Did Nokia really not do anything wrong? They did.

“We didn’t do anything wrong but somehow we still lost.”

Those were the words of the CEO. Do I agree with them? No.

Let’s go back to, say, 2006. Every average person had a Nokia. The Motorollas? Those were what people bought between two successive Nokias. Sony Errison? Well, that one had its own cult. There was a wide variety of different lines of phones in the market, each aimed at a different class of users. The basic featured for those looking for a cheap calling device, the multimedia enabled for those that wanted more, the communicators for those that afforded them.

That wasn’t all. That was the time when Nokia did some strange experiments resulting in the production of some really weird and unique phones. And guess what? A large percentage of those took off as well. Examples of such models could be the NGage and the Ngage QD – Gamepad shaped devices aimed at gaming. I happen to have owned both models. Nokia was also infamous for coming up with some really weird designs, which, surprisingly, sold just as well.

Why? Cause Nokia owned the market. They were among the pioneers and they had almost monopolized the mobile market. What they produced was good and was pretty regardless of how shitty it might actually be.

All the awesome devices that Nokia ever made were powered by the same operating-system. The Symbian OS. Everything from the 6600 to the C7 were Symbians. Even the multimedia enabled Sony Erricson and Samsung devices of that time were powered by the same OS. To this day, I believe that Symbian OS was the only OS for mobile devices that allowed for true multi-tasking. Back then, just having that OS made a phone a smartphone.

They introduced the “Nokia OS” into the market. The NokiaOS is what powered the entry-level multimedia phones like the 5300 XpressMusic, or the 2700 classic, or the 7210 Supernova. In itself, the Nokia OS, especially in its early days, wasn’t actually bad. The UI was nice and inituitive — perhaps more intuitive than Symbian — and it was a success too. It performed pretty smoothly and was mostly lag-free. It made sense for Nokia to use it for it’s mid-tier phones and focus on localizing Symbian for their smartphones.

As time progressed, the newer Nokia OS phones although advertised to offer increased capability seemed to carry inferior hardware than their predecessors. The UI became a mess, the home screens got uglier and the fonts got larger and the smaller phones had screens with crappy resolutions. The housings lost quality. The newer the phone the cheaper the plastic it was made of, the less vibrant its colors. This was happening around the time when Android had gained immense popularity. Symbian OS continued to co-exist with both Android and iOS and was a more popular choice than Windows Mobile.

In 2011, Nokia lost it. It did an experiment that it chose to name “N9,” which was a smartphone running Meego OS – a Linux distro – that can be filed under the list of failed ones. Funnily enough though, I liked it. Had they chosen to stick with it, there’s some probability that they could have revolutionized the industry. They could have achieved then what Sailfish and Ubuntu are trying to achieve now. But wait! That’s not all. The Lumia line of Windows powered smartphones had also been introduced and so had the Asha line which… wait what?

Exactly. The first part of the mental battle in a user’s head when choosing a phone, now had too many candidates — Namely: iOS, Android, Symbian, Windows, Meego, Asha? — and funnily enough, 3 of them were available in devices produced and branded by the same manufacturer. What sucks about this is that it’s a lot worse when viewed from the point of view of a Nokia fanboy, who’d be shattered and would have absolutely no idea what to go for.

And then Nokia made a couple of decisions. Trust me when I say this, it was the worst possible combination of decisions:

  1. They chose to kill Symbian OS which they were slowly turning into Nokia OS, and which was deteriorating but they didn’t replace it with anything.
  2. They chose to trust Microsoft and their “Windows Phone 7” which was actually nothing like Windows at all, and which was too underdeveloped and had too small a fanbase and a market. The problem with Microsoft is that they never give the people what they want in good time. They’re too slow to deliver. The Windows Phones can hardly be called a success whether they be Nokia manufactured or not. Even now, when Microsoft appears to have almost achieved their goal of convergence, the market for Windows Phones is damn small.
  3. They chose to continue developing and adding to the Nokia OS in the Asha line.
  4. They hardly explored the Meego OS which could have opened a number of doors. But we can’t blame them for this one. I hardly know anyone who ever owned an N9.

And then there’s a mistake that they are still making. They are hopelessly trying to dominate the market for low-tier phones but continuing to produce NokiaOS phones, like the second-generation 3310 e.t.c. This is a pointless move because these phones aren’t really cheaper than the cheapest smartphones so why should anyone even buy them?

In the age of smartphones, Nokia, one of the biggest players in the market should have played the big shots. They should have focused on smartphones, just like the other top-sellers, and they should have kept Symbian or they should have replaced it with something better. There was no need for them to waste their resources on shitty products that no one wanted.

What’s funnier, is that Nokia made every damn thing except for an Android phone, which could have been a ray of hope for the company and would definitely have shown promise. They did introduce an Android in 2014 but they did that in the most Nokia way possible. It was a mess that was aptly killed by Microsoft who acquired the company the same year.

 

Anas Ismail Khan

 

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