Why the Nokia 5800 is good news for the iPhone

Nokia recently announced their first S60 5th edition touchscreen phone – the 5800 XpressMusic, Frankly, it looks superb. I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow comparison – ShinyShiny already has that covered – but the entrance of the world’s dominant phone manufacturer into the space carved out by Apple demands a closer look. What will be the knock on effect for the iPhone?

The myth of the x-killer

Let me get this little bugbear out of the way first. The 5800 is no iPhone killer, because there is no “iPhone killer”. Similarly, there is no “Android killer”, “S60 killer”, etc. These phones are in competition at the high end of the market, but the implication of the “x killer” is that this phone will win! This is a misnomer, as there is no “winner” and no finish line. The idea of the uber-device is a gadget fan’s dream that will not be fulfilled until the release of the SuperOmniBrain. Even then, SuperOmniBrain v2 will be right around the corner.

My point is that all devices are superseded by better devices from both rivals and from within their own companies. The best is what’s best for you at this point in time. Rant over.

What’s so great about the 5800?

One word sums it up in relation to the iPhone: competition. Wait, stop there! Before you mention the iPhone’s comparatively small unit sales, the lack of features, the lack of carrier choice – I know, and I agree. In many ways the iPhone has barely scratched the surface of competing with Nokia and other phone manufacturers. But it’s undeniable that the iPhone has been a success in its market segment, and that it has that something that people want.

On first impressions, I believe that the 5800 also has that something. It’s got the iPhone-esque large attractive touchscreen, the graphical fanciness using intuitive accelerometer, and very capable music and video capabilities. It’s got the wow factor.

The 5800 reflects Nokia’s ability to pack an awful lot in a small package. It is crammed with features, and has clearly been influenced by a lot of users’ feedback, telling Nokia what they want. And many of them want the iPhone plus.

iPhone +

But they want the iPhone plus a better camera, plus stereo speakers, plus bog-standard items like MMS and decent Bluetooth connectivity. This in turn reflects the multifunction use of the phone in the pocket – as the everyday camera, as the everyday MP3 player, as a device that can easily interact with the phones that your mates have. The 5800 delivers those things.

I’m sure that:

iPhonesque device + Nokia’s global reach + low price point (probably free) = massive hit

And, this is Nokia’s toe in the water. They will leverage their global dominance and rapidly churn out ever more feature-packed touchscreen devices. Apple has a definite winner in the user interface of the iPhone, but this will not stop people buying Nokia phones. Any usability issues with S60 devices have not stopped them selling well.

So why is this good for the iPhone?

It’s all about the competition. The iPhone will continue to sell well, but strong competition from Nokia and from Android phones will force Apple to continue to improve hardware and software features.

Yet Apple will also continue to exclude features that other phones have – in the name of usability. Sometimes you don’t need – and many people barely use – all the fluff that packed into phones these days. Less is often more.

But sometimes you do need those things. As one example, I certainly miss not being able to bluetooth contacts across to my friend’s phones. Competition can only help to convince Apple that they need to make a real push to include more of these features that are currently unimportant in their estimation, without destroying the simplicity of experience that the iPhone offers.

  • http://www.symbian-freak.com/ Apocalypso

    Blah, first of all it is even shame to compare the iPhone to powerful Smartphone Nokia Tube! It is not aimed to be iPhone killer (flagship killer is coming soon) but it still puts iPhone to shame in most of the tasks!

    I’m not an ardently anti-Apple, not at all, I just can’t resist to say that iPhone is nothing but the piece of the glass and steel with a nice screen over it and the extremely good fake advertising behind it. In other words Steve Jobs is a big fat liar and nothing he claims can be trusted without checking twice and it’s hard not to be angered and frustrated knowing that Mr. Jobs usually only telling the half-truth at best.

    Actually, if you’ve been here for long enough then you’re well aware of my opinion abut the iPhone, it was already discussed numerous times and I am not interesting in opening the same discussion again.

    The iPhone brings nothing new to the market, except multi touch of course; actually; if it brings anything new, it’s the look, and honestly, slim and sleek design has been seen before, and it will be done again, Prada is nice example and it going to be even better and better equipped phone with more features.

    We all know that iPhone is nothing but the crap, but general public won’t know that and most of them won’t even realize that when they actually buy one. iPhone is nothing but the it’s a piece of shit with nice screen over it and extremely good marketing behind.


  • http://www.symbian-freak.com/ Apocalypso

    Oh yes, at least put a proper 5800 photo on the article!

