The End of Normal Phones?
I’m a big fan of Nokia. I’ve used different phones over the years (not many) but I stoutly refuse to use anything else now, because no other manufacturer made phones that were as easy to use, simple and robust. I have a Nokia 6290 at the moment, I’ve had it for probably four or five years. It’s certainly not a smartphone and, in fact, I’d rather it didn’t have things like a radio, mp3 player or most of the other things. I want my phones to perform three functions:
- Allow me to make and receive calls
- Allow me to send and receive text message quickly and easily (predictive text all the way)
- Keep a list of contacts to make dialling easier and identify incoming calls and messages
That’s it. In terms of hardware, as I’ve written before, I’d like a clamshell that is thinner, smaller and lighter than my current one, but with better battery life. Smartphones are all massive bricks.
I may not be the typical consumer, and not the sort most phone companies want, but I’m not alone, I know a lot of people who just want a simple phone with physical buttons. I’m not sure how big the market is, maybe the desire for smartphones has taken hold at every phone company, but I suspect it is at least as large that for smartphones.
Now Symbian (Nokia’s own OS) won’t be kicked to the curb straight away, but the Windows Phone 7 take up is disturbing.
I can see why they did it. Smartphones are where it’s at, they offer greater profits (I paid less for my phone SIM-free than I could for an iPhone with contract subsidies), they’re flashy and the people who buy them upgrade every 12-18 months, not every five years like me.
Why Windows Phone 7? Well, Android seems to be like Linux (on which it is based); they are many flavours, largely incompatible, you can get apps from different places instead of one consolidated store, it’s largely a confusing mess for consumers, but most people don’t care what OS is on their phone, just that it works (until they try to install an app a friend has and find they can’t, then Android is in serious trouble). The only alternative for Nokia was Windows Phone 7 as Apple, RIM and the others are unlikely to give their OS away and if they did, they don’t have the apps to make them a success.
Windows Phone 7 doesn’t either, yet, but as the apps are written in .Net it has the largest developer base in the world ready to start churning them out with almost no learning curve. Those developers held off at the start to see if this would be another half-hearted project by MS and get dumped 12 months from now, the deal with Nokia means it won’t, so developers will start to commit.
As for Nokia, well, they have hardware expertise and, as we saw with the Motorola Razr, that’s what people care about. Come up with a great-looking phone and people will buy it, no matter how bad the software is (as was the case with the Razr). So maybe this will work out well for them. They still hold about 30% of the global mobile phone market (compared to Apple’s 3%), but they’re becoming just another hardware manufacturer, rather than a phone company. It’s all about the platform these days.