By now you have heard extensively of news that a good part of the Nokia we know is being sold off to its bed-mate for the last two years, Microsoft, for some 5.44 billion Euros ($7.15 billion plus the patents leased). As much as some of us moved on to some emergent platforms like Google’s Android, Nokia has always been home. More homely than any of the OEMs whose Android devices we now use. Most of us can relate. The first ever phone we used was a Nokia. The first camera phone we ever used was most likely on a Nokia mobile phone. For a company that started as a pulp mill way back in 1865 and that embodies the early lives of many of us, it is emotional to receive such news. Count this as an eulogy to Nokia’s handsets which we all grew to love and adore.
If it is design, Nokia had it, if it is the technology, they knew how to handle it well. Back in the day who wouldn’t salivate at a Nokia N95? Who didn’t stop flipping over the many pages of PC Magazine (before tech blogs, I read those) to just admire the Nokia 9000 Communicator? The mulika mwizi tales in East Africa are well documented. To the point of having blogs named after them. In one way or another, Nokia has been that brand that has been with us, seen us grow and seemingly grown with us. Unfortunately, the face of Nokia, the phones, also happens to die in our lifetime. We all come from various backgrounds but for the last ten or so years there has been one constant in all our homes, urban or rural: a Nokia charger. Either the small pin or large pin. The situation may be different in the west where the likes of Palm, Compaq (yes Compaq) and later Blackberry gave Nokia a run for its money but locally, Nokia feature phones ruled. They were simple, easy to use, sturdy (you know how tough the 3310 was don’t you?) and had great battery life. For a developing nation like ours, before the smartphone bug started biting, that was all we could ask for in a phone. And for several years we remained loyal.
Then came the gorgeous smartphones from Nokia: the likes of the N8 with a great camera and the transitional N9 which I was sad to see being abandoned. While I remember fiddling with a relative’s PocketPC running Windows Mobile CE, I was a big lover of Symbian. It was functional and just worked! Even now mighty Samsung shipped phones running Symbian back then. Then came the Meego-powered Nokia N9; one of the last few Nokia phones that I really loved. The OS was cool. The app icons stood out and the boy inside me still believes it would have been a big success had it not been killed in its infancy. Most members of the Meego-Harmattan teams departed when it was shelved into oblivion by new CEO Elop and are now behind the OS that got us talking sometime last year, Jolla Sailfish. Though Sailfish is far from being the OS that we’ll have on our devices as a daily driver and is still in development on a handful of devices, it embodies much about everything that Nokia could have become had it taken Meego so seriously. Anyway they say change is inevitable and furthermore Nokia was, in the words of Elop, “on a burning platform”. I’ll leave it for others to analyze and make conclusions as to whether Nokia’s decision to go the Windows Phone way and dump Meego and let Symbian to just die was right or wrong but I’ll add one thing: it’s quite sad that they ignored Android at that moment. Had Nokia decided then to go the Android way, I doubt Samsung would be the lone ranger that it is today (as the company making the most money from Android than any other OEM).
I was never a fan of Windows Phone 7 but I did like the Nokia 900 (and I still do). It is Windows Phone 8 that got me giving the Microsoft platform some attention. Not because of Microsoft but because of Nokia. Nokia’s execution of WP was (and still remains) the best. I liked the Lumia 920 right from day one. While many other better specced Lumias have come out since last’s year’s announcement of the 920, that device embodied Nokia’s top craftsmanship and design tastes. No one can dispute that while there is almost a consensus that most manufacturers don’t get it when it comes to plastic designs on their smartphones, the matte finish of the Lumias is superior. The thing is, the Nokia team that handled hardware will still be around (but now under Redmond’s wrap) so we can still expect some top quality devices but the fact that we will no longer see the Nokia branding on handsets for a long time to come is something disheartening in itself. Even with all the Microsoft looks plastered everywhere, the Lumia devices got one major boost from their maker: identity. The Nokia brand was a confidence boost to most consumers. I can’t wait to see how the Lumias will be branded going forward since the Nokia name is now reserved for what remains of the Finish company outside of the handset business but I have my doubts. At no point have I been attracted to the Surface RT, Microsoft’s solo attempt at gaining some of the tablet marketshare. I like the Surface Pro simply because it is a more portable PC than a laptop (but less of an ultrabook) and a more capable tablet than most tablets in the market.
The point is that the Nokia brand on our phones will be missed. It was iconic. Since not many of us work with telecommunication companies or firms affiliated with them, the Nokia name is something we’ll now just be reading of in Financial Times (thanks to the stocks) and not something we can directly relate with (holstered on our pants or lying in our pant pockets). This is not HP or Panasonic that announce that they are leaving the mobile space and we easily sweep the news under the carpet. It is Nokia and it will surely be missed. I can’t say RIP Nokia since it will still be involved in handling and powering the telecoms infrastructure that supports my carriers (through NSN – not Nokia Siemens Networks but Nokia Solutions Networks) for my smartphone to work but it is something along those lines.
Worse off, my dreams of owning a Nokia smartphone running Android [insert random dessert name here] out of the box are all gone. Sob.