I have been with T-Mobile for about ten years, and my first phone was, if I recall correctly, a Nokia candy phone of the Symbian 60 model 3300 variety. I learned to text message on this device. Along the way, I have also had a Samsung SGH-R255M, pictured above, that fits the palm of my hand, and a Sony Ericsson T80. I have had a Nokia slider Music 5300 that also fit nicely in the palm of my hand, that I still carry with me when I travel to Canada or Europe and slip in a local SIM card. I must say that I do like the ability to easily slip my phone in my pocket. The 5″ sized Samsung of late boggles my mind, as one needs a purse for such a phone.
My introduction to smart phones, was really, I guess, a pseudo smart-phone, the Nokia 5230 Nuron, which I was (I hate to admit it, but it is true..) using until I finally cut the SIM and stuck it into the OS 10 Dev Alpha device a few months ago. Having been using the BlackBerry OS 10 device, it is not likely that I will go back to Nokia, especially with the Windows partnership. None the less, I recently decided to buy some Nokia stock to balance my BlackBerry holdings. At $3.32 it is a bargain, and I think it can only increase in value over the long term.
Nokia 5230 Nuron shown above
So, I thought that I would write about what Nokia is up to, near as I can see. It seems like the company is betting on volume sales by making an innovative phone that will sell for $20. The Nokia 105 features preloaded games, a color screen, a radio, a speaking clock and a flashlight. The phone, Nokia’s cheapest ever, has been available for a few weeks in India and Indonesia and will soon start selling in Europe. The phone is expected to have margins of 20% and compete with the Chinese entries from ZTE and Huawei Technologies Co. that have whittled away at Nokia’s volume sales of low end phones. The same can be said about what is now happening to BlackBerry’s OS 7 base. The idea is to build brand loyalty at the low end to carry through to the higher end Lumia lines. From the Bloomberg article referenced below:
“The low-end, high-volume part of the mobile-phone market is a huge opportunity for Nokia (NOK1V) in developing countries,” said Francisco Jeronimo, an analyst at IDC in London. “These users will be likely to upgrade to more expensive phones over time, so it’s a good strategy to keep a high market share in this segment. The 105 is “very competitive” and should help Nokia with its low-end recovery effort, said Neil Mawston, an analyst at researcher Strategy Analytics in London. A predecessor to the 105, called the 1280, sold more than 100 million units over three years. Simpler phones have “been the bedrock of Nokia’s business for the past decade,” Mawston said.
Nokia’s expertise in handset production makes it possible to turn a profit on a $20 phone, Jeronimo said. For years the world’s largest mobile-phone maker and now No. 2, Nokia makes more than 600,000 phones a day in seven factories around the world, using parts from suppliers it knows well. Chinese rivals may be able to make a device as cheap as the 105, but they lack the features and services from Nokia, Jeronimo said.
The candybar-shaped 105 is 25 percent cheaper than the Nokia 1280, yet its battery lasts 56 percent longer — 35 days. The phone is resistant to water and dust and comes with text- message-based tools that teach English and provide basic health- care advice.
Despite such features, the company sought to simplify the phone’s software, which in turn allowed it to use cheaper parts, said Dirk Didascalou, head of R&D for Nokia’s mobile-phone business.
“To be successful at the low end, one needs to explicitly do innovative work with a focus on delivering value,” he said by phone from Nokia’s research facility in Beijing. “If you don’t, you get in a cost spiral where you’re always a bit too expensive compared to somebody else.”
Even as the slump in simple handsets has stolen investor attention, Nokia’s main goal is to make a full recovery in smartphones, where profit margins are widest. Apple (AAPL)’s 32- gigabyte iPhone 5 sells for $750, while Samsung’s Galaxy S4 goes for $640 and Nokia’s flagship Lumia 920 is $450.
Nokia sold 5.6 million Lumia phones, which run on Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Windows, in the first quarter, up from 4.4 million in the previous three months. But the iPhone and Android control more than 90 percent of the smartphone market, while Nokia has just 3 percent, according to Strategy Analytics. So it’s far from clear Nokia can break that dominance even if its low-end devices recover, said Mikko Ervasti, an analyst at Evli Bank in Helsinki.
“Nokia may still be the second-biggest phone maker in the world,” Ervasti said. “But if it’s going to have a chance at long-term success it needs to make sure it also has the right smartphones.”
Nokia 105 shown above
Disclosure: I am long on BBRY & NOK.
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