Nokia’s efforts to come up with “Game Changers” and “iPhone Challengers” have been a study in what-not-to-do in the device-consumer space. The N97, The N900 and now the N8* have not been upto the mark to challenge the rapid strides made by iPhone and Android in the last 2 years.
(*: I had done an hour with the N8 and its touch interface was seriously a few miles behind the Moto Milestone/Droid Interface).
Having lost a considerable room at the top, Nokia is getting more and more aggressive at defending its position if strength: The Mid End. With that in mind (it seems), Nokia has now announced the X3, a series 40 device, which is a combination of a resistive touch and unusual key pad, 5MP Camera, 3G and WiFi. It is powered by a ARM processor that can do a 400 MHz to 600 MHz processing. It comes bundled with email, Social networking, Ovi Music and is seemingly handicapped by absence of GPS and Flash. It definitely looks neat and slim at 9.6mm.
Nokia’s introduction of touch screen control to series 40 devices mirrors its approach with S60. The thought on combining the context key (Hot keys) and navi-key interactions as touch controls don’t cut ice with the high end Multimedia devices and smartphones. The S60 marriage with the Context-key and Navi Key touch controls and its resulting tacky performance was one of the key reasons for Nokia’s slide in the smartphone segment. The decision to implement touch support to Series 40 was overdue, given moves by competitors in the mid end.
Touch(= Context key + Navi Key) may be a first “touch” experience for many million consumers in the developing nations in Afro-Asia. This is mass that Nokia is looking to cater to with this device, but then the white Box Chinese manufacturers are already planning Full touch devices for this segment. These are the low cost Android phones that Huawei is talking about. If Huawei were to get its act right, then it would mean that it would be a few steps ahead of Nokia in terms of taking the “Touch” to the consumer. Also Companies like LG and Samsung are in their fourth generation, giving them the stability and maturity that can come with the iterative design processes. Nokia’s resistive screens and “Touch” experience may be ill-equipped to take the pressure from the mounting competition.
Bottomline: Nokia needs S40 Full touch (and QWERTY) devices to protect its market share in its traditional mid-tier stronghold. The X3 is not exactly the best start, but it heralds Nokia moving into Touch devices for the mid tier Seris 40. One can only Hope that Nokia’s next in roadmap devices are better than the X3 in terms of Touch experience. Nokia desperately needs to hold onto to its mid tier market shares and can ill-afford to lose these segments, given its already weakened position in high end segments.