This is a love-letter to the world's most favourite phone brand, ever. Nokia you may be gone but you are not forgotten. First of all, the astonishing numbers. Over its lifetime manufacturing mobile phone handsets under the Nokia brand, the Finnish phone giant sold an unbelievable 3.8 Billion handsets. 3.8 Billion. The planet has 7.1 Billion people. So cumulatively, Nokia's handset production would reach more than half of the human population alive. This was in 20 years.
It gets even more astonishing in the peak Nokia installed base. At its peak, there were 1.4 Billion Nokia branded phones in use on the planet in 2011. It meant, that for every human alive, not adults, not only in the affluent world, but from babies to great grandparents, globally, there was a Nokia branded phone in the pockets of 1 out of every 5 humans alive. 1.4 Billion simultaneous owners of a Nokia branded phone. This is an unprecedented number and nothing comes close. Microsoft celebrated shipping 1 Billion cumulative Windows operating systems a few years ago. Nokia had 1.4 Billion current users. Timex shipped lifetime 1.1 Billion wristwatches. Nokia had 1.4 Billion active users of its portable gadget. Coca Cola doesn't have 1 Billion customers planet-wide. There are many regions in Africa for example where Coke is not served because there isn't electricity to keep the soft drink cold. But there are mobile phones - because their batteries are sent to neighboring villages to be recharged. What brands are these phones - almost exclusively Nokia brands, often second-hand Nokia phones from the Middle East and Europe.
If you called a phone number in use, in 2011, in one case of five, it would ring on a fixed landline phone. But in one case of four, the phone number would be a mobile number, ringing on a Nokia-branded mobile phone. The way to connect the planet - indeed Nokia's corporate slogan 'Connecting People' was never more apt, than the more than 400 million Nokia basic mobile phone owners living in the Emerging World who had no other communciation or media technology, not landline, not computers, not internet, not television - not even radio - but had a Nokia branded basic phone. Nokia truly came to the world, and helped 'Connecting People.' Nokia was in more pockets than the Levi's branding. No tech or brand ever was so widely spread as Nokia. What an achievement. This alone is cause to celebrate the iconic phone brand.
What do we do with the phones? You might suggest we make phone calls - that was what original telephone networks were designed for. But it might surprise you, that today more actual telecommunications made on mobile phones are messages than voice calls - most of those are SMS text messages - and more surprisingly, there is a larger number of mobile phone users, who use messaging on their phones, than who use voice calls! Yes, voice calls now are used only by 87% of all mobile phone subscriptions but messaging has reached 90% penetration rate of all mobile subscriptions. Many especially youth accounts are messaging-only, and other users don't want to 'waste' money and time on voice calls, and just use messaging. Especially on their second and third accounts. This incidentially is a global phenomenon, first observed in Finland.
Because SMS text messaging was invented by the Finnish telecoms exec working for Telecom Finland at the time, Matti Makkonen (who later would be hired by Nokia and a little before he retired, would become my last mentor when we both were employed by Nokia). Matti won the Economist award for inventing SMS, while the standard and development of SMS was then handled by a committee - Matti didn't actually create the first SMS, that was others. And yes, the first SMS text message was sent in the UK, but that was a computer-generated message. The first SMS text message as we understand it, from a mobile phone to a mobile phone - that was sent in Finland by Nokia employee Riku Pihkonen, on a Nokia handset. Did you know Nokia was the first GSM handset brand to make all its handsets fully SMS compliant, every phone could both receive and send SMS text messages. Nokia didn't invent SMS, but it was instrumental in promoting the early adoption of SMS texting - the first 'data' service for mobile. The start of the mobile data revolution. The first step in mobile phones growing past the landline metaphor of being just a 'phone' for 'voice calls'. Thank you Nokia.
