If you read my N82 review then you’re familiar with the fact that I enjoy delving a little bit into the past and present before talking about the future, it just feels like the right thing to do. With that in mind, let me take you on a trip of what Nokia released in 2007, who Nokia acquired in 2007, what exactly happened at Nokia World and where I predict the Finnish giant is going to go in 2008 in terms of both devices and services.
The Devices of 2007
Every January since 1978 there has been a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. People from all over the world come to get a glimpse at the gadgets that are going to be released over the next 12 months, salivate over high end audio visual equipment that they can’t afford and get plastered at company sponsored after parties. What the businessmen don’t tell their wives is that the AVN (Adult Video News) awards happen during the same week. Nokia released 3 products at CES: N76, N93i and N800.
The N76 is a love it or hate it product. It looks like a Motorola RAZR dipped in bling, has a lowly 2 meagpixel camera and later in the year we would find out that the paint has a problem staying on the actual materials. I would be lying if I said it was a good first attempt at a thin Nseries clamshell, but these mistakes have to be made so that the future products can be improved. The 3.5 mm headphone jack would have been better situated on the bottom of the device so one can listen to music and use the phone to browse the internet at the same time. USB charging to reduce the amount of ports on the exterior of the phone is also something that would have been preferred. Making the “multimedia computer” easy to open with one hand needs to be priority numero uno for the next iteration and finally, a personal punch below the belt, it should look more elegant and Nokia-like.
The N800 is the 2nd Internet Tablet from Nokia. A much needed kick in the processing power pants was given, the device was also made more pocketable, but a few compromises were made. The rugged aluminum cover that the 770 came with has been discarded for a cloth sleeve. The buttons on the top of the device were shrunk to impossibly small dimensions and the advertised feature stated in the press release of Skype built in proved to be a lie until 7 months later in July.
The N93i is the prettier and smaller version of the N93. The product is also seemingly tailored for the female demographic (or highly self conscious males) due to the large mirror front finish. I had the pleasure of testing this device and was delighted to finally see an Nseries product with notification LED’s. Later during my 2 week trial I was told that the ability to autofocus while shooting video would be taken out due to fears of the mechanical optics system failing. The one thing that actually made the N93i different internally than the N93 has officially been removed. Hopefully the next iteration of this device will have USB charging, quadband GSM support, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a stereo microphone like the original N93.
3GSM, now called Mobile World Congress, but people still call it 3GSM, is the premier event for mobile phone enthusiasts. Nokia refreshed their Eseries lineup, introduced the successor to the 9500 Communicator and sprinkled a few other products into the mix.
The Nokia E61i, which I affectionately call the Hammer of Thor, is the refresh of the Nokia E61. The device is heavy (in a good way) at 150 grams, constructed of stainless steel, has a gorgeous 2.8 inch 320×240 screen, WiFi, 3G, but when comparing it to the performance beasts of today it just seems too slow. I’ve been using my E61i on and off since the S60 Summit in April and it has quickly gathered a spot in my heart. It screams masculinity, but again it isn’t perfect. It has the aging POP port, a standard 2.5 mm headphone jack and the camera is just 2 megapixels. I would like to see the next iteration have a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack just like the BlackBerry Pearl and Curve, a 3.2 megapixel camera and GPS; as luck would have it the E71 looks to be all I want, minus the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Keep the solid metal construction, please.
The E65 was the dark horse of the Eseries lineup. With dedicated keys that only someone who uses an internal VoIP system or participates in a lot of conference calls would appreciate, the E65 came out of nowhere as one of the most popular smartphones Nokia has released this year. It feels absolutely amazing in your hand and it only needs a little tweaking to be even better. Standard 3.5 mm headphone jack is a must, 3.2 megapixel camera please and GPS if you can cram it in there. The E66 has all that, but again lacks a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Nokia must think businessmen shouldn’t enjoy music.
