What I want from Nokia’s new phones

There has been lots of interest in the news Nokia was returning to the mobile phone market. Part of the excitement has something to do with nostalgia and part of it is frustration at the current stagnation in the industry. There is a hope that Nokia could shake things up. What will we see from them?

What I want

The N95, the last great Nokia device.

The N95, the last great Nokia device.

If I had my way, Nokia would release a device that had the build quality of the 3310. Back in the day dropping a 3310 generated as much concern as dropping a pencil. You simply picked it up and got back to work. Now you handle a smartphone like you handle a Ming vase.

The new Nokia device would have the design of the N9, which was the first and last Nokia device to run the MeeGo operating system. While the operating system was nice, I loved the design of this phone. Engadget called it ‘the most beautiful phone ever made,’ and I don’t disagree.

I would like to see the new device with the functionality of the Lumia 1520. Windows phones were largely ignored, which was a shame. The 1520 was something special.

It would be as revolutionary as the 1011, the world’s first mass-produced GSM device. Going from analogue to digital was like going from masturbation to sex. You had no idea it could be this good.

And, of course, Nokia’s new device must have the soul of the N95. This was the last great Nokia device and demonstrated to millions of people around the world what a smartphone could do.

What I’m likely to get

Are Florida oranges more amazing than any other oranges? No, but Florida wants you to think so.

Are Florida oranges more amazing than any other oranges? No, but Florida wants you to think so.

None of the above is realistic. What I’m likely to get is the mobile device equivalent of Florida oranges. What I mean here is that oranges are a simple commodity. If you bite into an orange you have no idea if it came from Spain, Brazil or Florida. Nor do you care. It’s just an orange. But Florida markets its oranges as something special. They aren’t special at all, but the state-sponsored marketing pretends that they are.

This is what Nokia will do with their new devices. They are entering a crowded Android marketplace where the devices are commodities. The only way they will differentiate themselves is by the Nokia brand and perhaps a few extra touches which would be the device equivalent of a Florida sticker on an orange. This is exactly what they did with the N1 tablet.

And this assumes that Nokia will even release their new phones in developed markets like Europe or the U.S. where I could buy one. It is very possible they won’t.

Nokia’s brand recognition is highest in their old strongholds like the Indian subcontinent. The man leading HMD Global, the company using the Nokia licenses, is Arto Nummela, who led Microsoft’s mobile device operations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The N1 is still only sold in China and Taiwan and I strongly suspect the new phones will also be for those markets.

So what I’m likely to get from Nokia is nothing, at least at the beginning. I’m still waiting for the sea change in the mobile device market which is overdue. The next great revolution should be coming soon and maybe we’ll see Nokia return to developed markets then. They have been missed.

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