Nokia Goes Meego with the N9

According to information given to Engadget, Nokia’s new flagship handset, the N9 will be based on the company’s own new OS, MeeGo. So, in spite of the fanfare over their tie-up with Microsoft’s mobile OS (by Nokia at least), it looks like the Finish handset manufacturer’s first offering outside of Symbian will be a MeeGo one. The handset shown on Engadget is a fully featured smartphone which is entirely touch screen (ie no buttons), save for the volume rocker switch, the screen is 3.9 inches and comes with an 8 megapixel wide-angle camera. Oh and it has NFC.

‘What about apps?’ I hear you ask. Well there’s the NFC enabled Angry Birds Magic for starters. Nokia have also been porting over many of the OviStore’s most successful apps, whilst social media integration comes as standard. Whilst supporting Nokia doesn’t seem particularly fashionable at the moment, it actually looks like the company has produced a decent handset with a more than reasonable OS.

The exact plans for the roll-out are as yet unknown, but rumours are that in the UK at least, the N9 will be the ‘hero’ handset for some of operators Xmas campaigns. Nokia have been loosing sales in the smartphone market in the last 12 months, largely to Android. It remains to be seen if the new MeeGo offering will provide a suitable competition to Samsung and HTC’s Android handsets.

Nokia and Microsoft: what’s the real story?

A few years ago few consumers cared about mobile operating systems. And quite rightly, as long as the phone did what you needed then who cared what the OS was? Then along came the iPhone, doing what Apple does best: great product design, fantastic interface and an appstore where you could download great games and apps. With Apple’s game changer came the mobile OS wars. The biggest looser was Nokia. To be fair, they’d already started to loose the plot before the iPhone came along, but post-Apple, the world’s largest handset manufacturer turned out a number poorly though-out phones that were way off the mark. In the meantime, BlackBerry were doing very nicely (thanks in part to the teenage adoption of BBM) and Android was appearing on some really great phones.

In fact, Nokia do some great product design. My personal favourite was the 1100. The biggest selling information technology device ever. They even dominate the smartphone market in terms of sales. Where they have failed is OS. Symbian was a great OS for feature phones. Many people, myself included would only by Nokias as Symbian offered the best usability out there. However, iOS and Android showed how it really should be done.

To be fair, Nokia tried to address the OS problem, implementing new versions of Symbian and starting the MeeGo project with Intel. However, mobile is a rapidly changing consumer environment and the time taken to develop MeeGo would be too long. So in terms of a business relationship the partnership with Microsoft makes sense. The latest version of Windows on mobile is good. But it’s not great, in the way that iOS and Android are. Predictions were that Windows Mobile would not take off. So for Microsoft to partner with the world’s biggest handset manufacturer makes complete sense for them – in fact it may be the only way their mobile offering will survive long-term.

However, it will be a hard task to beat the likes of Apple and Google in the OS wars. Windows Mobile would have to be utterly brilliant to do that, and it isn’t. I believe there is one massive opportunity that this partnership offers: the combination of Xbox Kinect and Nokia Imaging. It could put Microsoft/Nokia the very heart of mobile gaming.

Some suprising stats about mobile web usage worldwide

Mobile analysts, Royal Pingdom, have produced some surprising research regarding worldwide mobile web usage. Proportionately it is highest in Asia and Africa. Not only that, the most used handsets by far are Nokia’s running Symbian OS. Or is it really that surprising? Given that these are proportional figures comparing fixed vs mobile web, rather than volumes. In the UK for example, 20m+ people access the mobile web every month. That represents over 20% of mobile users, however proportionately the web usage only accounts for just a few percent. That’s because mobile access is shorter demonstrating a more ‘snacking’ behaviour. In large parts of Africa and Asia, fixed web is difficult to obtain, and mobile offers the only practical way to get online. Similarly with the handsets, the iPhones and BlackBerrys of this world are just not available in many of those countries. They are the places where Nokia dominate.

Some countries particularly stand out for their relatively high mobile web usage: in Nigeria it’s 25% and in India and Bangladesh it’s 15%. What the figures don’t tell us is what kind of web usage it is. Are they browsing mobile optimised sites? Social media? Or email? Certainly the predictions that mobile web will overtake the fixed web in the next few years look very realistic.

Is Nokia’s Ovi Store Cathing up with Apple’s downloads?

