By January 18, 2009

Can Nokia make it in America?

nokia_logoNokia is the world’s largest mobile phone maker, the world’s largest smartphone maker, and according to one accounting, the world’s largest computer maker, but there is one locale that Nokia can’t seem to gain a foothold. World wide Nokia has nearly 40% market share, but in the good ole’ USA they barely crack 7%. What makes the American market so hostile to Nokia? I think it is a combination of factors that keep Nokia from gaining a prominent position in America. With America using a combination of GSM and CDMA technologies, only half the US market is available to Nokia since they don’t really make many CDMA devices. Nokia also fought a fierce battle with Qualcomm for most of this decade which prevented Nokia from making devices with US 3G built in. Those two factors kept the hottest Nokia S60 devices out of American hands until recently.

Now that Nokia is making North American versions of their best devices, they are coming up against an even bigger problem. In the US almost all phones are sold through carriers, and the 2 main GSM carriers (AT&T, and T-mobile) aren’t picking up Nokia’s smartphones, and to make things worse, Nokia’s current push to become a mobile services company seems designed to circumvent the Carriers own efforts to sell additional services.

So can Nokia turn it around? It will be a challenge in the near term, but if Nokia doesn’t give up on America, they will be rewarded with a larger slice of the market. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have all committed to GSM’s successor LTE for their 4G upgrade path, and those 3 carriers have the vast majority of US subscribers. In July Nokia and Qualcomm finally settled their dispute, making it easier for Nokia to make US 3G versions of their phones. Finally with iPhone, Android, and Palm’s new WebOS offering services and apps that cut the carrier out of the equation, making Nokia’s Ovi services seemingly more palatable to the likes of AT&T.

So having said all that, can Nokia turn things around in the US? Of course they can, but they probably won’t. Americans are now demanding touchscreens in their smartphones, which Nokia is starting to include in devices like the 5880 Express, and N97, but their choice of resistive touch is indicative of why they won’t make it. Nokia’s choice of the resistive touch (which makes stylus input easy, and is favored in Asian countries) proves that the folks in Espoo are still looking to the east, while ignoring the demands of the US, and Canada.

The US market is sufficiently unique that for Nokia to succeed here, they need to design a phone that takes this uniqueness into account, and the N75 doesn’t count. Nokia has decided that the future is in China, and despite Nokia claiming otherwise the US is just not important to them. Nokia phones are great, my everyday device is the E71, but if they are going to continue ignore the US. Apple and Palm will dominate the high end of the market, LG and Samsung will control the rest of the market, and Nokia will end up a bit player, like ZTE or Pantech.

Technorati Tags: ,,,,
Posted in: Phones

About the Author:

Seasoned tech blogger. Host of the Tech Addicts podcast.
Loading Facebook Comments ...

Post a Comment

No Trackbacks.