A week ago, the BBC ran a story about how smartphone sales aren’t being impacted by the recession. Today?
Nokia has reported a loss for the July to September quarter after sales sank by almost a fifth.
I turn up this story immediately after reading that the Nokia N900 tablet/phone doesn’t do MMS. Which might not be a big deal for many, especially in the States, but it’s really kind of useful to me and my family.
I’ve been a Nokia user for more than ten years now. I had that slidy-clicky phone before Keanu had it in THE MATRIX. Nokia made me an early camphone user — hell, I was in an exhibition of camphone photographers in America. I liked that most Nokia phones looked and felt like they’d been sawn off girders by cold miserable Finns and then stuffed with difficult gizmos by pale intellectual Finns and then filed and decorated by scowling hipster Finns.
The Guardian has this, and it does tend to conjure the image of a large mammal bleeding out from a wound it can’t see or find properly:
Nokia blamed a shortage of components for its poor third quarter performance compared with the wider market. Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, its chief executive, said "We would have sold more devices and smartphones in the third quarter without the capacity constraints. The constraints did in fact hit the smartphone part of the business more than the rest of the devices."
I’m no kind of economist, but it does occur to me that a company in the smartphone-making business would usually ensure it has enough bits to make its smartphones with before it starts making them.
Carolina Milanesi, research director for mobile devices at industry specialist Gartner, said sales of Nokia’s flagship N97 smartphone do not appear to have been exactly stellar. "Despite their positive comments on the N97 I am reluctant to say that sales of 1.8m for a flagship product are good enough. Moreover, as Nokia stated at the beginning of September that N97 shipped 1.5m devices since the launch we can see that sales are actually not accelerating."
I was warned off the N97 by several people in the know, one of whom described it as "shocking." I’ve already spoken here about what I think of Nokia’s Ovi app store. I thought about getting a Palm Pre, having used Visors and Treos for years. But then I changed my mind. Ultimately, the point of the device is less what it does when it comes out of the box than it is what I can make it do once it’s out of the box. I’ve been fiddling with, cajoling, hammering and tinkering with phone brains for years, trying to get them to do the stuff I needed them to do — because no one device is perfect, right? But it’s gotten harder and harder to do that with Nokia devices — and the applications ecosystem isn’t there. I have an ebook reader for the Nokia 810 that only scrolls down. And, sure, that’s the clever experimental Maemo crew there, and it was very much a clever experimental device. But that’s the state of apps for the 810. Should I really expect better from the N900, which also runs (a new version of) Maemo — and, already, doesn’t do MMS?
It took a little over a year for iPhone (combining 2G and 3G units) to clock up a million sales in the UK, as opposed to the seven months it took Nokia to sell a million N95s when it launched in ’07 — a device comparable in complexity and price. But iPhone was selling from a single network. When iPhone became available from three networks rather than one in France, sales went up 136 percent.
In the top six iPhone markets that are still exclusive… we believe that Apple’s market share could rise to 10 percent, on average, in a multiple carrier distribution model from 4 percent today.
Meanwhile, Nokia posts its first loss since 1996 (only partially due to a write-down on a possibly injudicious deal with Siemens) and its market share plummets past 40%. They’ve been bleeding share on various stages all year.
And my Nokia N95 8GB has, since I started typing this with frozen fingers in the pub, lost packet data three times (and thrown up alerts) and restarted itself twice. All of which is to say that, as a non-city-dwelling person with no local wifi, who needs a 3G-networked communications device in his pocket that does more than make phone calls… I’m going to miss having a tough, powerful little Nokia in my hand. But I need more than Nokia’s prepared to design or sell. And for everything the bloody iPhone doesn’t do, like outboard keyboards, and for every annoying thing about it, like probably having to install the terrible iTunes to manage its apps… it does do several things I require of a street computer. Including MMS and cut-and-paste.
None of which was of interest to anyone but me. Morning. This is Warren Ellis dot com.