The E90 is the epitome of Nokia. It has a 3.2 megapixel camera, GPS, an internal screen that is 800 pixels wide, but the device is a brick for lack of a better word. The large controversy surrounding this product was the fact that S80 was dumped in favor of S60. It became obvious quite quickly that the OS tailored for one handed use didn’t quite port itself over so well to the newly announced Communicator. All that aside, it too just needs a few tweaks to be perfect. Make it smaller, add a 3.5 mm headphone jack, make the keys as nimble as the 9300 and try to modify S60 as much as possible to interface like S80 and you’re going to have a winner on your hands. Sadly the Communicator life cycle is usually longer than any of Nokia’s other products. I’m pessimistic we’ll see the next Communicator in 2008 and even then I have doubts that this form factor even has a future.
The N77 is DVB-H in a manageable form factor, then again anything compared to the N92 looks tiny. I could care less about watching live television on my mobile phone and I know a lot of you feel the same way. The Japanese have mobile phones that can record content, like a TiVo can, but at the same time they also have better programs.
The 6110 Navigator is supposed to be a low cost S60 device with GPS and at the time it was the cheapest GPS equipped mobile phone you could buy, but it didn’t seem practical when you could spend only a tiny bit more and get the N95. It sill doesn’t look like a bargain compared to the N95 which can be had for less than $600 in the USA.
The 3110 Classic is a pretty candybar and looks like something I had growing up. Not much else can be said about this model.
The Nokia N95 finally starts shipping after being announced 6 months ago at the Open Studio event in NY. The N95 hasn’t even been on the market for a year, yet people ask me all the time what the next flagship will be; that is how fast the markets move. Nokia took care of the early adopters and with the latest v20 firmware the N95 proves that it truly is the people’s favorite device of 2007.
The 5700 XpressMusic is … strange. I never liked that form factor and I can’t find anyone who does. The device doesn’t come off as sexy either and when viewed in person it looks like a large Aspirin.
The 5070 is a classic Nokia device. You could take all the branding off this phone and can tell from several meters away that it is a Nokia.
I don’t want to call the 6120 Classic the poor man’s smartphone because it is an extremely solid device, quite elegant and incredibly tiny. If it had a 3.5 mm headphone jack and USB charging it would be the perfect mass market S60 powered device.
With 9 devices announced in the span of 30 days, May was Nokia’s busiest month.
Before I jump into the 8600 Luna, 6500 Slide and 6500 Classic let me cover all the low end devices that probably no one reading this blog would even consider buying. The Nokia 1200, 1208 and 1650 were released as the first devices to encourage users to unplug their charger once the battery is full. The Nokia 2630 and 2760 were claimed to be Nokia’s stylish yet entry level priced devices with the 2630 being the most interesting at only 9.9 mm thick with the infamous codename Barracuda. The 3109 Classic is for people who want to manage their lives and not go broke, paraphrasing the press release of course. Now for the fun stuff:
The Nokia 8600 Luna is the sexiest phone I have ever seen, bar none. The way the keypad lights up behind the black glass, the weight of the device, it literally is sex and passion in the palm of your hand. I’m afraid to even suggest ways to improve it because I know the designers are going to attempt to tweak it just a little bit to differentiate from the previous generation. Leave it alone.
The Nokia 6500 Classic is a gorgeous, but the high cost will turn off a lot of people who will instead buy the 6300. I just can’t see why anyone would even want a 6500 Classic with the 5310 out now.
The 6500 Slide is chunky, but has a 3.2 megapixel Carl Zeiss camera. Shame it runs on S40, this would have been the perfect N80 replacement if it only had a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
At the beginning of August Nokia introduced their Prism line with the 7900 and the 7500. The 7900 (top) is known for the keypad which can change colors via a menu in the settings and the 7500 (bottom)is the cheaper, chubbier model that can’t do that, but is styled in the same fashion. I’m one of the few people in Europe who diggs the triangular pattern, this phone is a hit in Asia.
A week before the Go Play event Nokia released the 6555, a stunning clamshell, but made for the American market meaning the spec sheet is horribly dated. You can buy this device globally and if it had some more power under the hood it would have truly been Nokia’s first perfect clamshell.
