Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Nokia Slims for Style

Seems like the early buzz is going Nokia's way with it new handsets at 3GSM. The RED HERRING writes about the company's latest attempt to out Razr Motorola with new sleek flip phones. The new Nokia 6131 is a camera phone with 8x digital zoom, a digital music player, an FM stereo radio, audio messaging, and push-to-talk capability. It is "expected to go on sale in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the second quarter."

Edward Snyder at Charter Equity Research pointed out that Nokia has been "lagging behind in style and design, resulting in weak sales in the United States and in Latin America." He noted the company was working on new stylish flip and music phones to improve its chances of a hit. Snyder said, "If Nokia can come up with something compelling, from the form factor, it will become the leader, eventually crushing Apple,. That’s an ‘if’ right now," since its music phones "haven’t been compelling."

Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin, who hasn't seen the newest Nokia handsets, couldn't say "whether this is the one that’s going to do it for them."

Golvin wasn't sure if the 6131 was an attempt by Nokia to deliver a RAZR-like handset, but if so he said, "it’s not the right strategy. Nokia has its own design language and they need to get that connected to the consumer psyche in the same way that the RAZR and now the SLVR [Motorola’s latest iTunes phone] have. They need to take their own design and feel and build them into the marketplace."

Golvin commented that "for years, Nokia was very focused on candy-bar phones, and some of its new flip phone models—while they don’t look like everyone else’s—have felt “like a little bit of catch-up." He said, "I would say the product designs are more diverse than Motorola’s line, and maybe that is a failing."

With that said, Golvin added, "Nokia has actually always had a fairly forward-looking design sense. In their history, there have been times when Nokia has been almost where Motorola is now with the RAZR. These things go in waves, where somebody is able to hit something in design that really resonates with the market as a whole. Just because Motorola is riding high now, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way for a long time."

Golvin concluded, "When you look at the RAZR, yeah, design is an important element of their choice, but it’s also the marketing, and the great success they’ve had at getting celebrities. Getting the ‘it’ factor. There’s no question Nokia has missed that."