And that brings me to the screen. Nokia made that radical innovation - driven by SMS text messaging - that it expanded the display from one line, to three line display - a massive gain over all rivals at the time. You could see 3 lines of text on the phone screen - read much of a text message on one screen without scrolling all the time. Helps with things like reading addresses. That is where Nokia's passion with obsessing about excellence in messaging stems from. They offered superior messaging phones in Finland where SMS texting first took off (I learned to SMS text message back in 1995 and have been addicted ever since. My personal tutor to train me to text, was a mobile data expert, Taina Kalliokoski then with Elisa/Helsinki Telephone, now with Fujitsu of Finland)
Nokia kept pushing the abilities of the phone screen. The 9000 Communicator featured the first 'giant' screen for a phone. The 9210 Communciator had the first color screen for a smartphone. That is by the way when mobile TV was invented - to work on that spectacular superphone that had such a fast processor it could actuallly process video (in a tiny picture on the wide screen, but still, this was the genesis of mobile TV). By the time Apple gave the Americans the 'magnificent' original iPhone, with the 'huge' 3.5 inch screen, Nokia had gone well beyond that and from a year before, had been selling the biggest screen of any phone ever, a full 4 inches on the E90 Communicator, one of the most amazing superphones of all time. Unfortunately the American carriers hated the power of this device, WiFi and all, and insisted Nokia has to cripple it for their market. As Nokia of course refused to cripple phones - that is bad for consumers, the American carriers/operators refused to offer the E90 Communicator to US consumers. British comparisons to the first iPhone rated the Communicator the far better phone and recommended it, even as it was more expensive than Apple's first iPhone.
If you like watching your YouTube videos on your phone today, you can thank Nokia for that evolution, for pushing ever bigger screens for us, and the processing power and even separate video processors at the top video phones, to give us jitter-free videos. Yes today Samsung's phablets run gargantuan screen sizs, but the evolution to big screens? Thank you Nokia.
Color! Can you imagine that as recently as 1997, no handset maker anywhere dared to offer us any colors. Every phone was either black or some shade of gray. Imagine going to a department meeting where everyone used the same brand phone. Whose phone is which? Well, some Nokia engineers came up with a novel solution to that 'problem' - what if we give replacable covers in .. colors. The first colored removable phone covers were introduced by Nokia and today even Apple will give us two colors for the iPhone. If you want others, you can of course buy the iPhone cases in almost any design and color combination.
Then there is Gran Vals by Francisco de Asis Tarrega y Eixea. Whatwasthatagain? Yes, Gran Vals. You know. THE song. No. Yes you do. YES you DO. You know this song. EVERYBODY knows Gran Vals by Tarrega. Except you don't know it by its original name. That piece of classic Spanish guitar music is better known as the 'Nokia Tune'. A-ha! That song. Yes. The Gran Vals has shipped more than 3.7 Billion copies (as the default ringing tone of Nokia phones). How monsterously massive is that? Take all records (vinyl and CD, plus all other recorded music ie cassettes, 8-tracks, MP3 files etc - sold of all songs by the Beatles. Yes, Love Me Do and Yesterday and Hey Jude and Back in the USSR. Add to all the Beatles songs, every recording sold of every Elvis song. And add to that, every recording of Michael Jackson's music. Add all those together. Nokia Tune has shipped more than all those, combined. Tarrega's Gran Vals is the most recognized song on the planet, the only song recognized in every country and every language, and yes, is more recognized than the James Bond theme or White Christmas or Happy Birthday. Gran Vals by Tarrega. The Nokia Tune. Most played, most recognized song on the planet. Who knew? Thank you Nokia. Oh, and a personal anecdote. The exact passage of that song, the short snippet which is the Nokia tune, that snippet was selected out of the guitar song, by my former colleague at Nokia, now the CEO of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE), ex Nokia VP Lauri Kivinen.
Talking of those ringing tones. A truly massive, radical innovation also happened in Finland, in 1998, when the first downloaded over-the-air paid content was delivered to a mobile phone. Yes, the mobile media was invented. It wasn't Nokia execs who came up with this, it was a loss-making internet service provider in Finland called Saunalahden Serveri (later Jippii Group). They invented the downloadable ringing tone, delivered via the concept of premium SMS, and only initially functional on five premium Nokia phone models. The ringing tone business was invented. That blossomed to its peak of over 5 Billion dollars per year in ringtone busines (and the horrible annoying sounds like Crazy Frog) but yes, a commercial business so big, up to today, Apple's iPod iTunes business has never generated 5 Billion dollars of revenues in any one year. Ringing tones. Wow. Yes. And from those humble beginnings the whole mobile internet and mobile data revolution grew, which today is worth 200 Billion dollars in value. Pretty cool, that it was those 5 Nokia premium phones that had that ability to install user-generated ringing tones, and have those delivered over the air. I should mention that I created my first ringing tone that very first week this was possible. Not because I was that interested in ringing tones, but because one of my former colleagues from the Finnet days, a lady named Sara Melkko, had joined Saunalahden Serveri and was on that team that invented the downloadable ringing tone. She would later join me in co-authoring my third book, 3G Marketing. Thank you Nokia for enabling the invention of the mobile data industry.
