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« Undesirable at Any Price? What happened to Nokia, who invented the smartphone | Main | Return of the Jedi: Nokia can be saved, here is the how »

January 28, 2011



Excellent discussion.

Tomi has a good explanation but I think it is not the only reason. Reducing number of handset models was a guaranteed move to lose market share. As Tomi says in his comment, space on shelves matters.

I am somehow on the side of Steve Litchfield here, trying to say that percentage points are not always the fairest measure of performance in this industry. Nokia has enormous scale. There is no book titled "How a company delivers 500 million pieces of hardware in a year profitably. Learning by experience". This book is about to be written later. We are witnessing an important piece of modern history. It is a new territory, and I think it is a good idea to be a bit prudent when moving on. Running thin margins and this kind of scale needs some careful steering just to keep on track.

I would say Nokia has hit something like "fear of growth". If Nokia wants to sell 30% more mobile devices, the absolute sales must grow over 100 million units. It would be too risky to target this within a year.

Economics of scale does have a cap. Mobile market has enourmous opportunities, where the relatively small players can make a good money. There is no need to be huge by % to make some billions of money. Most of the businesses are happy with this fact. I am not saying that a huge scale is always a disadvantage, but from business point of view there are different opinions.

It is not always reasonable to look at the market of smartphones only, but the market of mobile phones. A mid-range featurephone is a substitute of a low-end smartphone. Many Nokia S40 featurephones are more expensive than its low-end smartphones. Both categories offer same services. And if you see your main enemy is Google, delivering services to the low-end should be your goal.
Making production decision between smartphones and featurephones is fairly easy. Make what sells and brings more money in /short/mid/long term. For business the share in smartphones is not the main goal.

Market space is moving. There is more room to breath for Samsung and Nokia because LG must retreat. This can be tens of millions devices more for Samsung and Nokia this year. It was not a part of smarphone bloodpath, but a mobile phone bloodpath. This "LG space" will be filled with a mix of featurephones and low end smartphones made by Nokia, Samsung and "Other". Who is best positioned for this?

Nikhil Pai

A few points from my side:

1. I may be wrong here since I have no stats but I think a very small proportion of Nokia's sales happen to operators. A majority of Nokia's sales are unsubsidised & direct to the customer. So how could Nokia have sold such a large number of handsets to operators in Q1 & Q2 at low prices?

2. It isn't the iPhone but Android which has taken away Nokia's market share. Though Android was launched in 2008 it became usable for many only with version 2.1 Eclair. Hence Android stole Nokia's market share.

3. Nokia also suffered since they didn't have *any* high end handset to sell, whether good or bad, for a large portion of 2010. After N97 & N97 mini were launched in 2009, the next flagship Symbian arrived only in October 2010 with Nokia N8. Any Nokia fan wanting to replace their N97 with a new Nokia had no phone to look upto. The lack of a N900 successor also made things worse.

4. Most users were expecting a lot of UI changes in Symbian^3 though that was never on the cards even officially. When these segment of users saw a similar Symbian in Nokia N8, they turned their backs towards Symbian & Nokia

5. Ovi Store is still the same as it was. It has nowhere near the number of apps that Apple App Store or Android Market has and is definitely one of the reasons for Nokia's decline


Excellent post,Tomi !!

It seemed like everything fell into place, great build up by eliminating some obvious reasons, others(crazy buggers who call themselves analysts) would have said so... All of them eliminated quite nicely :)

I am satisfied beyond anything that, buying market share is the reason.

Of course market share reduces when you have huge competitors, like Apple,Google.And of course, Android is a threat to market share but seriously, it WILL not cause such a huge drop, because sales alone show that Nokia has done enough, more than others.

So, Tomi, here's my question : Is Nokia the GREECE of the Mobile union ?


One big mistake was when Nokia was trolled by 'analysts' and 'experts' into reducing the amount of handsets they produced. Samsung and the like took advamtage of that gap to flood the market with tons of variants of the same device.

The N8 should have had 4 different variants at the same size with hardware keyboard and other variants. I hope they reverse this idiotic move. You are correct about Nokia needing to be on a few rows in a phone shop display.

I love my N8 and N900.They are far more powerful than anyhig the competition is coming out with. As Elop said, there are a lot of rough diamonds at Nokia. They need to build on their strengths as they are doing with Qt and MeeGo. I just hope they speed up delivery.

Phil W

I saw Kevin's response on the ASPs on the other thread and thought he had a point, but didn't stitch the rest of the evidence together to arrive at your conclusion, but it seems a reasonable one.

