry on this little planet. But that didn`t endanger the company as a whole. You can`t turn a ship like Nokia around at full speed. Not when you are pumping out over 1.3 Million devices each fu&%$ day. You have to slow down and set a new course. Now this phase is over. The ship has turned, all hands are at battle stations. The enemy is already visible on the horizon. It`s Google and Microsoft. The most powerful battleship in the mobile ocean is slowly picking up speed. Boy, I wouldn`t want to be in their crosshairs. Let Apple dominate the app-centric high end market for some time. One small market segment (userfriendly app-centric touchscreen carrier-locked high end devices). So be it. The fight is out for somenthing bigger, way bigger.

Actually, I agree, most iPhone users only had a feature phone prior, but what apple did was make adding more features, easy. Hence the reason most people didn't notice it weaknesses, like no MMS, no multi-tasking, no changeable desktop screens. Then when they notices other smart phone features from other vendors, like Nokia, they demanded more from Apple.


Before buying iPhone/Androids they had a wide variety of devices, mainly SE or Nokia. Phones like the K750i/K800i. Those that had S60 phones never did much more than basic phone/messaging/camera/music functionality.

The only relevance I can see in discussion what you can do on an N900 is that devices like that are the reason that Nokia is where it is today.

Hi Alex

Just want to pick up one point of yours in a very long commentary.

“Consider: People that buy Nokia/Symbian phones do not have the same appetite for apps that iPhone/Android users do.”

I know multiple people of all types (devs, geeks, mums, office worker, designers, kids etc) who have moved from an S60 device to an iPhone (or iPod Touch … let's not forget how important this is to the App ecosystem) and have gone from downloading no apps to multiple apps.

Are you asking for non-novelty apps that are available for Android/iPhone and not Symbian? Here's six off the top of my head

– Hullomail
– DropBox
– A decent facebook client (with an honourable mention for snaptu… if you own a Nokia and havent' got snaptu yet, go and get it now)
– A linkedin client of any shape or size
– A FIBS client
– An RSS reader that syncs with Google reader

Now, not many people are going to want a FIBS client (I'm guessing most of the MIR readers won't know what FIBS is!) but that's the point. _I_ want a FIBS client, and I've got a greater chance of getting one on Android/iPhone than on Symbian. Someone else will want a different niche application, and again their chance of finding that on Symbian is much smaller than on the other two.

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