by Ian Fogg
Everyone appears to have spent the last week discussing Nokia’s new flagship N97 phone. But it’s far from the most significant announcement.
Why? The N97 will be premium priced and won’t be the only handset to feature a touch screen from Nokia, or the new 5th Edition Series 60 Symbian OS. The N97 isn’t due to ship until mid-2009 by which time it will face improved competition. The current models that commentators have compared it with in the last week are a red herring. Against mid-2009 rival handsets the N97 will look less strong.
The N97 is important as a part of a bolder overall strategy by Nokia and is not the entire story in itself.
The mid-range will be the new mobile Internet battleground in 2009:
Samsung (especially), LG, SonyEricsson and Motorola are already pressing into Nokia’s traditional mid range strength. At some point, Apple will extend the iPhone range with lower priced models as it did in the past with the iPod Mini, Shuffle and Nano. This will open a new front onto Nokia’s heartlands. RIM is already targeting consumers with cheap’ish Curve’s and consumer-focused marketing.
Nokia clearly understands its mid-range mobile Internet strategy will be critical. It’s making numerous moves in this area already. Announcements Nokia has made over the last few months focused on mid-range mobile data:-
- Email strategy targets mainstream Series 40 handsets. By specifically enabling all Series 40 phones — ie non smartphone — handsets, Nokia places email in the hands of virtually its entire customer base. And, with Nokia Messaging, intended to be offered with an operator partner, that Series 40 email is a push email offering. Mail on Ovi by contrast is available to all for free. Nokia is also adding a full webmail interface to make Ovi mail a viable alternative to consumers’ existing email.
- The first 5th edition touchscreen Nokia phone is mid-market. The 5800 handset was announced in early October. The 5800 features a four contact social media widget on the home screen but it’s less feature rich than the N97. The 5800 is already shipping. The N97 will raise the profile of the software platform and encourage developer adoption, which supports Nokia’s mid-market mobile Internet phones as well as the high end.
- Nokia has launched mobile data services on low cost emerging market handsets. See Nokia Life Tools and the main announcement of low cost mobile data handsets and emerging market email.
- Nokia is pushing smartphones into mid-range price points already on the quiet. Announced earlier in the year, the 5320 XpressMusic is a full S60 smartphone offered for just Euro220 unsubsidised. The 6210 Navigator is a similarly S60 smartphone in plain clothes without N or E Series branding at a keen price.
- Nokia has blurred smartphone distinctions with the S40 6260 slide . The November-announced 6260 packs a 5Mp camera, HSPA 3.5g data, music playback, Ovi Maps and other former smartphone characteristics. Note also the new S40 developer kit offers a webkit-based browser, which is the same component used in S60 phones’ web browser and by the iPhone’s web browser.
The smartphone is dead. All phones are smart now. Long live the smartphone!
And, that makes the mid range the mobile Internet battleground for 2009. Nokia is already marshalling its forces for the onslaught from its new rivals.