Very good analysis. That suggests the underlying decline in marketshare has been slower than the apparent car crash we saw on Thursday and that makes me a bit more optimistic as the faster the decline the harder it is to arrest it.

I do agree that the anti-Nokia diatribe coming from some quarters must have an effect. If you throw enough mud, some of it will surely stick. In this case the mud that doesn't stick is picked up by others and thrown again it seems to me! Just because in some people's eyes the N8 and C7 do not compete adaquately with the iphones and top Androids, doesn't make them terrible products, just products that have a lower value.

I'm a bit confused about the Nokia's profits for Q4(even though I work for Nokia), as in some reports the profits were down and in others they were reported as up. I probably haven't paid enough attention as to what profits are being talked about and what they are being compared to in each case!


A good theory, Tomi.

One question though: if Nokia aren't buying marketshare anyomore than why does the guidance for Q1 have a single figure margin for handsets and devices? Wouldn't one expect sales to go down but margins to be the same or up?


Interesting article. I'm not sure I entirely agree with the buying market share argument, though there may be an element of this. Looking at margins in the devices and services division: Q4 09:, Q1 10: 12.1%, Q2 10: 9.5% , Q3 10: 10.5% , Q4 10: 11.3% doesn't really give strong evidence for this. If phones were being sold for 'zero-margin' in Q2 / Q3 as you suggest this would be reflected in the figures.

The reason for the ASP increase is the introduction of the Symbian^3 devices. This meant there were a greater proportion of higher priced devices sold. There's also a bit of this in mobile phones (C3 and X3 being the more expensive devices here).

I would suggest the market share changes are as much about the rise of Android, which has been the major engine for smartphone sales growth this year (just under 50% of it - see below). This from a position of almost nothing in 2009. And the biggest impact was felt in Q4. At least some of this is some of the traditional mobile manufactures finally getting on the smartphone bandwagon in a respectable way (Motorola, Samsung in particular).

Roughly 60m Android phones have been sold in 2010, compared to around 5 m in 2009 (so +55m). For Nokia this was 68m to 100 (so +32m). For RIM this was 35m to 49m (so +14m). For Apple 25m to 47m (so +22m). Overall smartphone sales increased from 174 m to 295m (so +119m).

Note all figures rough / approx.

Not saying Nokia's Q4 smartphone share drop is not serious. Clearly it is difficult timess for Nokia.

Jouko Ahvenainen

Tomi, it is excellent analysis and I can believe it is a or the reason for Q4. At the same time we must think the long-term trend, and why Nokia had to buy market share. It is probably also very long story, but then I believe Symbian, poor capability to innovate, and the bean-counting culture have influence on that. And when the question is, how to improve, they must especially find answers to those longer-term issues. I think this Q4 thing is not a very big surprise to people who have followed the market and seen, how the mobile market is encountering a disruption point. For example, compared to the automobile industry, the mobile business is really going thru many changes and it opens an opportunity to win market share with new products. I would say that when the electric cars really start to come, we can also see fast and significant changes in the market shares in car sales.


Hello Tomi

Great article! Reading your posts is becoming a full-time job!! :)

I also think that the influence of tech blogs is very important. They also influence other media and newspapers. For example I remember national newspapers here in Spain following Apple keynotes but they mostly ignore Nokia. I can tell you anecdotes like the sister of one of my friends asking me for advice for a phone (I work programming mobile phones, so I have used a lot and my friends ask me about this questions) asking about the N8 but decided to buy an iPhone4 because "it's an iPhone".

I think that the Nokia brand is somewhat devalued. If it's cheaper then people will buy it, but if it's about the same money then general people will buy an iPhone and more technical people will buy an Android.

Also, one question, if you are earning money, why it's a bad strategy to buy market share? If you achieve to significantly outsell the competitors you may end with the market for yourself.


Nice thinking, love reading your blogg becuse you turn stones and don´t fall in the mainstreame run-with-the pack writing.
To know that 2010 mainfocus in mobil is growing soo daam fast may once again take away focus from enviroment frendly handsets, open comunitys to use without creditcard, healty battles in offering better handsets for people that don´t use it becuse of lack of love ;-)
I do belive that trashing Nokia-brand is biting back soon, you can´t love or hate anymore when you dont got responce..... And i know there are clever people who dont just follow the easy road. Us is built by those people, some come from europe...
I myself love company with visions and belive Nokia needed this punch to take of to next level :-)

The future influences the present just as much as the past/Nietzsche


You said, "If the market shrunk 5%, and you simultaneously grew unit sales by 5%, that means your market share actually picked up 10%."