Nokia did publish the world's first white paper on the mobile internet (co-authored by my dear friend Jouko Ahvenainen who would later run Cap Gemini Ernst & Young's telecoms consulting 3G competence, when CGEY was the world' largest telecoms consultancy - and yes, me.) Nokia would then help build that mobile internet not just with hardware but helping run the first conference on the mobile internet, where the chairman was also from Nokia (me). And Nokia would further help spread the mobile data services knowhow by sponsoring the first ever book written about mobile data services, called Services for UMTS. That book, written by a dozen of Nokia's best mobile data services experts was edited by my friend Joe Barrett - and yes, me. This was the very core ethos of Nokia - not going it alone. But sharing. Helping everyone grow. Nokia didn't hide insights, it shared them.
Like Symbian. I mean, who else does this in technology? But when Nokia set up the Symbian partnership, it literally invited every other handset maker to join in the Symbian partnership, to co-develop and co-own the smarpthone OS. Who in their right mind does this? Nokia that is who. Yes, they invited their biggest rivals, Motorola, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Ericsson, etc etc etc all to join in owning and developing Symbian. Why? So there would not be technology race and war about the smartphone operating systems. Nokia even convinced the Japanese giant carrier/operators NTT DoCoMo - the inventor of the mobile telecoms industry - to join in Symbian (and NTT DoCoMo would for more than a decade specify Symbian to its premium phones as the OS). Unfortunately some Americans didn't want this happy collaboration. A company called Palm refused, and a company called Microsoft decided to launch its own, Windows version instead of joining Symbian. Later a Canadian company called RIM would do its own Blackberry OS and eventually Apple did its iOS and Google launched Android. But Symbian was a noble attempt to prevent fragmentation - and allowing all to share equally - as owners and developers - in Symbian. Is this not the very quintessential European tech company, who thinks this way. Thank you Nokia. While in the end, Symbian was too old and heavy to maintain, and had to be killed, it was a noble effort indeed and Nokia never got the recognition and credit for how far-sighted this was. Very modern 'open source' thinking for its time. (and lets not now blame our American cousins for wrecking this concept)
Are you bored already? Are you sneaking into your pocket to sling some Angries at some nasty Pigs? Yes Finland's Angry Birds additiction has now hit every major country and it the company that developed the world's most-downloaded videogame of all time, Rovio is not Nokia. But who first put a videogame on a phone as pre-installed software? That truly 'silly' idea was from Nokia, and the Snake - the first videogame to have had more than 1 Billion gamers. Thank you Nokia for taking those bold risks, innovating and creating. Gaming on phones. Who isn't looking to use some game when bored.
Apple did yes, revolutionize the smartphone space, so much so, that the iPhone got the nickname Jesusphone (a term that originates from a mistaken reference to my blog, talking of the two eras in smarpthones, before the iPhone and after the iPhone). But contrary to most recent converts to smartphones, Apple didn't invent smartphones. The original iPhone wasn't even a smartphone. Apple didn't even introduce its app store until the following year and the second version of the iPhone. No, smartphones were invented literally ten years before the iPhone - by Nokia. Not Nokia alone, the original Communciator 9000 project was a collaboration with the biggest PDA maker of that time, Hewlett-Packard the computer giant. HP pulled out of the project and left it to Nokia. The outrageously expensive 9000 Communciator was released and the rest is history. This past quarter, Q2 of 2013, was the tipping point when more than half of all new phones sold, were now smartphones. Nokia invented the smartphone. For all those Facebooking, YouTubing, Instagramming, Twittering, Grouponing you do with your Android or iPhone today, thank Nokia for the first smartphone, to create this market.
So you say, but those were like the Blackberry, business-oriented smartphones. Yes, that is true. And the iPhone was revolutionary because it was a consumer smartphone. Ok, yes, the iPhone was indeed a consumer-focused (smart)phone but not the first. Not by miles, not by years. The first consumer-oriented smartphone came from Nokia. The N-Gage gaming smartphone. Incidentially had an app store five YEARS before Apple gave its app store for us. Nokia took lessons from the N-Gage to proceed to launch N-Series smarpthones that were 'multimedia computers' yes, with music players, video players, full internet web browers, and great cameras. You like your WiFi and think this was awesome by Apple. Yeah, copied Nokia who put WiFi on the smartphones four years prior (and again, American carriers/operators screamed bloody murder and refused to sell those models). Do you love your WiFi on the smartphone. Thank Nokia for that.
