Nokia World 2010: Nothing much to see for US market

Nokia World 2010: Nothing much to see for US market

Summary: Nokia held their Nokia World event last week, but I doubt very little announced or shown off will have any effect on the US smartphone market. The US wireless carrier system will not change and Nokia needs to figure out how to work with carriers to have any impact here.


I have talked and written about my hobby site, Nokia Experts, here before and last week I made my first trip to Nokia World. I wrote up my closing thoughts of the event on the NE site, but wanted to also post some things I have been thinking about regarding Nokia here on ZDNet. We see very few official carrier smartphones from Nokia here in the US and the smartphone market share in the US is almost nothing, especially when you see them still leading at near 40% in the worldwide market share numbers. I've been a Nokia fan for several years and had hopes they would launch some of their newer devices here in the US through carriers, but after meeting with folks last week I highly doubt we will see anything change for Nokia in the US in the near future for a couple of reasons.

UPDATE: For some further, deeper thoughts on why I will continue to buy Nokia devices in the USA and write about Nokia on Nokia Experts and ZDNet, check out this latest post.

US consumers

US consumers do not think of Nokia mobile phones as smartphones and honestly we have seen just a few (E71x on AT&T, E73 Mode and Nuron on T-Mobile) over the last couple of years so there is no reason to expect that they would. In the good old days of mobile phone adoption it seems everyone was given a free Nokia phone to get started and they worked well as durable, decent quality devices. I think many US consumers still have the impression that Nokia makes low end, throw-away cell phones.

The US wireless market is different than many other areas of the world and most all phones are sold in stores through a subsidized pricing model. High end Nokia smartphones are sold here only as SIM-unlocked devices and while this may be cheaper in the long run due to no contracts, ability to tether without carrier charges, and other factors it doesn't matter because the initial price is generally $500+ and the expected high end smartphone price today is $200. I have tried explaining the two year cost differences to people, but am done trying to convince anyone any more since I am not going to change anyone's mind with these $200 subsidized prices being thrown in their faces.


I talked to a few executives and Nokia employees and get the overall impression that the US market is just getting lip service from Nokia. I heard things like "the US is a priority" and "we will be taking steps to address the US market", but there were no carrier announcements or any other solid proof that anything is actually happening in the US market. Nokia announced that 100 operators have signed on to sell the new Nokia N8, but not a single US carrier is in that large group of operators.

I understand that the US market is different and Nokia sees that, but Nokia needs to also understand that the US market is NOT going to change to sell their devices so they need to figure out how to work with carriers or we will never seen wide adoption of Nokia devices here no matter how good they might be. I heard a lot about the US media not understanding the global impact of Nokia and got the feeling that there was little respect for the US smartphone media and consumers. I actually was sympathetic to Nokia in this regards when I posted an article responding to Peter Rojas' post on GDGT, but after further retrospection of Nokia World I am more sympathetic to Peter's take on Nokia. I don't agree that they need a complete UI overhaul, but they do need to think more about taking on the higher profit margin smartphones we see from all the other players. Nokia will sell millions and millions of devices around the world, but if they are only making a few bucks from each of these low to mid level devices they will continue to decline financially while the high end smartphone market continues to roll on.

The US media has been a bit forgiving towards Apple, Google, and RIM when subpar devices have been released, but Nokia cannot afford to release a subpar device like the Nokia N97 here and see it get slammed for performance when compared to the flashy and fun iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices. Microsoft and Palm/HP have new gear coming soon and I honestly don't think anyone here in the US cares much about Nokia making a play in the US with the already huge collection of smartphones we have available to choose from.

Also, the only Nokia service that is worth using for US buyers is Ovi Maps. Ovi Maps is actually fantastic and gets better all of the time. However, there is no US support for the Ovi Music service so hearing all about it just brings angst to Nokia smartphone owners who cannot use the service.

I like that Nokia reaches the world with their devices and seems to honestly care about and take steps to preserve our planet. I also think they consider the US as a strange mobile market that is still in the early development stages with consumers attracted to eye candy. They need to figure out how to sell their global message and still reach the US market and honestly I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Nokia, Smartphones

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  • RE: Nokia World 2010: Nothing much to see for US market

    Good write up Matt. I agree. Nothing is going to change here w/regards to Nokia and US consumers. I was a longtime Nokia fan until just recently when I made the switch to iOS. Android is on my radar for the future. Not Nokia. Good times!
  • RE: Nokia World 2010: Nothing much to see for US market

