Nokia lags in smartphone race

As smartphone manufacturers embrace powerful computing chips, research finds dominant mobile phone maker Nokia struggling to keep up.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Powerful chipsets boasting enough compute power to handle the deluge of advanced graphics, 3-dimensional (3D) games and high definition video processing are favored by smartphone manufacturers today, according to an Ovum report.

Chipmaker ARM's Cortex A8 chipset and Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform are increasingly being seen in newer smartphones models, for their graphics acceleration capabilities necessary to enable richer multimedia experiences, said the report. The chips are also needed to support the Adobe Flash 10 browser plug-in, anticipated later this year, the study said.

However, world number one phone maker, Nokia, is lagging behind the competition in providing devices that are able to handle such rich media content, pointed out Ovum analyst Tim Renowden.

"Extra hardware grunt provides a significant boost to user experience, but Nokia is struggling to keep pace with its rivals in this respect, with only its niche N900 handset sporting a next-generation chipset," Renowden said in the report.

Renowden added that while a processor's clock speed isn't everything, the majority of Nokia's current smartphones such as its flagship N97, run on an older ARM chipset--ARM11--at below 500MHz, with an "anemic" 128 MB of RAM, which most other platforms have abandoned.

Nokia's device screen technology was also highlighted as an area of concern. Of the 20 handsets with highest screen resolution, Nokia has only one of its products in the list--the aforementioned N900.

Furthermore, Nokia is sticking to resistive screens rather than capacitive screens favored by other manufacturers such as Apple. It is the only major manufacturer still producing smartphones in the "candy bar" and "numeric keypad" form factor, the study added.

Renowden said: "Nokia's lack of recent product announcements give us little cause to think the hardware specification gap will improve in the short term."

He also added that the Finnish company's forthcoming release of its Symbian^3 platform, and the associated new hardware in the second half of 2010, "can't come quickly enough".

According to a Symbian news release, the platform will boast enhancements such as "significant" usability and interface advances, and acceleration for 2D and 3D graphics in games and applications and multi-gesture support.

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