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Nokia in 2004:
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. (And Everything in Between)

3rd December 2004

Of all mobile phone manufacturers, none seems to create more interest than Nokia. And for Nokia, 2004 was one of their most difficult years. At the beginning of the year it was clear that Nokia was rapidly losing market share to its rivals who consistently offered more interesting products, especially in the midrange market. However, Nokia responded to the challenge and by the end of 2004 began to stabilise the situation by producing more products and lowering prices.


The Good

 Nokia 9500 Announced way back in February, but actually shipping at the end of November, the Nokia 9500 (pictured right) was the very overdue replacement for the 9210i that started shipping in 2002. Along with the 8910i and the 8310, the 9210i was a dinosaur in Nokia's range, and although much loved by its fans, it was terribly out-of-date, not even supporting GPRS. The 9500 is a huge improvement in software and hardware terms, coming with EDGE and WiFi plus a VGA resolution digital camera. It is a bit smaller and lighter than the 9210i too, but still comes in at a hefty 222 grams.

 Nokia 9300 However, Nokia managed to upstage the 9500 with the announcement of the Nokia 9300 (left), essentially a stripped down and more compact version of the 9500 without WiFi or the camera, coming in at just 167 grams and a little larger than the old Nokia 6310i handset. Much closer in concept to the previous 9210i model, the 9300 is due to ship at the beginning of 2005, which is handy because it's a much more attractive and desirable handset than the 9500 to many people. But in any case, these phones are incredibly distinctive, and serve as fitting flagships to the Nokia range.

Unfortunately, both the 9300 and 9500 run Symbian Series 80, which Nokia has indicated it will not use going forwards, concentrating on derivatives of their Series 60 and 90 operating systems. This is a regrettable cloud over these handsets and will be a worry for many potential corporate customers.

 Nokia 7710 Also up at the high end of Nokia's range is the upcoming Nokia 7710 (right) based on the cancelled Nokia 7700 media device. A staggeringly sophisticated unit, it's due for release in early 2005 and makes up for the disappointment of the 7700's cancellation. Like the 9300 and 9500, this is a niche product but an important one. Perhaps 2005 will see Nokia product a 3G version of this, so that the 7710's rich media capabilities can be seen to full effect.

 Nokia 7280 Sticking with weird and wonderful Nokias, the rather unexpected Nokia 7280 phone (left) showed that Nokia isn't afraid to push the boat out in design terms. It's never destined to be a mainstream phone, but there are design elements that are sure to be included in other Nokias in 2005. The biggest drawback with the 7280 though is price, at almost 600 for a SIM free phone it is very expensive. The SIM free price is important, because many people would want the 7280 as a "second phone". It's worth noting that Siemens tried a similar range of more basic fashion phones with the Xelibri series at about half the price, but this project was cancelled in 2004 because of slow sales. However, we suspect that Nokia is happy to keep the 7280 as a low-volume, high-ticket item for now.

 Nokia 3230 A little more conventional, but still not quite mainstream is the Nokia 3230 (right) due in early 2005. A youth-orientated Smartphone, it comes with a decent resolution screen, camera, Bluetooth and expandable memory, plus a set of clever applications for manipulating video clips and playing back media. Strictly speaking, this is the successor to the unpopular Nokia 3660, but we think it's much more like a  Nokia 6630 mini version of the 7710 (above). The basic hardware platform is similar to the 7610 and 6670 phones which we'll talk about later.

There's also a passing resemblance between the 3230 and the chubby-cheeked Nokia 6630 (left), a practical 3G phone, and Nokia's first real attempt at a mainstream 3G handset. In specification terms, it's rather better than many 3G handsets, it looks quite good and it has the all-important Nokia badge on the front. Perhaps Nokia left it a little late to come out with this, but we think it's come at the right time and is available now on several different 3G networks.

 Nokia 6170 2004 was also the year that Nokia tried to get into the clamshell market, after the rather strange Nokia 7200 announced in 2003. The Nokia 6170 (pictured right) is actually a rather dull phone in technical terms, but Nokia have put it in a drop-dead gorgeous stainless steel case and the phone looks brilliant.

 Nokia 3220 The 6170 wasn't the only not-terrible-advanced-but-well-packaged phone. The Nokia 3220 is basically a fairly common and basic platform with a couple of gimmicks thrown in, but it all works rather well and the 3220 is certainly one of the most fun handsets on the market. The replacement for the Nokia 3200, this little phone is much better in terms of looks and functionality. It even feels great when you pick it up.