    It's not just subsidized pricing. Many, many people pay the higher price for unlocked phones. Nokia is not an unknown in the US market place, but unfortunately they are known for not making phones the consumer wants. When they do it is too little too late. The country wants flip phones and they insist we want candy bar phones. When they finally realize they were wrong they give us flip phones and yet now we want PDA's (pre-smartphone term). They give us the E61, E61i and E71 but now we want touch phones....<br><br>Additional examples include:<br><br>Touch screen - Apple beat everyone here and Nokia's answer was the N97. It was a fiasco for Nokia and the fact that no US carrier provided it did not help. The 5800 (Tube) caused a lot of stir because of Batman, Dark Knight, yet it took Nokia forever to release it, much less admit its existence. Had they gotten it to market quickly maybe things would be different today.<br><br>Ovi Store - Really? I mean, really? I had the N900, N97, 5800 and E71, with the N900 and E71 being the best of them. But I never got any apps, other than Angry Birds & Sportstracker, from Ovi Store. Why? I had to search for apps from blog sites because there were very few of the apps for the US market, or they arent ones we even want. Restaurant info in China or movie times in Finland won't do me any good in the US. Where are the US developers? They're making apps for Apple and Android (I recently got a Samsung & the Android market has more relevant apps to the US than I can handle, or will ever need). Where's the Blockbuster app, or Fandango, banking with Wells Fargo or BoA? Again, they're on the Apple Store or Android Market.<br><br>Marketing - How often do we see Nokia ads on TV? Very, very seldom. There was one for AT&T and the ran for about a week. There are Nokia Centers in LA and a couple of other cities, but do they sell phones there? Um, no. Doh<br><br>Availability of devices - Can I get a device at a major retailer? Not really (Best Buy is a hit or miss). I have to go to eBay or to get a device....but I have to wait 6+ months for it after it's been announced. Oh and then if I pre-order it will probably be delayed.<br><br>I really do like Nokia, and have for years. However, they seem to be more interested in investing in emerging markets like China and India. We can't blame them for that as they have a business to run. Their position in the US is one they created....they have ignored the US consumer for far too long so the US consumer now ignores them. We go to concerts in their venues, but we take pictures and share social media from those venues with our Apples and Samsung devices. Lack of subsidized phones has not hurt them with the US consumer; it's the "lip service" you mention and the lack of attention...
  • RE: Nokia World 2010: Nothing much to see for US market

    If I was Nokia I would say there are no easy answers for the US market problem. Well Matt sorry to hear that you felt you got lip service from Nokia about the US. To be honest what does the US want that the rest of the world is getting that they aren't. Nokia makes GSM phones only a rare CDMA in history hence the segment of the US market available to their phones is small already before they even start having only AT&T and T-mobile being GSM carriers. The US carriers and US media want Nokia to give their phones at below cost and recoup the rest in good will. Please look at the N8's pricing unlocked the US is the cheapest price in the world. It would be cheaper to buy the phone from the US on release and ship it here to the UK so there. If US carriers don't want to pay the same prices that the rest of the world pays then Nokia will keep selling direct to US consumers who want their phones and as worldwide market share remains above 40%, why sell at a loss just to shine in the US (it's not a trophy). Why isn't there a BoA or Fandango app it's because those companies have not commissioned them for Symbian versions not because of Nokia. They make the phones and consumers use them however they like. To finish off ask John C Devorak what phone he has used for the past 2 years anwer will be Nokia E71. This was written using the Nokia N900 running Maemo OS (soon to be Meego).
  • software patents?

    The USA has software patents, and every mobile phone maker is sueing the pants off every other one over them for the foreseeable future, or at least it seems that way.

    Maybe, this has an additional complicating influence on the pricing and availability of high-tech software-dependent gadgets in the US market? i.e. it's not worth the hassle anymore, best legal protection is a label "not for sale or use in the USA and Japan".

    Unless ACTA forces the rest of the world under the same yoke, of course..
  • RE: Nokia World 2010: Nothing much to see for US market

    1. If iPhone becomes available on Verizon, AT&T SHOULD be looking for something to fill the void when MANY iPhone users go to Verizon. Nokia N8 (and E7) should do pretty nicely, with a little Advertising by Nokia and AT&T.
    2. This website (ZDNET) doesn't even think enough of Nokia to give them there own section under the "Mobile" menu at the top of this page, they are satisfied with lumping them only under Smartphones. This should change.
    3. Nokia should do 2 things with N8 (and E7). 1) Commit to upgrade OS to S^4 (from S^3) when S^4 is released and 2) make the N8 and E7 run either S^3/4 OR new Meego. These phones can be the transition phones necessary to bridge the gap for Nokia users. Let users chose which of the 2 OSes (Symbian or Meego) they want to use.
    4. Nokia needs to better advertise their OVI Tools/PC Suite functionality. No data charges involved with backing up the phone and memory card.