Nokia has unveiled not one but three new Android phones in this years’ Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. In retrospective, before 8 years, Nokia was the undisputed king in the mobile phone market. Close to half of all phones sold held name of Nokia. Although Samsung and Sony did make some Symbian phones, they weren’t nearly successful as Nokia’s N Series (remember N73, N79?). Nokia was practically the only choice if you wanted to buy a reliable Smartphone unless you are ok with BlackBerry’s expensive subscription plans. Remember at these times, Samsung didn’t have brand value as the company enjoys today.
Then? In 2007, iPhone happened! New touch interface with responsive capacitive touch screen, premium build, extreme marketing and the genius of late Steve Jobs, the smart-phone world was shaken all over for the first time for good. Nokia’s answer to iPhone was Nokia 5800, a music centric handset with full touch, which is first of its kind from Nokia. Nokia 5800 was a success but it was not enough to counter what iPhone was offering. Symbian was showing its age, while the AppStore was being filled with thousands of apps and games.
In June of 2009, following HTC, Samsung released Samsung Galaxy (which will later become the Series name for Samsung’s myriad of Android phones), company’s first Android smart-phone. Even with its modest specs of 3.2inch screen and 128MB RAM, it was far better than Nokia’s resistive touch screen coupled with Symbian platform. Nokia wasn’t threatened by all these, after all they are still the king of mobile phone market. Nokia released Nokia N97 flagship with 3.5 inch screen and qwerty keyboard, but still it came with old Symbian and resistive touch screen. Despite of heavy marketing N97 proved to be a failure. Nokia still has 34% of market share.
Well, it was a downward spiral from there for Nokia. 34% market share was exchanged to 16% in year 2010. Nokia tried hard to keep up with its competitors by revamping UI of Symbian to a newer, more touch optimized version, Nokia S60v3 touch. Android was catching on like crazy just behind Apple’s iOS.
Stephen Elop comes in like a wrecking ball.
The last nail of Symbian OS’s coffin was hit by Nokia’s new CEO Elop’s infamous “Burning Platform” memo in the beginning of year 2011. Eventual demise of Symbian was inevitable. Nokia also axed its Meego OS plans which was also a good contender against iOS and Android. Nokia made a deal with Microsoft to only produce Windows Phones and the rest is history, now Microsoft owns Nokia.
It was so obvious to everybody that Nokia should have adopted Android or Meego before becoming a promotion platform of Windows Phone. The popular explanations for this are Nokia wants to control every aspect of its phone including its software. Although Android was open-source, then Google controlled almost all aspects of the Operating System.
Three years later, Nokia still hasn’t got the market share it has expected with Windows Phone. The limited success of Windows Phone in Latin America, France and Asia are driven by low end models like Nokia 520 and Nokia 525. Nokia’s excellent build quality and brand value from its former glory had helped Nokia to be chosen among new users from emerging markets. The lack of apps or availability of crippled apps on Windows Phone remains a major problem in its adoption.
While all these were happening, Nokia was still successful in entry level segment with its Asha phones. There has been a rumor about a new Linux based operating system for Asha phones with support of multi-tasking, code-named Meltemi. I believe Nokia has realized it would be more economical to rip off Google’s Android which has become very stable, mature, and will readily support thousands of well developed applications, than to invest in making yet another platform with no apps. It would have been a disaster if Nokia went with its Meltemi program.
Nokia X aka Nokia Normady
Nokia X is Nokia testing waters with Android. Being low-cost, excellent value for money and Nokia branding will make the success of Nokia X in markets like India where Nokia still has major following especially in entry level segment. Being sold in large numbers will force Android developers to put their app on Nokia’s Android Application Store (code-named Asha on Linux). It is a brilliant plan alright, cashing in the investment made by Google on Android, something which has been tested and succeeded by Amazon. By putting Nokia’s own application store, Nokia can keep the 30% cut which Google takes for revenue made by the apps on Play Store.