At the Nokia Go Play event in London Nokia released 4 new devices and dropped the bombshell known as Ovi. The N95 8GB is the same old N95 but with twice the amount of RAM, 8 GB of internal memory, 2.8 inch screen and smaller keys on the front of the device. I delve into more detail in a recent article called: “Nokia N95, N95 8 GB and N82: The evolution of the multimedia computer.”
The N81 is a music centric device with dedicated control keys. Further along the top of the device are 2 more dedicated keys for N-Gage games. You can read my review of that product in the article titled: “Review: Nokia N81 8 GB, too much money for too little hardware.” Suffice to say, I don’t like it.
The 5610 is an XpressMusic device which ironically has a 2.5 mm headphone port. It has a 3.2 megapixel camera and runs the latest version of S40. They included a gimick, a slider that takes you directly to the music player. This threw me off horribly when I first used it and proved more annoying than useful.
The 5310 is an XpressMusic device with a proper 3.5 mm headphone jack. It is less than 10 mm thin, classic candy bar form factor and external reports are already coming in saying it does support 8 GB microSDHC cards. This is one device to watch for 2008, OPK even said it was his favorite during the 2007 Q3 conference call.
The Nokia E51 is the smallest S60 device on the market. It has WiFi, HSDPA, a 2 megapixel camera and is surprisingly heavy at 100 grams. Density is nothing to be ashamed of, this product feels fantastic in the hand and with the 3 color options available at launch it is sure to be a hit among not only businessmen, but people who want to pay a premium for higher quality goods as well. I hate to repeat myself, but if it had a 3.2 megapixel camera and 3.5 mm headphone jack it would perfect.
The 6301 is nothing more than a 6300 with WiFi for UMA purposes only.
Only 11 months after the Nokia N800 comes out the N810 gets released. Even smaller than the N800, the N810 packs a keyboard and GPS. It is kind of expensive, but it goes back to the metal roots of the original 770. People who own the N800 can flash their device with the latest Maemo OS 2008 operating system and get the exact same software experience, minus the keyboard and GPS of course. A tough sell and even I’m not so sure about this “Internet Tablet” device category. I’m not sure about the fake grey leather case the N810 comes with either.
The Nokia N82 is the flagship candy bar from Nokia. It is the N95, but with more RAM, Xenon flash and a less chunkier body. I extensively reviewed this product, you can read my findings here. In summary: If I were to put money down on any Nokia device on the market, this would be it, I love it.
The 8800 Arte and 8800 Sapphire Arte are the same device, one has bling and leather, the other doesn’t. They both have a 3.2 megapixel camera, run S40 and are way too expensive for what they do. When the 8800 came out it looked beautiful, but the design has not aged well and it already looks dated. I’ve seen 8800’s around much too often to even consider calling it “exclusive.” I hope Nokia introduces a new model in their fashion lineup; I agree with Eldar: I’m tired of the 8800 rehashes (source of image above).
The 3110 Evolve is nothing more than a 3110 Classic, but 50% of it is made out of recycled goods. Captain Planet, he’s our hero.
37 devices in total
I had to add up all of Nokia’s device of 2007 because it makes me sick to my stomach when people tell me new players like Apple with the iPhone and Google with Android will lead to the death of the Finnish company who currently commands close to 40% of the planet’s mobile phone market share. Spare me, get your facts straight. While 2007 will be remembered as the year of the iPhone and the endless list of reasons why it is better than the N95, at least in America, people need to remember that half of Nokia’s revenues are from devices that cost less than 50 Euros. While some companies depend on a single flagship product, Nokia is all about offering a plethora of choice and various platforms to multiple segments.
You may not like a lot of the phones listed above, but if there wasn’t this much variety how do you think a single company would produce 2 out of every 5 mobile phones sold today?
The mergers of 2007
Coming in at $8.1 Billion, the acquisition of Navteq was Nokia’s largest and most confusing of 2007. People didn’t quite understand why Nokia decided to merge with a company that produced a hair over half a billion dollars in revenue during 2006. We know, location based services are the way of the future, but are their any genuine examples of people making money off location data?
