Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Nokia finally gets itself in the shop window

Besides a slight naming problem, there were few surprises in the launch of the Lumia 800 at Nokia World today. I was a bit unimpressed by the stage show, which felt very forced, but the hardware looks good and, according to early benchmarks it offers very respectible performance. A few thoughts from me:

I think Nokia should have been more aggressive in its pricing. I'm firmly of the belief that the mass market smartphone customer makes a simple choice. If they can afford an iPhone, then they buy one - its a trusted choice in a rather confusing world, not to mention its status symbol er... status. Those who can't afford iPhone then choose a monthly payment they can afford and go from there. By pricing the 800 at the same point as iPhone, I think NOK are in for an uphill battle. Rebuilding their brand requires shifting a lot of units and becoming the "next best option" after iPhone; not going head to head with Apple just yet. If it was me, I'd have accepted much lower margins in order to make that position easy, at least until the brand can carry the fight again.

The US story is more of the same - hurry up and wait. I noticed that Mr Elop said they'd be launching a portfolio of devices early next year. Presumeably Lumia is part of that and presumeably the lack of CDMA or LTE support at launch means the operator partner will be AT&T and/ or T-Mobile.

Going on the NOK website shows that the UK launch partners will be Vodafone and 3. I've found it hard to locate a place where I can preorder SIM-free, but will persevere so I can get hold of one ASAP.

Navigation features yet again, representative of the restructure of NOK to put Navteq closer to the core of the business. Nokia adocates will doubtless point out that equivalent navigation facilities cost $100 on the iPhone. I personally doubt that this will be a major selling point in developed markets, given that data allowances are relatively generous for mainstream consumers.

For me, the critical launch today was of the Asha range of semi-smart devices, priced sub-$100. I'm very bullish about the sub-$100 smartphone market in general as it offers a logical upgrade path for the 70Mn consumers joining the middle class every year for the next decade. It's therefore a critical thing for Nokia to get right. I worry that Asha is not smart enough to offer a genuine competitor to Huawei's IDEOS range and equivalents from ZTE. But time will tell.

I'll get my hands on the device and hopefully post again... hopefully using it!

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