Remember your first phone? That old Nokia. It lived faithfully by your side for all those years, through the ups and downs, thick and thin, and despite all the metaphorical and literal knocks and falls of life, it still miraculously kept going. You played countless hours of Snake and Bounce on its tiny pixelated screen, its buttons worn from the constant mashing of your fingers. Back in those days when phones were only meant for calling and texting, your Nokia was your best friend.
And then smartphones came along, and the rest as we know it, is history.
Several weeks back Microsoft quietly announced the Microsoft Lumia 535, and for the first time, sitting where the word “NOKIA” has been for decades, is the word “Microsoft”. And while most people didn’t really notice this subtle change, that day marked the death of Nokia.
But Nokia isn’t actually dead, unlike what most people would believe. They’re just… missing in action (Halo reference intended).
You see, firstly, Microsoft only bought a portion of Nokia – their mobile device business – and hence the rest of Nokia is still very much alive and kicking.
But that still means that you won’t be seeing any new Nokia phones for the next couple of years; the parts of Nokia that’s left is its Mobile Solutions, HERE, and Technologies divisions, which are all not involved in phone manufacturing in any way. You’ve probably heard of HERE; it’s one of the best mapping softwares out there, in my humble opinion, and the Technologies divisions is the one which brought you the recently launched Nokia Z Launcher for Android.
Secondly, Nokia is not allowed to manufacture any Nokia-branded phones only until 31 December 2015, which means that they can continue to produce phones in 2016. And already, Nokia has announced the Nokia N1 tablet, a brand new 64-bit device that runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop. They’re not manufacturing it themselves though, instead they got Foxconn to do it for them.
And this is why this post isn’t entitled “Nokia: A Requiem” as I had originally intended. A requiem is to remember someone who’s dead. And Nokia isn’t. They’re not making anymore phones for now, but they’re still doing some pretty cool stuff, and the Nokia Lumia line of Windows Phones still lives on as Microsoft Lumia.
Everyone I’ve spoken to though, seems to believe that Nokia is dead. That they’ve gone bankrupt years ago, that the only legacy they had was their army of indestructible T9 phones. They know nothing about the pioneer that Nokia once was, the contributions that it has made to mankind as a key developer of GSM (the network that most of our phones all over the world operate on) and as one of the first few manufacturers of the mobile phone.
In 1987, Nokia gave birth to one of the world’s first mobile phones, the Mobira Cityman 900, which weighed a hefty 800g (thats almost 2 iPad Airs). And so marks the beginning of Nokia’s conquest of the mobile phone industry. Before they knew it, they were king, but their reign was short-lived.
What’s astonishing is how Nokia fell so rapidly from being the top phone manufacturer in the world to becoming well… what it is today. 20 years after the launch of the Mobira Cityman 900, Symbian (Nokia’s homegrown operating system) had a dominating 62.5% market share, ahead of Windows Mobile (11.9%) and RIM (aka Blackberry) (10.9%).
Notice how all the tech giants of 2007 are pretty much completely absent from the mobile market of today. Frightening how fast the mobile industry changes. Because on a fateful day in 2007, at the Moscone Convention Centre in San Francisco, Steve Jobs, in his humble turtleneck tee and jeans, declared “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone”.
And unfortunately for Nokia, they did.
Later that year, Google acquired Android, flooding the market with cheap and affordable droids. And while everyone else was hopping into the Android bandwagon, Nokia kept to its roots, placing its trust on Symbian and Meego. And when its hopes dried up, it turned to Microsoft to save them.
Perhaps Nokia’s failure could be attributed to its inertia to change, some subconscious complacency at its core that made it believe that maybe – just maybe – they could retain their dominance because they were Nokia.
For those of us who remember the time that we spent with our non-smart mobile phones, who watched hopefully as the first Lumias made it to the shelves, who believed in the venerable brand that was Nokia, we have lost a piece of history. But for the rest of the world, it was lost long ago, on that morning of January 2007, when phones became smart.