Really? You cannot add "percentages". You need to apply percentages to real values to get a new value, which you can then use as a comparison to another real value (and get a new percentage of that). So, 5% of what size market? And 5% of what unit sales last year?

Let's pick numbers to give an example, say original market size is "500" units, and your original unit sales is 40.

New market size (NMS) = original market size - (original market size * 5%)
e.g. NMS = 500 - (500*0.05), which gives NMS = 475

New unit sales (NUS) = original unit sales + (original unit sales * 5%)
e.g. NUS = 40 + (40*0.05), which gives NUS = 42


Your original market share (YOMS) = 40 / 500 = 0.08 (or 8%)
Your new market share (YNMS) = 42 / 475 = 0.08421 (or 8.421%)
Change in market share = 8.421% - 8%, which gives 0.421%

That's a far cry from the 10% you state.


What a great blog Tomi.

Nokia is traditionally praised for it's phenomenal production logistics and purchases operations. Do you think there has been a shift here, as Nokia again complains component shortages going to Q1 ? Losing market share naturally makes Nokia relatively less dominant from supplier point of view.

What do you think of the situation (going forward) that Nokia's "real enemy" (as you have pointed out) i.e Samsung is one of the key component suppliers of the industry ?

Yves S.


First of all, I would like to thank for this great article. It have been a pleasure to read thus of his length. I have a question which come originally when I read your previous blog regarding Nokia and smartphone market.
You talk about 28% market share for Q4 vs 33% for Q3 vs 39% for Q20. But when I read the Nokia report, it is indicate :

"Nokia’s preliminary estimated share of the converged mobile device market was 31% in the fourth quarter 2010, compared with an estimated 40% in the fourth quarter 2009 and an estimated 38% in the third quarter 2010."

Which is a little bit difference and the big fall I would say, is between Q3 and Q4 where Nokia have lost 7% of market share which is definitely a big loss. That could be explain partly with what you have said, but I will be more agree with the explanation by Rafe which indicate that the drop of Nokia's market share is mostly due to Android well improvement during 2010.

Also, even if you have talked about smartphone all along your article, is also a good things to see the entire "Devices & Services" proportion. And in that case, for all year comparison, Nokia have "only" (which is quite important anyway) 2% between 2009 and 2010 (according to their report "Based on Nokia’s preliminary market estimate, Nokia’s mobile device volume market share decreased to 32% in 2010, compared to 34% in 2009").

Anyway, I am happy to have read your analysis as it add some valuable explanation of what might happen to Nokia this year.

PS : sorry, I hope my English isn't too bad.

Troed Sångberg

(Others have alluded to something similar above, but I'll post anyway since I've been talking about this shift for quite some time now)

There are three, not two, segments to this market:

1) Featurephones
2) Smartphones
3) Mobile Internet Devices

Nokia competes in #1 and #2. iPhone and Androids are in #3. The "smartphone bloodbath" Tomi describes is actually a disruptive shift in the market where consumers are making the (one-way) shift from phones to mobiles (e.g, moving to #3 from whatever they had before).

The divider is not (purely) technical but more in the complete eco system. If you analyze the market from this perspective there were no surprises in the recent numbers from RIM and Nokia. On the contrary, it was expected.

We live in interesting times.


Seriously Sångberg, part of what makes a smartphone is mobile internet capabilities. How is Symbian3 and the N8 that uses it not a mobile internet device? How is upcoming Meego not part of a bigger ecosystem? Ecosystem? There's a word 99% of iphone and android users don't even know the meaning of.

Troed Sångberg

@svensson I'm well aware of what a smartphone is. Symbian does not have anywhere near the eco system of iPhone and Android, and while Meego might very well become competitive that's not currently the case.

I agree users don't think "eco system". What they do care about is being able to do "the same thing" as their friends are doing, and that is currently a major driver behind the iPhone and Android sales.

In addition to my linked blog post above there's a slightly different take I made when we announced our first Android mobile:

This is not about "mobile Internet". This is about the device being much less a phone and much more a window to the Internet. That includes me taking for granted that all Internet services I use have corresponding apps, and that's only true on two platforms currently. Technical specifications are in this case only a start, not the goal.

Mikael Rautanen

Great discussion. I would like to make my contribution on a few points about ASP and profit margins that often seem to be omitted.

