A couple of years ago, Stephen Elop, CEO of Nokia made a tough decision. He partnered with Microsoft – his former employer – to deliver the operating system for Nokia’s next generation of handsets. For the last two weeks, I’ve been trying out a Nokia that’s running Microsoft Windows 8 Mobile. Whilst there’s a lot about the phone I like, I can totally empathise with the Nokia shareholders who’re questioning the decision not to use Android as the Operating System. Perhaps they’d have got a quicker uptake and return, but Elop’s clinging on to the belief that the Windows Mobile platform will not only get as good as the Google equivalent, but better.
It could be a brave stance. It could be that Nokia are too far down the road now to back out. It could be a genius stroke that we’ll look back on in 5 to 10 years from now, when Nokia’s share price is back up to the $60 it was touching in 2000 (it’s currently floating at just under $4 but climbing)… or it could be 5 years from now, my kids won’t know who Nokia was, without Googling it.
My experience of the Nokia 920
Out of the box, it felt like a solid well built thing. It’s screen is very clear, the touch technology is close to perfection and it’s slick. Very slick. It looks and feels great and the home screen (windows) is actually a winning concept. The tiles idea really works. Set up was hassle free; it grabbed all the data it needed from my accounts and hooked me up with my clouds very quickly. The battery life is considerably better than my Nexus phone and the camera is comparable. It’s got a stand apart design – I’ve got the black one, but the red is especially appealing on the eye. The operating system though, now there’s the rub – I think it’s a grower. I didn’t like it at first, but over the first day or so, I got to know it, and I’ve grown to like it. The ‘home screen’ feel and usability is perhaps the best out of the smart phone bunch. Customisable with with a rigid rule book. Obvious, practical and, it looks good.
The lack of instagram – an app that I’ve grown to love – was the first sad face moment. Tweetdeck the second. Being an Androogle head for the last few years means I’ve poured a lot of my personal data into that space – loads of ‘stars’ on my google map, docs and emails for instance – are no longer native. There’s a feel that the development on some of the apps there have been second fiddle to the Android and Apple counterparts – things like Audible (which I use daily), doesn’t automatically pause when the phone sat nav speaks. Surely that would have been an obvious thing to get right. The embryonic feel is accentuated by the lack of reviews for apps. Ebay for instance has 310K reviews for its Android app, 100k for the iPhone version and just over 1k for the Windows phone.
Looking back though, the Nokia brand is one that I found reliable for years. Most of my early handsets were Nokia. I’ve always been an ‘early adopter’ of new technology and Nokia came up trumps a lot of the time. Nokia lost the camera phone race (in my part of the world) to a Sony Ericsson 68i but soon caught up and before long owned the market place. For years, they were the market leaders, had huge brand loyalty and familiarity tie in.
A few of its native apps are fantastic though and I think it’s this kind of technology and experience that if anything is going to help put Nokia back on the map, it’ll be these. PhotoBeamer for instance – a genius app that lets you use what ever screen is near you to display photos. No wires, nothing to install – very clever. I’ve also really enjoying playing with Cinemagraph. The smart shoot function is also very handy and I’ve really found the SkyDrive integration better than Android to Google Drive integration. Quite liked Nokia Music for a bit, but it became too restrictive, so I installed Spotify.
The first thing I’m likely to do though, when I put the sim back in my android tomorrow, is hunting for versions of some of the things I’ve been playing with. I get the feeling, that a lot of them, I’ll find. Microsoft to me doesn’t sit as well with my personal life – To me, it’s a corporate IT services brand, Google is still busy not being Evil and according to the rhetoric from last weeks Google IO has a lot of amazing stuff, up its sleeve.
In summary, I’m still drawn towards Google as an OS but think Nokia still has what it takes, with the hardware and electronics. I get where Nokia are pitching this – a place that’s not Apple, Not Android but a new brave new world built on top of two old empires. I think they’re after an emerging market – a demographic that seems themselves as sitting aside from all that bickering. Interestingly, they recently chose to launch their new flagship Lumia phone in Vanity Fair – a demographic who’s readership is pigeonholed as high brow, well heeled and middle aged.
Back to Elop’s dilemma though.. Is it a bold piece of foresight that’ll reach the tipping point, or, is it the nail in the coffin of the former world #1 phone giant? Are the investors who are berating the decision to go with Miscrosoft over Nokia about to eat their hats? Only time will tell. Which ever way it goes though, there’s going to be one true winner and that’s me and you. The consumer.