The Boston based mobile advertising company was bought up and spun into Nokia’s Ad Business; The sum was not disclosed. Things are starting to look more interesting now. What happens when a company who sells 39% of the world’s devices begins courting advertisers? Better yet, think back to Navteq. Right now companies like Google and Microsoft pay Navteq for their map data. What if Nokia gave away the map data for free, but included advertising data (KML) on top of that supplied by Enpocket?
Google is powerful, some would say almost too powerful, when it comes to online advertising on the desktop. Mobile is new, fresh, and whoever strikes first will reap the spoils. How Nokia will integrate advertisements is unknown, but they have to proceed with caution. A QVGA resolution screen can only hold so much data. Start invading that precious space and people will revolt.
For an undisclosed sum, Nokia purchased the foundation of what can be turned into another Flickr. Thing is … what is wrong with Flickr? Why should I switch to Twango? This is another purchase that has left many scratching their heads and one to watch for 2008.
Access to your files wherever you go, how convenient. Amazon has S3, Google will launch their G Drive, I’m sure Microsoft has something in the tubes, Nokia wants a piece of the online storage action. The question is, how do you make money off of it?
Nokia World 2007
This was my first Nokia World and I went in with the highest of expectations, but after 4 days in Amsterdam I can’t really say that I got anything substantial out of it. The previous statement is incomplete, I got a lot out of being in Amsterdam with many people who just happened to be in the same location as I was, but the actual event itself, the content proved unsatisfactory. One would think that with the title “Nokia World” you would be transported to a place that is living, breathing and pulsating Finnish mobile telecommunications. In reality it felt like I was in a meeting room where everyone was wearing the same black suite talking about this new fangled invention called the internet and how one should maximize their profits with this new medium. This was a B2B event, with consumer information wiggled in.
The exposition hall was a blast, but incredibly microscopic. There was more demo space at the S60 Summit than Nokia World. I bumped into Tomo, the product manager of the N82, and we started talking about the issues I was having with my camera. WOM World has already replaced my N82 and is giving the old one to Nokia for technical evaluation. During that week each and every one of the 17 bloggers Nokia sent to the event had time to question Tomo and give him tips and advice on what they wanted to see in future products. That was an awesome experience in it of itself.
Shortly after the mid day break, several bloggers including myself were chosen to sit down with 2 Nokia employees from Multimedia and discuss what we would like out of a device that would hypothetically hit the market in 3 to 4 years time. That session lasted an hour and turned into quite a heated debate, with laughter mixed in of course. This truly was the highlight of the show for me and I only wish it lasted longer and that we had a larger group.
The Nokia Party was a ton of fun, I’ve yet to attend one that has been dull. The theme had something to do with Beaches and appropriately they had a cover band play all the Beach Boys songs. The older people in the room liked it, but you saw everyone under 30 milking the bar dry. It helped later on in the evening when we took turns playing beach volleyball with 2 Finnish women who were national champions.
The speaker sessions were mediocre in the entertainment department and incredibly average, at times subpar, in terms of content, but the one that stood out was Rory Sutherland from the Ogilvy group. He talked about the transformation that marketing is going through today, how markets are conversations. If you keep up with TechMeme and bloggers like Hugh MacLeod then you know this isn’t anything new, but the story telling done by Rory was to be fantastic.
The main problem with Nokia World was the complete lack of descriptions for the speaker sessions leading to confusion and expectations that were not met. It also didn’t help that people spoke in 1 hour time slots, which was more like 20 minutes worth of content padded with 40 minutes of bullshit. Next year I would like to see more speakers, but shorter presentations, TED style, along with an indepth preview of what it is I’m going to decide to dedicate my time to.
I would have rather attended the Capital Market Days, which I listed to after I came home. It seemed to be absolutely packed to the brim with content that was not highlighted in press releases or talked about on the show floor. For financial analysts time is money and they seriously got to the point during these presentations.
