Nokia: The giant with its fingers crossed

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Finnish firm Nokia still sells more phones than anyone – but after being outwitted by Apple and co, the firm's future rests on the success of a new model.

Remember Nokia? Before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January 2007, the Finnish firm bestrode the handheld mobile device market like a colossus. There's at least half a chance you owned one of its phones, given that Nokia was regularly responsible for five of the top 10 handsets sold in the UK in any financial quarter.

Its devices were simple, with intuitive keypads that became as familiar as the qwerty keyboard. They were reliable: a dropped phone rarely cracked, and a dropped call rarely occurred. They were ubiquitous: someone in your office always had a Nokia charger when you needed one. The Nokia 3210 sold 160 million units, the Nokia 1100 250 million. In some parts of the world, "Nokia" means mobile phone, just as "Hoover" means vacuum cleaner.

Over the past five years, however, the company has been edged out of the top end of the market by Apple, and out of the mid-market by phones using Google's Android operating system (OS); in the business bracket, it was buried by BlackBerry. Nokia has lost more than £53bn since 2007 and watched its market value fall by 75 per cent.

Mike Butcher, editor of TechCrunch Europe, describes the contrast between Nokia and its rivals vividly. "Steve Jobs launching iPhone was incredible to watch," he says. "He'd stand up there like he was the fifth Beatle and unveil an amazing, sinuous mobile smartphone. Then you'd go to a Nokia event and they'd launch a phone called something like the ZX27493."

In February, Nokia's CEO, Stephen Elop, wrote a now-notorious memo to his staff, in which he recounted the parable of a man standing on a burning oil platform in the North Sea. "He could stand on the platform, and inevitably be consumed by the burning flames," the email read. "Or, he could plunge 30 metres into the freezing waters. The man was standing upon a 'burning platform', and he needed to make a choice... Nokia, our platform is burning."

Elop's leap into the choppy waters consisted of 4,000 job cuts and a "strategic alliance" with Microsoft to produce new devices using the software giant's Windows Phone OS. This led, in turn, to the launch of the phone on which Nokia's hopes now rest: the Lumia 800, which reached stores yesterday. At £366 per handset, the Lumia 800 is a sleek, high-spec device designed to compete with the likes of the iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy or the HTC Sensation.

It syncs your contacts directly to Facebook, links remotely to your Xbox, and has a decent Nokia-built maps application. The Lumia 710 (£235) is being launched simultaneously with the mid-market in mind. Both phones run not on Nokia's own smartphone OS, Symbian, but on Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. When Nokia launched the Lumia at its Nokia World event last month, it was described as "the first real Windows phone".

Nokia remains the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturer, and in fact its devices last year outsold the iPhone globally by almost two to one. But the Finnish firm's global share of phone sales last year fell below 30 per cent for the first time. In the developing world, it now has to contend with cheap Chinese knock-offs. In the developed world, it is struggling against the cultural tide.

As well as high-visibility advertising, Nokia is staging the UK's largest "4D" light and music event in history on the Thames. On the evening of 28 November, the Millbank area of central London will be plunged into darkness, and the Millbank Tower transformed into a canvas for a spectacular 4D projection and a performance by Canadian producer/DJ Deadmau5.

"A flagship device would normally demand about £5m of investment in its promotion," one industry insider estimates. "We're seeing maybe four times that spent on the Lumia 800."

"Mobile phones quickly became less about the device itself than about the ecosystem of applications," Mike Butcher explains. "As soon as the iPhone and the App Store launched, there was a huge proliferation of applications: clever map apps, bus timetables, you name it. Nokia was blind-sided. Their device strategy was totally scattered. They ended up with three different operating systems, their Ovi apps store didn't work properly, they didn't have a good mapping app, which was a big deal on the iPhone."

Google's Android OS compounded Nokia's woes. The company opened its own shop opposite the Apple Store in Regent Street in 2008, but failed to win over an indifferent public. It closed after less than two years.

Network operators want Nokia and the Lumia to succeed, to keep the mobile market competitive. Microsoft wants it to succeed, so Windows Phone can compete with Android and Apple. When Windows 8 launches next year, it will bring with it yet more advanced handsets for Windows Phone. "I saw the roster of devices that are coming out," says John Nichols, Nokia UK's marketing boss, "and it was one of the greatest days of my career."

The Lumia already boasts plenty of pre-orders, and the tech blogs have given it great write-ups. Gizmodo calls it "by far the best Windows Phone you can buy". Jack Kent, a mobile media analyst at IHS Screen Digest, agrees. "One phone won't turn things around," he says, "but it's the start of a comeback."

News
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Technical Product Marketing Specialist - London - £70,000

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Cloud Product and Solutions Marketin...

    Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

    £18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

    £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

    £45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week