Wednesday, 26 October 2011

My thoughts on Nokia

Recently Nokia has gained a lot of attraction since it has (almost) fall from leading mobile phone manufacturer (yeah, Symbians are still top selling mobile phone devices). In this post I will give some personal opinions about Nokia, it's past, present and the future.

My first mobile phone wasn't Nokia. I actually had several brands before I bought first Nokia. At that time, I didn't find it attractive because it was ugly phone from designer point of view. One day I lost my mobile phone and got replacement - an ugly Nokia phone. When I got it, I was just waiting a chance when I will buy a new mobile phone, because I didn't want to walk around with ugly phone in my pocket.
But after some time I felt in love with it. It was ergonomic phone, it has nice buttons, they were very robust, as was the phone in general. Although it wasn't beauty, it felt beautifully in my hand.

After that, I didn't want any other mobile phone brand except Nokia. I used several models, each one had a trademark that all Nokia phones had, it was class for it self.

But then smart-phones came, first touch-screen phones came out, so I bought Nokia 5800XM. While it had solid hardware as almost all Nokia phones and it was visually good looking, it's software (Symbian) was total crap. It was a dumb-phone because of the software. It was like Nokia hired ex-DOS programmers to do the UI. Why to make UI simple and intuitive when you can make it unfriendly and complicated? Also, UI was slow (and it is slow now, three years after phone was released) despite it had a fast processor for that time. That was "anti-Nokia" approach in software terms.

Why did other phone manufacturers won in smart-phone competition? Because Nokia didn't make a smart-phone for last three years (they only made dump-phones), they were sleeping their "we are making the best mobile phones" dreams. iOS and Android are just simpler to use, nothing more, they are not better phones in hardware area (just take Samsung phone in your hand, you can't miss the feeling of cheap plastic).

For a long time I waited for proper Nokia phone, Nokia E7 looked promising, it had great design, hardware keyboard ... but also had Symbian. Although Symbian improved over time, it was still second grade OS comparing to iOS and Android.

At that time Nokia announced partnership with Microsoft because they knew that Symbian were evolving very slowly and they were sinking very quickly. But why didn't they choose Android instead of immature and feature-lacking Windows Phone? Well, according to their CEO (ex-Microsoft employee!), they didn't want to be another Android phone manufacturer (wtf?). I found the reasoning for that very strange and risky because other Android phone manufacturers were also making Windows phone devices.Their sale numbers were poor comparing to Android phone, even Samsung's own OS called Bada was selling better than their Windows phone devices! So I don't understand why did Nokia choose Microsoft, but it's obvious why did Microsoft choose Nokia. It was the last train for Microsoft to catch if he wanted to compete with Android and iPhone and take their part of quickly growing smart-phone and tablet market (the fact that they are making Windows to work on ARM processors goes in the favor of that). Nokia is known for superb hardware, all they had to do was superb software. Well, in a theory.

And then one day I saw a picture of Nokia N9. It was gorgeous phone and it had something new - Meego OS. At first, I was little skeptic (because of past experience with Symbian), but then I saw first video of Meego's UI - it was fantastic. I thought - finally, a real Nokia phone! I was determined to get it (I'm still waiting it to arrive to my country :( ), but didn't want to spend my money on the one more disappointment from Nokia. So I decided to wait until first reviews came out.
But Nokia decided announce to discontinue Meego development before it got out (wtf, again)! I think they were afraid it could become huge success and it will ruin their plans with Microsoft. They even didn't want to release it in mayor markets like USA, UK, Germany, etc. Nevertheless, Meego was so beautiful that despite that killed-at-birth fact it gain attraction from the market, in GSMArena web site it holds top position in daily interest for a long time.

As time passed, more and more positive informations came about Nokia N9 and everybody that had it in the hand loved it. Phone finally got out into the hand of reviewers and they all were delighted with the phone. Although, some things in Meego could be better, but this is first version, imagine what could next version be like. The only objection was lack of application (for me it is not so important, I don't need million useless applications). It has old hardware, but it's works great despite that. And the most important thing - everybody wants to have it!

And now comes the big question(s) ... why didn't Nokia made this phone earlier? And it didn't release it earlier? Even more important, why to discontinue development of the phone that could compete with the iPhone and the best Android phones? Why not make in parallel Meego and Windows phones?
Well, probably Meego was hard to make, from concept, UI, polish it and make it as it is now. Things don't happen instantly and developing Meego was a huge effort. It's a pity that now it is abandoned (although it could reincarnate in some other form, or as part of Windows phone UI ... well, hardware part at least), I think it should be given a chance to prove it self. But it seems it could become competitor for Windows phone (it could also beat it), that's why it's not desirable OS. What a shame, I think that with this phone and it's successors Nokia could easily catch up with their rivals and attract application developers (because, number of sold devices attracts developers).

This morning Nokia announced their first mobile devices with Windows phone OS (when Symbian with Belle version finally catch up with Android). They look OK, Lumnia is very nice looking, just because it "steal" design from N9. :)

It's ironic that it will hit the shelves in a week, while N9 was released about three months after it was announced and yet haven't reached all markets.

Window phone UI is not attractive. In the whole, I don't feel desire to have it. I think most of the people have the same felling. This new Nokia Windows phone will be success, but only because new version of Android is not so good. Eventually, in the long term, Nokia and Microsoft could benefit ... but not until Window 8. Maybe not even then. They need to change their concept, they need to make UI look and feel attractive. Adopting some of Meego's innovations would be beneficial for Windows phone. Nokia organized contest in which people suggests ideas how to improve UI in any sense.That could be beneficial also.
The biggest plus about Windows phone are applications and Windows market. Windows market maybe don't have as much applications as Android market or App Store, but most percentage of them are good and quality applications. Sky drive and Office suite are cool and I think they will suite for business users. Successor of E line of Nokia business phones with Windows phone OS and all applications it brings could be excellent and could be great success.
And the most important thing - Windows phone is developing very quickly. Microsoft knows how important this area is. And when Microsoft wants to make something a good product, he will make it. :)
Also, Microsoft could improve Nokia promotion in USA, market in which Nokia has never been successful.