What of the microSD data cards? Nokia offered the first data cards on the Nokia 9110 Communicator model. A way to transfer data easily and without any network charges, and to store large files like music, videos and pictures easily. Unfortunately some (mostly North America-based) smartphone makers and operating systems do not want to support this idea that consumers love. Nokia pioneered it for us. Thank you Nokia for helping us have more user-friendly technology that helps us avoid unnecessary costs.
And what of that usability? Nokia invented the full QWERTY keyboard for phones. Not the narrow QWERTY which was Blackberry's response, but the full width QWERTY, such as on the Communciator series. And again, Nokia obsession with user-friendliness, they had dual keyboard inputs on most models of the Communcator series, because why? A traditional T9 keypad is easier to operate single-handed, but a full QWERTY is far faster if you have both hands available such as sitting at a Starbucks. Thank you Nokia for creating user-friendly phones. Yes, eventually Apple would out-do Nokia on this, but seriously, is there any tech ever, where Apple was NOT the best in user friendliness? If you come second to Apple, that is still pretty darn good. And until the iPhone appeared, you readers remember this, Nokia phones of any price range were the most user-friendly devices of their generation. Miles ahead of contemporary Motorolas or Siemenses or Ericssons etc.. Thank you Nokia for obsessing about usability and helping make this complex technology more user friendly.
User friendly? Try planetary-friendly? Which handset brand has won almost every year the Greenpeace award for most green handset manufacturing and packaging? Nokia thats who. Thank you Nokia not just for helping Connecting People but also helping save the planet too. Gosh Nokia, so often I felt you never got the credit for what you did and how you lived. No wonder you were the most admired tech company of Europe for almost the full decade. And no surprise then that the Nokia brand was nearly ten years one of the ten most valuable brands on the planet. Not handset brands or tech brands. Brands. Yes, with Coca Cola and IBM and McDonalds and yes, Nokia. Gosh, you were so much a part of our lives, how can we live without you in the future?
I am a camerabuff (or used to be, once, long ago, in a a galaxy far far away..). Sharp invented the cameraphone in Japan. But it was Nokia who popularized the cameraphone for the rest of the world. By 2006 Nokia had become the world's most used camera brand. Not the bestselling new camera brand, the world's most used camera brand. Today, out of all people who have ever taken a picture, 9 out of 10 people have never used a 'stand-alone' type of camera, either digital or film-based 'real' camera. And of those 9 who only know cameraphones, the majority have used a Nokia branded cameraphone. How this incredible rate of success? Because Nokia was a big believer in the camera as a new behavior for consumers. Nokia partnered with Carl Zeiss for premium camera optics. Nokia innovated and delivered ever more astounding cameraphone innovations, from the first megapixel cameraphone to the first true optical zoom to the first true Xenon flash to the massive 41 megapixel camera sensor on the 808 Pureview. A survey of Nokia consumers in 2012 found that the number 1 feature loyal Nokia owners ask for when buying a new phone - is a good camera. Oh, and the other reason why Nokia is so widely used is that it is by far the bestselling second-hand phone model worldwide. You didn't know that, did you? That there is a strong, vibrant hundreds-of-millions of phones sold per year - size 'used phone' market that is disproportionately Nokia branded handsets. Thank you Nokia for safeguarding our memories. For being not the best camera ever made but rather, the best camera we always carry with us when the sudden opportunity to take that picture arises.
What of video recording. Surely not, you might think. Yes. Nokia's revolutionary N93 was the first cameraphone that shot DVD quality video (and had TV out too, so you could watch those videos on your plasma screen TV). Those top-line video cameras kept getting better, so much so, that the first full-length Hollywood movie shot only on cameraphones - not for a short film festival, a Hollywood movie released in theaters and full-length, was shot on the Nokia N8 by professional cinematographer. Yes, today whichever brand flagship smartphone you use, it will have at least 8mp camera and shoots DVD quality video. When Nokia first did this, most thoughts its a daft idea and would never catch on. Nobody would bother to shoot 'real video' on a pocket toy like a phone. Today we all do it.
So you go on Facebook or Twitter to do some social networking. Yeah. We all do. And we do that increasingly on our mobile phones. But what was the first international social media launched on mobile phones. It was Nokia's LiveBlog. Now, LiveBlog wasn't that successful and eventually after some upgrades, was discontinued. But once again, Nokia pioneered the way for us. Before Lifeblog the only social media experiments on mobile were all some national services in some advanced countries like South Korea and Japan. Nokia brought the idea to the masses. (oh, I had the privilege to be a test user for LifeBlog..)