First, Nokia's ASP increased rapidly from Q2->Q4 (61 to 69 euros) mainly because of plummeting sales of cheaper phones. If shipments of lower priced devices fall while shipments of higher priced smartphone increase, it is quite obvious that the overall ASP increases (even if prices of them both were decreasing). There's nothing like increased pricing power or good things like that for Nokia in this, it's more like cutting your arm off to lose weight.

Look at the numbers, smartphone shipments -% of Nokia's shipments:

Q1'10: 19.9%
Q2'10: 21.6 %
Q3'10: 24.0 %
Q4'10: 22.9 %

Yes, Q4 was catastrophic for both smartphones and basic phones.

But I think ASP did not increase because of Elop stopped what OPK was doing. It increased due to higher proportion of smarphone sales, and in Q4, N8 gave a significant contribution to it.

On profit margins, I think we should not forget gross margin in the analysis. It has much more infomation value on Nokia's pricing power.

Nokia D&S Gross margin:
Q1'10: 32.4%
Q2'10: 30.2%
Q3'10: 29.0%
Q4'10: 29.2%

What has been not taken in to account here is that the gradual improvement in EBIT margin in 2010 was mainly due to decrease in non-ifrs operating expenses. Nokia D&S operating expenses stood at 5.6 bEUR for 2010 while they were 5.8 bEUR in 2009. That makes a 0.7 percentage point contribution in D&S EBIT margin for full year and this has little to do with discounts for operators.

Low gross margin level for Q3 and Q4 could be contradicting with your argument that Elop stopped giving heavy discounts to keep up profitability. However, component shortages (something often ignored when looking Nokia's H2'10) have probably curbed Q3 and Q4 margins by a figure we will never know which makes the analysis even more difficult.

Why Nokia's gross margin has been falling at an alarming pace? I argue it's because of lack of pricing power. Compared with those of competitors', Nokia's products provide less value for consumer than they did some years ago. Nokia has not that strong competitive advantage anymore. Until Nokia has more competitive products out, it needs to compete with prices and that's a difficult task against the Chinese low cost etc manufacturers.

I think one important aspect in loss of market share was Android entering the entry-level segment that had been strong for Nokia so far.

Vulcan S.

I think your conclusion covers half of the truth, the second part is the lack of AMOLED screens (used in Symbian^3 devices, made by Samsung that itself grew strongly) and other key components like the camera lenses in the new range of smartphones. This is known fact, only the strength of that effect can be debated. I feel that the decision to use only AMOLED screens and only very high quality optics has been playing a big role here. Nokia did not understand how big the growth for 2010 could be, and that they could never ever get enough components for those devices.

With that high market growth YoY the biggest player will have biggest problems keeping up with components. Samsung makes its own displays, so does LG. Nokia would have needed all the panels that Samsung used in H2/2010 to keep the market share. But with the AMOLED panels, not even enough was made in H2 to keep up with that market growth. If all the AMOLED screens made in H2 that Nokia did not use were used in Nokia devices, that would have made barely it. Apple uses different panels, so that can not be the case here. Nokia could maybe have sold more Symbian^1 devices that do not have AMOLED, but they sold about 23,5 million of those in Q4 2010. They could not have bought >11 million more of those screens to be used in Q4. There is no such a manufacturer. Yet.

In 2011 we have learned that Nokia has bough high percentage of the new higher resolution screens that LG will make in its new production lines. Those will be used for MeeGo devices. We also know that Samsung started building new AMOLED Fab back in summer 2010, and in summer 2011 the capacity of Samsung´s AMOLED production will be 10x what it is until then. And Nokia has said that this AMOLED problem will last at some level during H1 2011 too.

The other known problematic component has been the camera lenses for Nokia. The C7, C6-01 and E7 use a 8 MP camera that has a lens that needs a much higher precision than any typical lens for smartphones. (Seek the Nokia Conversations blog and replies by the key designer Damien Dinning if you did not know this already). The N8 has high quality optics too, but I do not know if that lens needs as special production line as the previous models do.

Nokia has stated that the new models, especially the N8 has been component and capacity constrained (AMOLED). They likely made a poor decision with too high specs for the camera lens, as well as for using only AMOLED screens in new models. You have to remember, that back in the end of 2009 when those component decisions were made, AMOLED has severe problems to get any manufacturer to use those. No demand at all. Samsung was already said to have failed with AMOLED in the end of 2009. 6-8 months later many manufacturers were changing out of AMOLED because the demand had rapidly become too high and the delaying factor for manufacturing. The E7 uses 4,0" screens, and they could not even use those panels for N8 or C7 when the E7 was delayed (now has been a week or two on preorder in Scandinavia, delivery in February).

