Back in the fast lane?

Nokia has, erm, fallen a little behind in the smartphone race. Will its recently unveiled devices put it back on track?
3 January 2012

The amount of drooling that went on at Nokia World London recently when CEO Stephen Elop introduced the Lumia would have done a pack of Rottweilers proud. And there’s been a lot more drooling, on and offline, in anticipation of the launch of the two Lumia devices, which shipped to a limited number of European countries last month and are scheduled to hit the developing world come 2012.

Lumia, said Elop at the launch, means light, and the Lumia heralds a new dawn for Nokia. Whether that will hold true remains to be seen. In a bid to make it so, Nokia is hedging its bets (in a somewhat muddled fashion), targeting 25-year-olds (who cannot afford them) with its Lumia 710 and 800 devices, and targeting the developing world (ditto the affordability problem) with its Asha handset range – now souped up to offer everything your developing-world aspirational youth could want.

The Lumia 800 and 710 are the subject of a vast advertising campaign that’s underway in partnership with retailers and operators in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. The campaign, which is aimed very squarely at the aforementioned 25-year-olds, “involves three times the total level of marketing investment compared to any other Nokia launch in history,” Elop said.

Why that age group? According to Steven Overman, marketing VP: “If we aim for the 25-year-olds, we reach the broadest commercial target. And they’re not easy to reach – they don’t remember a time when all the information in the world wasn’t at their fingertips. So the commercial target is wide but the communications target is them specifically.”

How does he plan to get their attention? “We’re launching with a huge idea – the amazing everyday. It’s a big, optimistic message – every day can be amazing.

We’re going to show them every way you can utelise the tile user interface [that Windows brings to the smartphone]. It’s time someone offered an alternative to the existing smartphone interface,” he comments.

The Lumia devices are pretty, and they offer some very funky accessories. Good looks do not a hit device make, however, something Nokia is very aware of. The Lumia 800 (retailing for around €420) sports a 3.7-inch AMOLED (activematrix organic light-emitting diode) ClearBlack curved display, a 1.4 GHz processor with hardware acceleration and graphics processor, Carl Zeiss optics, HD video playback, 16GB of internal user memory and 25GB of free SkyDrive storage.

It’s time someone offered an alternative to the existing smartphone interface.

Steven Overman, Nokia

Elop boasts that it is the first ‘real Windows phone’. It features social media integration, IE9, Xbox Live Hub, Microsoft Office, Nokia Drive (making it a personal navigation device), Nokia Music (which, Nokia says, solves the portable music problem everyone’s had for years), and a sports application it’s launching in partnership with ESSN.

The Nokia Lumia 710 features pretty much the same things but is cheaper at around €270 and has changeable back covers, which will match the different colour tiles on the phone – black, white, cyan, fuchsia and yellow. It will be available first in Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan towards the end of this year. Africa is on the tail end of the launch lists (apparently only ahead of the US and mainland China) for both devices.

Nokia is on a mission to connect the next billion, and to that end has launched four new Series 40 phones (Nokia refers to Asha and Series 40 interchangeably). The Asha series phones are targeted at the developing market. Blanca Juti, VP for Product Marketing, Mobile Phones, says GDP and mobility are connected and mobility enhances personal life. “There are seven billion people in the world, only one billion of whom have a smartphone, and 1.5 billion have data in their devices but don’t use it – we’re not sure if this is because they don’t know they have it or because of the cost. It could be either.”

In a bid to get people using data, and getting maximum value out of their pennies, the Asha phones feature a Nokia browser that compresses the data, helping to keep costs down. At the lower end, says Juti, Nokia is focussed on delivering data via SMS and has made Nokia Life tools available in four markets – India, China, Indonesia and Nigeria – the most populated markets. Nokia Life tools offer agricultural and education information to users for a small fee.

Asha devices straddle the feature phone/smartphone boundary and are targeted at a number of different usage profiles. The 303 is aimed at the socially connected – featuring Facebook, WhatsApp, Angry Birds lite (yes, Angry Birds, it had to happen, right?), e-mail and IM front and centre of the device’s capabilities. It will retail for around €115.

The next billion

The 300 is a touch and keyboard device, as is the 303, that offers similar functionality to its more expensive sibling. It doesn’t feature WLAN, like the 303, but offers the same looks, apps, social networking and music features for around €85.

The Asha 200 is a dual-SIM Qwerty phone, with Nokia’s Easy Swap functionality. The 201 is the same phone without dual-SIM. Both are bright, colourful phones, squarely aimed at a younger audience. The 200 features integrated social networking, e-mail and IM, adding RenRen, Orkut and Flickr support, Nokia says. The 201 offers a loudspeaker, enhanced stereo FM radio and ringtone tuning, plus 52 hours of music playback time. Both will retail for around €60.

Says Elop: “Bold colours and attention to detail ensure the phones are crafted to be highly aspirational. To make and manufacture sophisticated design at massive scale is very hard to do but it is what we have done and will continue to do in our effort to connect the next billion.”