Nokia N8 will be king of smartphones?


Apple’s iPhone may be the dominant force in consumer smartphones right now, but it’s arguable that it’s only now that it has finally come up to spec with its competitors. When you look at the technical capabilities of the iPhone 4 – the 5MP front and rear cameras, video calling, multi-tasking – the argument has been made that Apple has not so much broken new ground but merely caught up with its eternal competitor, the Nokia N95. Granted Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs knows industrial design, marketing and user experience, but the functionality of the latest ‘Jesus phone’ just about brings it to parity with a handset released in 2007.

Next month Nokia is expected to release a new range of smartphones divided up to target the business and consumer spaces. Backed up by a slick marketing campaign, the N8 looks set to be pushed font and centre as a potential iPhone killer, and it has the specs to prove it. A 3.5″ touch screen, 12MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics, face detection and Xenon flash are top of the list, along with high definition video capture, HDMI and mini-USB connectivity. That a 3.5mm headphone jack, FM radio, video calling, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth come as standard show how far the market has come in the three years since the N95 first appeared.

The N8 represents a great prospect for Nokia – it’s vastly superior to the chunky N96 and sleeker than the just plain ugly N97 that came before it. More importantly Nokia’s new CEO Stephen Elop’s big chance to make an impression in a space rapidly slipping from the company’s fingers. Industry observers have a right to be sceptical.

New money

A former Adobe and Microsoft man, Elop has a proven track record of product rollouts – Windows Office 2010 being his last major achievement. He inherits a company in the bizarre position of having consistently higher revenues consistently declining products. Nokia products are selling better than ever, but no money is being made off them. This points to strong sales of low value, low spec devices. To put it in stark perspective, in the first quarter of 2002 revenue from mobile phones alone accounted for $5.44 billion and $1.2 billion in profit. In the second quarter of 2010 revenues had risen to $6.8 billion, but profits dipped to $643m.

The rot took hold in 2008 – the year that iPhone enjoyed numerous international releases and the first round of handsets running Google’s Android mobile operating system came on the market. A second consideration is the impact of Apple’s App Store and the Android Marketplace. In comparison Nokia’s Ovi store is hamstrung by limited selection and low traffic. An average day for Ovi pulls in 1.5 million downloads, a drop in the ocean compared to Apple’s 30.5 million.

In this context Elop’s position is at best unenviable, but the hardest part of the N8 to sell won’t be the technology but the more ephemeral idea of the user experience. Whatever about the superior hardware, the use of a widget-based interface running a new version of the Symbian operating system looks positively antiquated beside the iPhone or HTC Desire.

Will the N8 re-establish Nokia in the consumer smartphone space? If it was about hardware alone the answer would be a firm yes. Looking at the limitations of the Ovi store and the user experience, one gets the impression this is a handset happy just to keep up when it should be blowing the competition away. 2007 was indeed a long time ago.

published  by techcentral

Uploaded by Niall Mulrine, Navenny, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, Ireland

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