One other point that you made a mistake with: You wrote that Nokia lost 1/4 of it´s customers in Q4 compared to 6 months earlier, in market share figures. That was ONLY in smartphone market share, not overall market share. There is a migration into smartphones going on, and in 2011 Nokia needs to get products that can be manufactured in HIGH numbers, and that are still desirable. Too high specifications are hard when components are on short supply and growth figures even at the Nokia +36% per year level. And biggest previous market share is also hard to keep with such a rapid growth.



You have answered the question of what happened (i.e. Nokia purchased market share through the end of the OPK era), but in dismissing the other explanations (iPhone 4, Symbian, N8 delay, etc.) you seem to be ignoring the fundamental question, which is "why did Nokia have to purchase market share?". In my opinion, Nokia was caught flatfooted by Apple and then Google. They made it to the top of the world and assumed they could stay there through inertia. 2007 could have been their wake-up call. They could have nipped the iPhone/Android threat in the bud, but they miscalculated and stumbled badly with the failed Symbian Foundation experiment and the much-delayed, much-criticized Symbian^1/N97 release.

However, to maintain appearances, OPK embarked on a strategy of reducing ARPU to boost market share. It started out a bit slowly, but as it became clear that Apple and Google weren't going away, it accelerated to the point where it reached ridiculous levels in Q2 of last year before Nokia's board got wise and brought in a CEO who could face reality.

In other words, Nokia engaged in the ultimate form short-term thinking, but a bit like the housing market in the US in the 1990s and 2000s, Nokia had so much capital built up from its previous successes that it masked what was happening until a disaster hit, making it that much worse.

Now they are stuck at a crossroads. Maybe 28% is their "natural market share." Maybe it still has further to fall. But they have let other competitors become entrenched, and squandered valuable resources in the process. For all that, they still are on the outside looking in to profitable markets like the US and Japan, and while they still have a good position in some emerging markets like India and China, they have let others establish a solid presence.

I think Nokia's "dual OS" strategy may ultimately be MeeGo/"something else" with that something else being Android or WP7. QT positions MeeGo to ultimately take over for Symbian in those markets where Ovi has established itself. Plus, if early products are good, MeeGo could be a credible alternative even in the US to Android tablets and the iPad.

That doesn't mean Symbian will go away. It will likely hang around for quite a while at the low end until even $30-50 emerging market phones have the horsepower to run MeeGo, but the distinction between MeeGo and Symbian will be blurred. Heck, Nokia might even market "Qt" as a "clean break" and ignore the underlying OS, much the same way that Apple quite seamlessly transitioned from PowerPC to x86/x64 CPUs in less than 2 years. For Macs, OS X was the common thread that essentially enabled people to ignore the processor underneath it. Qt could be the common thread that enables people to ignore the OS actually running on their phones, at least in markets where Symbian is strong.

It isn't a perfect fit, since because of iOS and Android more consumers are aware of the OS running on their phones. That's where the "something else" comes in. Android/WP7 (more so Android) would make them more credible to carriers in the US, and let Nokia worry less about breaking into the market and more about delivering quality hardware, which they are good at. If Qt picks up traction in the rest of the world, it can be ported to Android/WP7, and Nokia phones could be marketed the same way Macs were during the "switchers" era as the best of both worlds. Want to try something new? Buy a Nokia phone with Qt (emphasize "cute"). Still need to run your favorite Android/WP7 apps? They work, too! (Even more seamlessly than Windows runs on Intel Macs, as an aside).

Bob Shaw

I think we are focusing too much on smart phone OS specifications rather than how it satisfies customer needs. As Prof. Clayton Christiansen from Harvard Business School famously says “Customers want to "hire" a product to do a job”, or, as legendary Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt put it, "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!".
Even after 4 years of buzz about smart phones, the fact is that less than 30% of the mobile phones in the world are smart phones. This says that majority people do not see a great utility of smart phones that they need to rush and significantly increase their expenditure on mobile communication. Remember it is not just about the high comparative cost of the smart phone versus dumb phone, it is also about the additional cost due to bandwith usage. So if majority do not see that type of utility to switch from dumb phones to smart phones in a hurry, I don’t know how much they would split hairs about the latest and greatest OS on smart phones as long as the price is right and the product does the job that they want to get it done. Ultimately it is all about the intersection of value proposition (which takes into consideration both the price of the product and its utility/performance) with the needs of the customers.

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