So of the masses? What do we all do? We all use money. No, Nokia didn't invent mobile payments but mobile payments were invented in Finland. By... Coca Cola. They decided to install two vending machines that you could buy Coke cans by paying with SMS text messages. Mobile money was invented. Then the innovations bounced around the world, Smart Money in the Philippines full money payments from one account to another. Osaifu Keitai in Japan on NTT DoCoMo the first full mobile wallet etc. And then you know what? Nokia launched Nokia Money in India and a few other Asian countries. Yes. Nokia Money. A mobile payments solution on Nokia phones that soon took second place in the India mobile money market (it was eventually killed by Elop but lets not talk about that). Yes. Check this out. Google's Chairman Eric Schmidt wrote in Harvard Business Review that one of Google's highest priorities was mobile money. Nokia had already launched it and was second biggest in India haha. Who beats Google to the future? Nokia, our darling European tech giant. Thank you Nokia for constantly innovating and exploring.
Yes, after the iPhones and Galaxies and Sony Xperias, the Nokia phones were starting to feel quite dated and often had the association of 'your parents' phones' not really the coolest or most desirable. But for very many of us, some Nokia model was our first phone. The first love. There is a very special place we hold for the Nokia brand, even as it no longer is the coolest kid on the block.
I could tell you stories about what all Nokia did for our industry, from sharing literally the world's most thorough end-user surveys of mobile services covering over 60,000 consumer surveys over several years and over a dozen countries on all ihabited continents. I could tell you how Nokia helps students learn better in South Africa or help heal people better in India or farmers have better yields in Nigeria. I meet these kinds of Nokia experts at the various conferences where I speak all the time. They take great pride in being able to work for a company that takes its social responsibility this literally. But that is not why you would buy a phone. Still, it is something we should be proud of, as the kind of tech company all should aspire to be. True definition of the Google philosophy of 'do no evil'.
Recently Nokia gave us wireless charging, yet another usability innovation. In some markets Nokia offers dual SIM phones - Nokia didn't invent this idea but is offering it widely in those markets where these are popular. In other markets Nokia is offering NFC. Nokia introduced QR code readers as far back as 2006 (although, unfortunately in the penny-pinching years of the global economic downturn, Nokia stopped shipping it as a preinstalled app. That may be part reason why the QR code boom seemd to stall). GBut yes, I've had a QR code on my business cards since 2006.
So then that mobile internet. The first billion internet users, for most of them, their first intenet experience was on a PC. For the next billion internet users, almost all of them will only know a mobile phone based internet - on a modest 'feature' phone, not a top end iPhone or Android. Nokia was the first phone brand to offer the real internet on the original 9000 Communicator. Then Nokia helped bring internet browsing experiences to the masses with the WAP standard and its modest performance browsers. Yes, I know what you think 'WAP is crap' which perhaps was true in much of the Western world but in the emerging world still today, WAP is the primary internet browsing experience. The primary web browsing experience. Because the phones are cheap and basic and the networks are patch and 3G is very rare and the data prices are heavy. WAP was designed to be a 'lite' version of the internet. But look what Nokia has been doing consistently, for years. Bringing the real HTML internet to basic 'featurephones' such as the Asha series now. Ever lower prices to ever more masses. Can you remember how much the internet changed your life? Now try to imagine living in Africa in a village with no electric lighting. No television. No radio. But you save your money and buy an 80 dollar Asha featurephone from Nokia - and for the first time, you have the full internet in your pocket!!!! How radical an improvement this is in your standard of living. I love Apple but come on, when was Apple interested in bringing low cost iPhones to Africa? Nokia was there for more than a decade, doing just that. In India just now again, the latest brand survey found that India's number 1 brand is Nokia. Across all brands ahead of Mercedes Benz and Toyota and McDonalds and Coca Cola. That is the love Nokia has from its users.
Our lives were comprehensively changed from those of our parents' generation due to mobile phones. For most of us, that first phone was a Nokia phone. For many of us, our most favored phones over the years have all been Nokia branded. More than any other tech brand, Nokia has brought digital connectivity and bridged the digital divide on the planet. Connecting People. One Nokia phone at a time. And we loved you for it.
We will miss you Nokia as a consumer brand. Please fare well as the networks provider and if the gods of technology have any sense of justice, they will let our Nokia return one day to again live with us, in our pockets ...and in our hearts.