Bob Schwartz

Tag: mobile

When Nokia Ruled the Mobile World

Nokia 1110

Microsoft is reportedly killing the Nokia brand, after having spent billions to buy the iconic company in hopes of boosting its stalled Windows Phone presence.

We are not surprised. Microsoft is the all-time tech accidental/incidental behemoth. Right place, right time, a few fortuitous decisions, strategic appropriations rather than innovations, and the next thing you know, we’re living and working in a mostly Microsoft world. Which is why Microsoft is constantly fixing what isn’t broken, and annoying and frustrating millions of users every second of every day.

The Tech Advisor article on the Nokia move led to one on the Top 10 Best Selling Mobile Phones in History.

Of those best selling mobile phones, 9 of the 10 are from Nokia (the Motorola RAZR V3 comes in at number 8). You may be used to what you think are big numbers, but at the top of the list—maybe forever—is the Nokia 1100:

The best-selling mobile phone ever is believed to be the Nokia 1100, which was released in 2003 and sold more than 250 million units. That’s more than any iPhone model. The success of the Nokia 1100 was not down to its features – it didn’t have a camera or even a colour display – but it was cheap, durable and did the jobs any mobile phone should.

Depending on your generation, you may not recognize the form factor of these Nokia phones. It was called a “candy bar” for pretty obvious reasons. If you were around for these, you also know that these were some of the most stylishly functional tech gadgets of all time: strikingly beautiful, naturally comfortable, reliably useful. Nokia did not sell over a billion and a half of the phones on the list because they were the only ones around; they sold them because they were the best and the coolest. (If that sounds like the iPhone story, it might a little, except that the Nokia phones were way cooler than any iPhone.)

Time does pass, and best is not biggest forever. Nokia’s big mistake was sticking to its proprietary operating system, Symbian, rather than adopting the then-nascent Android. If Nokia had gone Android early, it is possible we wouldn’t be talking about Samsung or Apple mobile the way we do. What later ended up happening was the marriage between a number 3 operating system, Windows, to a long past noble brand. It was a union that was never going to last.

In that box over there, though, are a couple of gorgeous Nokia phones that carried me into the mobile age and that I relinquished with great reluctance. A few years ago, when smartphones were still using the old, bigger SIM cards, I even switched SIMs and fired one of those Nokias up when a smartphone went temporarily down. Sure the Nokia seems rudimentary now. But I could still talk and listen, and still caress that Scandinavian beauty in my hand. Something Microsoft would never understand.

Android: Eat Dessert Last


On October 29, Google will introduce a new mobile device based on Key Lime Pie, the latest and likely sweetest version of the Android operating system.

This is great news for some. But for many Android users, who are looking for a little more sugar, it is somewhat strange.

The strangeness is that a number of high-end and upgradable devices sold just within the past year are still waiting for the last two Android upgrades. Some running on Gingerbread have been waiting for much of this year for Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0). Ice Cream Sandwich devices have been waiting months for Jelly Bean (4.2). Before all that happens for many devices, Key Lime Pie (4.3) will be a delicious reality—for some, but hardly for all.

The cause of the backlog is what has come to be called Android fragmentation (there’s no cute dessert way of saying that). As an open OS, Android is adopted and overlaid by each device maker for selected devices, and the various providers also get involved in the Android experience for each device they choose to carry.

This three-way would be complicated enough if Android were a static OS. But Android won’t stand still—those robot legs may be stubby, but they sure can move. Android is less than five years old, a relatively low-maturity but quickly-developing OS. The striving of the developers is admirable, and they are in the process of evolving Android from good to very good to great.

But every upgrade demands that Android, the device makers and the providers essentially go back to square one, determining which devices are suitable, testing and tweaking so that users will have a positive experience that reflects well on all involved.

That’s the ideal. The reality is that Android and the other players hype the improvements, but then are forced by dreaded fragmentation, and whatever other interests are involved, to make users wait.

It’s not that a piece of Gingerbread isn’t sweet and satisfying; it’s actually a pretty solid OS. And for the luckier ones, they’ve been happy with an Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s just that standing in front of the Mobile Sweet Shoppe, nose pressed to the glass, it’s tough to watch the customers inside scooping out all those colorful Jelly Beans. And now, insult to injury, the shop is passing around slices of Key Lime Pie. Not even lemon meringue, for goodness sake, but Key Lime!

We know, or hope, that dessert is really on the way. It’s just a little frustrating watching someone else eat it.