Nokia… down the memory lane

For many tech analysts the news of Microsoft buying Nokia’s device business was not surprising. They forecasted it long before. But I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. The Lumia line up is doing pretty good although not at par of their Android or iPhone counterparts. They just announced some S40 feature phones with premium features like anodised, sandblasted aluminium body casing and scratch resistant glass (features usually reserved for high end smart phones). There was some leaked news of forthcoming Asha series phones with very interesting specs and a Windows RT based Nokia Lumia Tablet. I was hopeful that they would bounce back. But the news came as a shock… at least for me :(.

The famous Snake game

Like many of us I am also a past Nokia user and a Nokia fan boy. My tryst with cell phone began with my first purchase of Sony Ericsson J300i in 1996. In fact I was part of a minority community who owned a cell phone other than Nokia. I was disappointed not finding any similar game like Snakes in my mobile which was highly addictive. Also my phone lacked a simple feature of sharing ringtone via SMS (which was a craze in those days), although sharing as MMS was there. Also my phone didn’t have FM radio, a feature later become a must have feature and a selling point that time. Nokia people are innovative enough to pack these things (Snakes game, FM radio) in their b/w handset Nokia 2300 long before they become norm. So basically I was comparing my advanced feature rich SE J300i with plain ‘innovative’ Nokia 2300. This is a simple example of how product designers of Nokia put usability first, design and other glamor second.

My first Nokia was E63 which was an entry level smart phone. Apart from regular smart phone specs it had some little neat features which were really time saving i.e. copy-cut-paste functions which worked very well across phone book, sms, notes and other apps; smart dialing etc. Interestingly the same copy-cut-paste functions now can be found in the low end S40 devices. My other Nokia X2-01 is a humble basic phone which serves me the essentials. The built quality is rugged and can withstand few falls.

Nokia product designers occasionally introduced some cool features which of course later become must have. The mighty Nokia N8 was such a product. Apart from one of the finest camera phone (12mpx with Xenon flash) it featured USB-on-the-go (OTG), Dolby Digital+ sound enhancement, FM transmitter, Corning Gorilla glass etc. which today we can find in mid to high end Androids. Long before tablets become a craze (iPad successfully revolutionized the category), Nokia guys tried their hand on N900 which featured a fairly large screen, aimed at people who want to browse internet on the go. They called it as Internet access device. Nokia 3G phones, even if they don’t have dual camera, can be used for 3G video calling to any phone with 3G video calling enabled. It doesn’t require any Skype or Facetime and doesn’t charge to receiving party. Android latest versions have started adapting this recently and iPhone still doesn’t.

Nokia smart phones were the early adapter of apps, long before the term itself entered into the dictionary. Apps are nothing but small programs from 3rd party publishers which enhance the phone’s functionality. GetJar existed long before AppStore, Android Market Place (Google Play) or Nokia’s own Ovi Store came into existence. This site was catering to both smart and non-smart (Java) phone users who can download apps, themes, games etc. and transfer them directly to phone via PC and install on phone.

Nokia were pioneer in hardware design which can be evident from their product build quality. Ever heard of any Nokia having ‘Antenagate‘? Nokia introduced some very good looking devices to not-so-very-good-looking to very-ugly-looking devices over the time. While they kept on experimenting on hardware they overlooked the OS and software. Their Symbian became the De-facto smart phone OS for the masses while BlackBerry, Windows, and Palm were for classes. They forgot that the average user interacts with the phone more on the software front and less on hardware. They failed to enhance the way users interacted with the phone. Smart Apple guys recognized this and came with iPhone. They introduced a touch slate with a single button. It was all about user interactivity with the device. They discovered the ever flowing revenue source in the apps and pushed it. Although Nokia was early adapter but they failed to recognize its potential. By the time they realized this it was too late. Nokia rested the long war horse Symbian and partnered with hip looking Windows OS. They adopted a twin OS policy to compete with the twin onslaught of Android and iOS; S40/Asha platform for low end and Windows for mid to high end devices. Instead of becoming just another hardware vendor for Android bandwagon, Nokia choose the different and difficult path of aligning with a relatively new OS and met with limited success.

Now when the Lumia series and Windows OS started gathering some momentum, it is hard to digest that Nokia is selling their device business. I’m not planning to buy a Windows device in near future but I am eager to grab a piece of next-gen Asha handset before the brand goes into sunset.


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