  • genXhippie

    Thanks for the article, and summing it up a strong point(for me at least). That being, “It’s all about the competition.” As a consumer that’s what desire, to push the development of products forward(no matter which brand). In short, I welcome as many players as possible onto the playing field, that being the market. 😉

  • http://www.allaboutiphone.net Matt Radford


    I completely agree with you – I’m all for competition, and despite running a blog devoted to the iPhone, I’m not a “my platform right or wrong” person. There are many flavours of phones out there, and there’s always a trade-off to be made in working out what’s best for *you*.

  • http://web.mac.com/jamesburland/Nokia_Creative/ James Burland

    I’m really impressed with the 5800, in terms of hardware I think it’s quite possibly the best smartphone thus far, but then Nokia have always made superb hardware.

    It’s the software that I’m more interested to see for myself, if it doesn’t ‘feel’ as good as it looks I’ll be gutted!

    Picking up your concluding thoughts regarding competition… I completely agree. 2008 has proven to be extraordinary year for the smartphone market and 2009 looks to be ever better, thanks mostly to the increased competition.

    Teo, how do you explain the iPhones industry beating customer satisfaction surveys? I feel your answer might be quite telling…

  • http://www.symbian-freak.com/ Apocalypso

    Hi James,

    I think I already answered on that question, more or less 😉 and sorry that post I didn’t meant to sound rude, actually I missed my breakfast today and therefore I’m in really bad mood whole day, I guess 😉

    Anyway, S60 has evolved in something better and I am not talking abut cosmetic changes and the touch extensions only! The whole platform is greatly improved but without code break and loosing the backward compatibility which is exceptionally important for an average end user of the S60 platform. Most of the applications that we are currently using will work just fine on Tube although Nokia will provide tools that will help developers to optimize their existing and new applications for touch interface.

    Nokia haven’t wasted two years of hard work on the 5th edition development for the tube only, this I just a first attempt to produce the touch based phone and we’ll get several new phones next year based on the same or similar user interface. Nokia is criticized a lot lately, on SF as well, mainly because of the lack of the high-end and somehow innovative phones but now it is obviously that they have been focused on developing the cheaper solutions for existing technologies to significantly reduce the price of the components and the end product.

    I guess that you’ll agree with me Tube is typical high-end phone from the technology point of view but thanks to its pretty low price it falls into mid-range category which is significant engineering achievement! It took so long indeed, but from other hand there is no great achievement that is not the result of patient working and waiting!

    Huge high-resolution screen, HSDPA, GPS, 3,2 MPX cam, DVD like 30 fps video, S60 5th edition, numerous different input methods, one hand usage, backward compatibility and all that for les than 300 euros for an unlocked free phone. I know it is not a power house like some of the Nseries phones but it is still respectable IMO! Who will really get android or iphone instead of this? Not to mention high-end touch that is on the way? Think about huge base, one billion fanatic Nokia users all around the world, what they’ll choose!? Switch to new brands and platforms or stay loyal to Nokia and Symbian!?

    Nokia is HUGE, really huge, the biggest handset makers in the world AFAIK and S60 has lot of fans. Actually I am trying to say that Nokia is so HUGE that it is even not necessary to be the first or even to have the best product to win the race and if price will be acceptable I am pretty sure that Tube will be pretty successful product no matter is it good phone or not. iPhone is a nice example, it is hot mostly because of the huge apple fans base and the very strong marketing.

    I also have to mention the multifunctional and multimode active standby which is also greatly improved and I think it is better than what the iPhone or Android offers at the moment although I accept that some of you will disagree with me.

    Last but not the least it is great move from Nokia to avoid the direct comparisons to the iPhone. Its first touch phone is announced as the XpressMusic a typical mid range music phone with touch features.

    Sorry 4 possible messy answer but I am in hurry really, my girlfriend waiting for me more than a hal hour and it can be deadly dangerous for me :]

    Have a nice and long weekend James and Matt and genXhippie


  • http://www.allaboutngage.com/ Tzer2

    Matt, thanks for taking such a mature attitude to this topic. I wish more Apple fans (and Nokia/Samsung/SonyEricsson etc fans!) would think along these lines and see that this isn’t some kind of tribal war.

    I don’t think tech fans realise just how important rivals are for a product. Competitors don’t harm a product, they make the product better because competition forces manufacturers to work harder.

