Nokia banks on services to keep No. 1 spot

Nokia banks on services to keep No. 1 spot

Summary: Finnish phone maker says services play is key to its retention of market leadership; unveils new low-end connected device equipped with social messaging functions.

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SINGAPORE--Nokia is availing higher-end services to more of its devices to hold onto the global No. 1 position, one of its executives said Monday.

Speaking at the company's Nokia Connection 2010 event here, Jo Harlow, senior vice president of smartphones at Nokia, noted that the telecoms business has been transformed by the Internet.

The connectivity features of smartphones are trickling down to lower-priced handsets and users are expecting the same abilities in their feature phones, she said.

And the company is expecting its investments in mobile services to bolster its stake on the mobile market, Harlow said. Nokia released an on-device maps feature to some of its phone models in January this year, built on its 2007 Navteq acquisition.

Ten million users have downloaded the Ovi Maps feature, according to Chris Carr, vice president of sales for Nokia Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

He noted that the phone maker also provides a free e-mail service called Ovi Mail, which has caught on especially in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. The service has a base of 10 million subscribers globally, with 2 million in the Southeast Asian and Pacific region, Carr said.

"We are able to deliver these services like free maps and access to millions of songs across price points--that's our competitive advantage, he said.

Harlow added: "The handset manufacturers that are not investing in services are playing catch up to Nokia, or leaving service innovation to third parties."

The Finnish phone giant has struggled over the past couple of years to hang onto its smartphone dominance, but still dominates the low-cost market.

Three of the company's upcoming models, the N8, X5 and X6, will add to its lineup of connected devices which support social messaging functions, said Harlow.

In particular, the Nokia X5 is a lower-cost Symbian S60 device targeted at teens, and will debut in Indonesia first, she added.

Harry Hartono, CEO of Parastar Echorindo, a Nokia distributor in Indonesia, told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines of the event that Nokia's lower-priced models have sold very well in the country.

Hartono said the low-end Nokia C3, launched last month, sold 20,000 in across various malls on the day it was launched. The brisk uptake was partly due to the phone being discounted to 899,000 Indonesian rupiah (US$98) for the day, from its original retail price of around 1,200 Indonesian rupiah (US$130), he said.

Similarly, for the X5 to sell well, it needs to be subsidized for the market, Hartono pointed out. Its retail price of 165 euros (US$201) comes up to almost twice the price of the C3, he said.

Topics: Hardware, Apps, Mobility, Software, Software Development, Wi-Fi

Victoria Ho

About Victoria Ho

Victoria Ho is a tech journalist based in Singapore, whose writing has appeared in publications such as ZDNet, TechCrunch, and The Business Times. When she's not obsessing about IT, you can find her tinkering with music and daydreaming about which guitar to buy next.

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