 Nokia 2600 Finally, in the "good" camp is the Nokia 2600 (right). This is an almost shockingly basic phone, but it does come with a colour display and it looks very smart too. This is almost the perfect budget phone for someone who just needs to make phone calls and send a text message from time-to-time, and it's smart looks mean that it's not something you'd ever be embarrassed to pull out of your pocket.

It's clear that Nokia have come up with some first class handsets during 2004 and into 2005. However, that not the whole picture, because there's also..


The Bad and the Ugly.

 Nokia 7620 We kick off with a phone that's both bad and ugly at the same time, and in our view is not just Nokia's worst handset of 2004, but in our view one of the worst handsets ever made by a major manufacturer. We're talking about the Nokia 7260 (left), a phone that combines really naff specifications with jaw-droppingly awful looks. In hardware terms, the phone looks like it's straight out of early 2003 rather than late 2004, and the styling is just a complete disaster area.

 Nokia 7610 The 7260's design was clearly designed to be similar to the Nokia 7610, which is a good phone in hardware terms, very similar to the Nokia 3230 which we like a lot, but the 7610 was saddled with one of the most stupid keypads we've ever seen. A lot of people love this phone, but we think that Nokia spoiled it by daft styling. It actually has a good screen, camera and counts as a Smartphone because of the Symbian Series 60 OS. Had they designed something a little more sober, then it would be a great phone. However, at least the Nokia 7610's keypad has some sort of design integrity, because..

 Nokia 6670 ..it was then rehashed as the Nokia 6670 "business" phone (left), basically by gluing a keyboard from a Nokia 6600 on it. Although it shares pretty much the same exact specifications as the 7610, the keyboard doesn't go with the unit at all, and just looks a complete mess. In our view, all Nokia needed to do was put the 7610 components in a sober housing and it would be great, but as it is, the Nokia 6670 is a phone we'd just be embarrassed to carry around.

 Nokia 6610i However, at least the 7260 and 7610 showed some creativity. Nokia managed to completely underwhelm us with the Nokia 6610i (right), a warmed over phone from 2002 with a basic digital camera stuck on the back. We can only imagine how desperate Nokia were to come up with something this sad. Thankfully, we think that the 6610i might be a short-lived handset. Unfortunately, the replacement for the 6610i seems to be..

 Nokia 6020 ..the Nokia 6020 (left), which although quite attractive to look at offers exactly nothing interesting in technical terms. We were all hoping for a replacement for the classic Nokia 6310i handset. This wasn't it, and quite why Nokia bothered to develop it at all is a mystery to us.

Now.. we know that some people love these handsets, and we believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion.. including us. What we think we have here is Nokia's problems in a nutshell. They're either spoiling good products like the 7610 and 6670 with stupid styling, or coming up with phones with no real unique selling proposition like the 6020 and 6610i. Or worse still, they manage to combine awful styling with poor technical specifications to come up with the Nokia 7260.. a phone that should serve as a warning to future generations of mobile phone designers on how not to do it.


 Nokia 6260 And Everything in Between

The Nokia 6260 (pictured right) is basically a enhanced clamshell version of the Nokia 6230. Although it does some clever twisting and swivelling, has a much improved screen and more powerful operating system, it's an enormous and actually rather lacklustre handset. Fortunately for Nokia, it has the words "Nokia" written on it which has meant that it's sold reasonably well.

 Nokia 7270 The Nokia 7270 (left) is a fashion clamshell phone due in early 2005, and is more or less a straight replacement for the Nokia 7200. In hardware terms it's nothing special, but better than many Nokias and has some interesting design features. Again, this phone is clearly influenced by many others in the 7000 series, but here it works rather well.

 Nokia N-Gage QD Nokia also updated the strange N-Gage games console with the Nokia N-Gage QD (right), ironing out some design flaws and coming up with something cleaner and easier to use. The original N-Gage was a bit of a flop, and the jury is still out on the QD, but perhaps it will hit the big time in 2005.

 Nokia 2650 Finally in our line-up is another odd looking phone, the Nokia 2650. Although we were rather cruel about its looks when released, we must admit that it's a very nice phone to handle and we've grown to like it. It's certainly a different way of designing an entry-level clamshell, although it would be nice perhaps if Nokia could design a more normal clamshell than the range announced in 2004.

 


We've just covered the phones announced in 2004 here, but plenty of phones from 2003 are still selling well, including the Nokia 6230, 6820, and 6600. There have also been some notable departures, including the Nokia 6310i business phone, and the Nokia 3510i colour phone which are still just about in the retail channel. There are well over 40 Nokias currently on the market (you can see most of them at ShopForPhones). Nokia have promised dozens of new handsets for 2005. You might love 'em or hate 'em, but even the ugly ones are interesting!

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