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« Credit where credit is due: Sprint slowly improving (and yes, slowly) | Main | Can't be one perfect smartphone for everybody »

June 12, 2009


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nice post. I like the mobile phone that can be folded.


Interesting article - there are definitely some insights there I have not considered. You seem to have a Nokia-centric outlook, however. This doesn't square with my experience at all, and I'd like to share my insights.

In my (US-based opinion) Nokia is doomed to fail. Look at their stock - it's plummeting. Why? Because their software is awful (I would argue it's terrible out of the box, not good), their service is terrible, Nokia lacks focus, and they are not executing on their vision.

First, a little history. I am now an iPhone user. Prior to that, I went and bought a Nokia E71 from Best Buy and got a pay-as-you-go contract. I am not the average US consumer - I am more technical than the average consumer.

The first thing I noticed about the E71 was the hardware. It was excellent. Best hardware I have ever had on a phone - much better than the iPhone. Unfortunately, that is where the excellence ended.

1. The Symbian software is ugly and incomplete. It looks like it was programmed back in the early days of software - think Blackberry circa 1990. The Nokia E71 was marketed as a Blackberry competitor - yet it didn't even come with a native push email application. Business users had the option (digging hard here) to download a buggy Exchange client that limited mail access to a single folder(!). Personal email didn't synchronize - it just pulled via POP. Worse yet, the UI was very confusing and email has extremely hard to manage. There were paid alternatives (I used DataViz and then another client), but these were not native to the phone so each had their own look and UI scheme that differed from that of the phone.

Contrast that with my iPhone that natively worked with all my email - GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail and Exchange right out of the box.

The one single place where the E71 shined was surfing the internet. However, at one time I had 4 browsers running on the phone and as cool as that was, it was a pain to remember which browser to use for which page. Sure, I could get flash on the E71, but it ate my battery in minutes.

2. The service is terrible - simply awful. Maybe Europeans will tolerate awful service, but Americans do not. Immediately after getting my phone, I was in London working and was having trouble with the Nokia Exchange client. I took my phone to the flagship store (down the street from Apple) and we could not diagnose the problem. Why? Because the store had no working WiFi and I did not have a London data plan. Plus, the people at that store did not understand their own products.

Later, an OS software update bricked my E71 while I was working in Chicago. I took my phone to that flagship store and was informed that they would send my phone to a service center and 'get back to me' in 2 weeks. I convinced a store tech to revive my phone only after pleading with the store manager for an hour. For the price of an unlocked phone, they should have handed me a new one once the issue was determined to be Nokia's fault.

As an FYI, it has been announced that the Chicago flagship store (along with others globally) will be shuttering. This is due to the fact that service is terrible, making it unnecessary to visit their stores. Plus their retailing is terrible. (Both London and Chicago stores are right down the street from Apple stores. At any time you can walk by Apple and see throngs of people while Nokia hardly has any people in them.)

3. Nokia completely lacks focus on doing anything well. Ok, they have offline maps on their new phones. That's pretty cool. But so does an iPhone. They have all kinds of operating systems - multiple versions of Symbian, Maemo, other. They have people working on software all the time, but much of it seems half-baked and bolted onto the OS.

I will say that my E71 had great text input. But maybe this is a cautionary tale on focusing on a past product (SMS) and not enough on where the industry is going. There also seems to be a lack of coordination between the development teams and the OS teams. I have rarely seen a company that is so openly unwieldy - and it shows in their stock performance. (Just look up the Nokia Youtube channel to see what I mean.)

4. Nokia cannot execute on their vision at all. Ovi, the web service, is terrible, no matter how you slice it. I don't want ANOTHER email address. I don't want to store my photos at Nokia. Their online calendar isn't as good as Google's free calendar.

Ovi, the store, was a mess when I used it. I would go to look for software, only to be confused by which version of the product I should use. Is this right for my version of Symbian? Who cares - Nokia knows which phone is connection (or should) - only show me the valid software for my phone. That never happened.

I created a Nokia account. And yet whenever I logged in, I had to drill down to E71. Nokia knew that I had only registered one phone, and yet their site couldn't remember which phone it was. First, I thought they didn't care. Then I realized they just couldn't track it - these people don't know how to design websites, stores or good web services.

And then I realized the worst thing of all - that the focus on web services (and other phone OS versions) was causing the company to NOT focus on their phones. And that is when I dumped the Nokia E71 and went to the iPhone. The lack of execution on the web services did not keep me with Nokia - it drove me away.

So, I would argue that Nokia will continue to dominate the cheaper, low margin business. But right now, they are in a death spiral as people flock to the high-end phones. That means that they have less capital to invest in the high-end. Developers are not working as hard on Symbian products as RIM and Apple. Consumer preferences are shifting away from SMS and more to data-oriented services. (I personally use IP-based SMS and Instant Messenger. RIM has worked the IM space really well.) Nokia used to be a forward looking company - I agree. Today, they are an also-ran with some dark days ahead.

If they can't keep me for a customer - someone willing to try hard and make it work - then they won't get the less sophisticated customer either.


A picture is worth a thousand words no ? You could use some pictures / charts to display some of the info you want. Might make the reading more pleasant too.


Maybe the marketing campaigns are different in different countries


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Great post! At this time, there are many smartphones that are coming out in the market and I think each kind is unique.

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Nokia is popular in other countries but not really in the UK or US. I think Nokia should develop cutting edge smartphones for them to be competitive. I have already traded my old phones last week for funding a new iPhone. Thanks to this site I found online that offers cash 4 phones.

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