I can’t even begin to count the number of Nokia employees I bumped into who I’ve met throughout my blogging career. It was fantastic to see them again, have a drink, talk about what has been happening. Connecting People may be a company slogan, but it certainly proved itself true at this event and for me this was the most important part of the trip that made it worth wild.
Would I go to Nokia World 2008? I want to say yes because I get to see all my friends, I want to say yes because I get to meet product managers I would never otherwise have bumped into, but if the format of the show stays the same then I’m going to have to give up my seat and pass the torch on to someone else.
What can we expect in 2008?
2008 will be the year we look forward to 2009. By that I mean 2008 will not be the year of flagship devices, but instead we’re going to see features that currently exist in the N95 trickle into the mid range product lines. Sure we will see upgrades to hardware currently out now. Two megapixel devices now will get three megapixels in 2008, three megapixel products now will get five megapixels in 2008; will we break 5 megapixels in 2008? Who knows, but the question you should be asking yourself is who cares? Image quality doesn’t increase when the number of pixels increase, more and more people are starting to realize this. Better optics, better image sensors, these are a few of the things I’ll be looking for, but not in 2008.
Touch will come out and I’m sure all the S60 and Nokia enthusiasts will buy the latest devices that have this feature, but if anyone thinks it will come close to the iPhone then you’re seriously mistaken. I’m looking forward to touch, not for the actual technology, but because I’m absolutely sick of 320×240 resolution screens. The one thing I do on my phone more than anything else is browse the internet and I desperately need more pixels. When will touch on a Nokia be an amazing experience? I can’t say, but I will let you in on a little secret: I was a S40 man until S60 3rd Edition. That is right folks, it took 3 revisions of S60 for me to jump on the smartphone bandwagon. Will it take Nokia 3 tries until they hit a home run with touch?
Things will get better before they get worse when it comes to market segmentation. Enterprise Solutions, now under Devices, knows very well that RIM is kicking their ass. Multimedia, also now under Devices, knows the iPhone is viewed as the ultimate device to consume multimedia on. Mobile Phones, you guessed it, a part of Devices now, knows that feature phones are getting smarter than ever. Three separate divisions that were previously working separately are now forced to collaborate and work together. Products that were in the pipeline before the reorg are going to come out and Nseries users are going to see Eseries features and say “why don’t I have that?” Eseries users are going to look at Nseries users and go “why can’t my phone do that?” This will get better towards the end of 2008, beginning of 2009, but it will be painful in the beginning.
Ovi will launch, but it will be incomplete and that is OK. Ovi will be something that grows on you, but in stage 1 it will not be pretty or very useful. Nokia’s transition into becoming an internet company will take time and 2008 is the year they’re realigning the corporation to reflect that and working on the bits that will make 2009 impressive and hopefully make 2010 the beginning of the decade they extend their empire onto the series of tubes.
2008 is the year that enthusiasts like myself will be twiddling their thumbs waiting for the next big thing out of Nokia.
My phone for 2007?
I’m about to say something that will probably shock all those who know me, something that will probably make my friends at Nokia call the Finnish Department of Immigration and have me deported, but my favorite phone of 2007 is the iPhone. As a device I hate that it only does a handful of things. As a device from Apple I hate that Steve Jobs had anything to do with it. As a device the iPhone is something that an entire industry looked at, paused, took a deep breathe and then started working at a frantic pace to try and emulate.
If the mobile phone space wasn’t competitive enough, the iPhone came out and poured gasoline on the already frantic fire. It made America realize that phones can do more than make phone calls and text. It made Europe think about something called User Experience. It caused a lot of hype, some of it warranted, most of it not, but it did change things. The iPhone changed things more than the Nokia N95 did and because of that I thank Apple for sparking competition.
All that being said, if you try and take my N82 away I will beat you to bloody pulp. I haven’t loved a mobile in a long time and the N82 is the one that brings those feelings back.
[Nokia 5310 picture from Flickr taken by Matthias Straka]