    The best possible situation for phone user is to have lots of competitors none of whom dominate the marketplace, with market share constantly shifting between each other. It encourages everyone to make the best possible device they can, and sell it at the cheapest possible price too.

    Nokia’s 5800 is launching for an unusually low price with an unusually high number of features. Why? Because it’s in competition with the iPhone. It’s because of the iPhone that Nokia fans will save money, and hopefully the 5800 will return the favour to iPhone fans by pressuring Apple into improving their product and/or lowering their prices too. In other words competition benefits people on both sides, because all the phones will get better as a result of it.

    The one situation nobody should wish for is having one manufacturer dominating the marketplace, and thankfully that hasn’t happened with the phone world (even the mighty Nokia has never gone above 40% market share).

    At the end of the day rivalry between products isn’t a war, it’s actually a mutually beneficial process where all products get better because of it. The only winner is the end user, who gets more and pays less.

  • http://www.symbian-freak.com christexaport

    Don’t feel bad, Teo. We all need our Wheaties in the morning… I of all people know about crazy ranting. Your contribution wasn’t that in the least. You’re always respectful, so I doubt anyone was offended. (A real sweetheart, that ol’ Apoc. 😉 )

    Now that the 5800 is announced, it will represent two things. First, its the iPhone. Users will compare it on price first, where it wins. But it won’t steal iTunes users immediately. But I’ve already heard iPhone users speak of multitasking and imaging features they’ll be upgrading to with the 5800. So when Best Buy has it on the shelf for users to touch, it’ll soon be discovered as a much more powerful and capable device than the iPhone. It’ll fill the upgrade path to better hardware Apple refuses to provide. This is good for Nokia as well. Imagine the perception that’ll pervade when you learn you can replace the top of the line iPhone with an entry-level to mid-level S60/Nokia. It gives premium status to S60 as a smartphone platform, positions the iPhone as a higher priced neophyte’s device, and actually steals some of the iPhone’s swagger. It’ll force Apple to either improve or figure how to get more older, less tech savvy users to continue to choose its device.

  • http://thoughtsons60.com JonnyBruha

    I really liked where you started going with this article, but it seems like you’re final point (being the 5800 XM is good for the iPhone) is shared with the other devices just as much as the iPhone. Your pivotal remarks about the importance of competition will be good for the iPhone, the G1, the Tube, and any other mid-tier touch screen device on the market. I think that was your point, but it looks like you bent it back in specifically towards the iPhone for seemingly no reason?

    @chris, the other thing the Tube will do is help people realize that the iPhone isn’t and never has been a high-end device. The 5800 is Nokia tossing the world a bone in touch screen form, a mid-tier device as everyone agrees that, feature-for-feature, outperforms the iPhone. It just reinforces Nokia’s foothold in the market by being able to put out what they consider a mediocre device, but even that device has dozens of one-ups over their competition. Makes you curious as to how silly a high-end Nseries touch device will be when its launched.

    Per the message of the article, I agree that competition is good for all of the players involved and it’s finally starting to look like it’s going to be beneficial for the consumers like it was supposed to be all along.

  • http://web.mac.com/jamesburland/Nokia_Creative/ James Burland

    I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I’ll repeat it here because I feel it’s worth stating twice;

    Thank goodness the smartphone/pocket computer marketplace is nothing like the PC market! A year from now there will be 3 or 4 mature operating systems to choose from, each with a healthy slice of the market and each with an impressive range of supported devices. They win, we win. What could be better?

    There are some really thoughtful comments here… thanks to everyone who contributed.

  • http://www.allaboutiphone.net Matt Radford


    Well, it turned back towards the impact on the iPhone because it’s an iPhone blog :) I didn’t expect such an influx from AAS!

    As James said, there have been some quite astute comments. The 5800 does steal some of the swagger from the iPhone, especially as Nokia is positioning it as an affordable mid-level device. Apple – and everyone else – will have to step it up a gear.

    But that’s not to say that Apple still don’t have a certain amount of special sauce that draws people to the iPhone specifically. It has a beautiful UI that’s appealing both to users, and to developers who (despite issues with the App Store) have a singular environment to code for, and a solid route to market.

    I could go on, but I’ll just say again that it’s great that people have increasing choice between several very strong platforms. The mobile future is plural.

  • Lark

    I don’t think the Tube is feature for feature better than iphone. It appears that nearly every reviewer says that the web browsing experience on an iphone is superior.
    However is internet browsing more important than the other aspect. Anyway I will buy a tube based on price and width.

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