If you read comments on different gadget blogs or listen to their podcasts, like i do, then every once in a while you’ll probably come across someone, who says something like “Well, Nokia certainly has great hardware”, or “The problem with Nokia isn’t the hardware — it’s the software”, etc. And every time i read or hear this i ask myself, maybe they’re talking about some other Nokia, which i know nothing about? Because the Nokia that i do know certainly didn’t produce any great or even good hardware in the last five or more years.
Yes, back in the 90’s Nokia certainly did great hardware — even though they weren’t cheap, their design and build quality was so good, that consumers in many countries, which weren’t on a tight budget, didn’t even consider anything other than a Nokia, when choosing their new device. One can even say, that Nokia back then was iconic. And with good stuff came their market dominance, which they established on a wide variety of markets (mostly in Europe).
But you know what? Competition from Samsung and other manufacturers, which tried to compete mostly based on price, forced Nokia’s executives to follow along. Trying to lower the prices, Nokia started to lower their quality standards. The results were quite predictable.
I saw it whit my own eyes, as my job was related to sales of mobile phones. Even back in 2005 the quality of Nokia phones wasn’t as good as it used to be. And as time passed it was getting even worse. Most new phones had so much problems, that there were even internal memos for staff to encourage consumers to buy non-Nokia phones, when possible.
The flip or slide mechanisms didn’t work right or consistent enough. Battery covers either were too tough (couldn’t open or close the cover, without the possibility of breaking them) or too flimsy (the cover opened by it self). The keyboards and volume rockers just broke, displays died. But one of the most frustrating problems for people were problems with the microphone and speakers of those phones. Imagine a person with a month-old Nokia 8800 phone, that is talking on the phone, while holding it in front of his face — why? because the something inside died and now it’s usable only in speaker-phone mode. That was the sad reality of Nokia.
Despite this, consumer inertia is and was strong, so the majority of people still bought Nokia phones, especially because there weren’t anything on the market that was significantly better. But with the iPhone and the explosion of the mass smartphone market, the situation finally changed.
What did Nokia put up to fight the iPhone? Numerous videos of the mythical “Nokia 5800 Tube”, that probably was a redesigned iPhone or just some computer-generated imagery, because the shipping product had almost nothing to do with those videos, even though it shipped much later then the videos appeared.
The long awaited (mostly by hordes of Nokia fans) “iPhone killer” from Nokia turned out to be not a killer, but a suicide girl. The Nokia 5800 was utter crap, not only because of software (which indeed was crappy, laggy and buggy as hell), but because of hardware — the shipping phones almost fell apart in consumer hands. That was the last chance for Nokia to maintain their loyal consumers and the blew it. After the Nokia 5800 disaster many people finally started to jump ship and looked away from Nokia.
Even die-hard fans of the full-qwerty E-series, which didn’t care about out-dated software, noticed the hardware problems and went for other options. Yes, not all phones from Nokia were this bad, but you certainly couldn’t say that Nokia had great hardware, because not in the last five years it didn’t.