Nokia have just announced that their downloads from their app store have reached 3 million a day. That’s over 90 million Ovi Store downloads per month. At the same time the number of registered developers with Nokia has shot up to 400,000. The Finnish company put much of it down to the latest Symbian OS and the availability of apps such a Swype. It’s all pretty good going. But how does that compare with iPhone app downloads?

The last published figure from Apple earlier this year was 280 million downloads per month, or just over 9 million per day. In spite of the Ovi Store catching up quickly, Apple is still seing three times as many downloads. However, Nokia are the world’s largest handset manufacturer (with Apple in 4th), so perhaps a more telling way is to look at the number of downloads per handset. This is not an easy task. For starters, Nokia sells a majority of basic handsets and although they may be capable of downloading apps, most of their users buy them to make calls and send texts. Similarly, the Apple figures also include the iPod Touch. Most of those users will buy the device in preference to an iPod precisely because they can download and play games. Although the downloads are relevant, the Touch isn’t a a mobile phone.

The other problem is we don’t know how many of each device is in circulation. iPhones and iPod touches, we could guess at around 100 million currently in use (that’s taking sales and taking off upgrades and older models). That would mean around 0.09 per day per user or 2.7 per user per month.

Nokia is even harder. We know that they sell around three times as many smartphones as Apple, but that doesn’t tell us how many are out there. Lets say there are 65 million iPhones (not Touches) in use, the Nokia figure will be around three times that at 195 million.  That’s 0.02 downloads per user per day, or 0.6 downloads per user per month. That means Apple users download 5 times more than Nokia’s. And when you look at the bottom line, profit, Apple is way ahead of their competitors.

As with any stats, you can make of them what you want, but it looks like Nokia have a long way to go before they can challenge Apple’s premier position. (There’s more on the OviStore stats here)

Forget buying a Nikon, it’s Nokia all the way

As a keen photographer and keener underwater photographer I have been a lifelong Nikon fan. In fact my photo cases are almost a history of the camera maker. Even though I switched to digital underwater some years ago (Nikons, of course), I still hail my film-based Nikonos V as my favourite underwater camera.
According to Nokia’s executive VP, that’s all about to change. For starters, handset manufacturers (presumably Nokia) will be offering HD video in their phones in the next 12 months. And not long after, the quality of phones will make owning an SLR obsolete. Hmm. Maybe I’m being naive here, but I simply don’t see it. Although digital has come on leaps and bounds, there is a basic technical issue with how much information and light can be captured through a tiny phone camera lens. They’re fine for snaps, and are offering real competition to the compact digital camera market. But when it comes to the high end stuff getting that kind of quality out of a phone is a long way off. Or maybe even never. Personally I’m not ready to ditch the Nikons.

Is Nokia getting it right?

There are many detractors who seem to think that Nokia are loosing their way in the mobile market. They have certainly had their blips, however the company still retains the largest share of the handset market, the largest share of the smartphone market, and with Symbian, they are key players in the most popular mobile OS.
Whilst Apple’s iphone gets all the headlines (and make a great phone, don’t get me wrong), Nokia have done a number of clever things that will ensure their number one status:

Free Ovimaps: their decision to offer maps and sat nav to all compatible handsets for free is genius. Forget all the glamour of the iphone, what people want are good, practical applications. In fact if I was Tomtom or Garmin, I’d give up on the sat nav market! And here’s the proof: Nokia have announced 1.5million downloads of their Ovimaps in just one week.

Open Sourcing Symbian: Although this comes from the Symbian foundation and not Nokia directly, the decision to open source Symbian is a brilliant idea. The software releases today, and with the input of independant developers it will ensure that their OS is refined and will retain it’s number one status.

Smartphone sales: latest figures reveal Nokia the market leader by far

The latest figures on smartphone sales release by analysts, Canalys, show that Nokia still holds the leading position with 16.4m units shipped in Q3, giving them a share of 39.7% of the market.

RIM’s Blackberry shipped 8.5m in the same period taking a 20.6% share and Apple’s iphone shipped 7.4m taking third place at 17.8%. HTC were forth with 2.2m phones.

It means that smartphone sales rose 4% on last year with total sales reaching 41.4 million.

Once again, there’s no doubting the popularity of the iphone, but it is important to remember that it is only third best selling manufacturer. However, as a single device it is significant, as both Nokia and RIM’s sales cover numerous handsets.