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My point is that all devices are superseded by better devices from both rivals and from within their own companies.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.
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.