Why can't Nokia get one thing right?

5th Jul 2013 | 12:00

Why can't Nokia get one thing right?

The Finnish firm needs to narrow its focus on cameraphones if it wants to survive

There's this question swirling around in my head that just won't leave. It's enough to keep me up at night. I just need to know the answer. Nokia: why can't you just make a great cameraphone?

Before the diehards kick off, yes, yes, I know Nokia has made some decent cameraphones - plural.

But it's the plural that's the problem: Nokia is just making too many of the damn things. The wow factor is being diluted. That's why I'm begging to Nokia to just put its eggs all in one basket.

High exposure

Just earlier this week, analysts were encouraging Nokia to start embracing Android as well as Windows Phone. But the real focus of its efforts should be on giving the market a single, brilliant product that it can showcase.

Last week, I criticised Samsung for releasing new devices too quickly in succession - but Nokia's guilty of the same charge in a much more blatant way.

Just look at the Finns' offerings over the last few months. We'd barely got our hands on the Lumia 920, when the Lumia 925 seemed to trump it. And now, there's the EOS/909/Lumia 1020 which is all but confirmed.

It's making me dizzy because they're all offering the same thing as their main selling point: the camera.

At least Samsung has the decency to dress it up by shouting about its models having different unique qualities (for example, the S4 Active is life-proof, while the Galaxy S4 is a life companion) even if they do come along more often than Terminator sequels.

Time shift

Let's wind back a few years. Nokia was the first handset manufacturer to give us a phone with a camera on board. The 7650 was sweet - even if many didn't believe it would actually take off. In the days before social media, 3G and Wi-Fi, it seemed little more than a novelty.

But this was a real sign of the Finns' innovation and one which paid dividends - if Apple claims it can copyright things like pinch-to-zoom and swipe-to-unlock, then surely Nokia can demand every iDevice have its camera ripped out.

Problem is, Nokia's strategy has changed. We all know the firm has fallen on hard times. It may be the biggest supplier of handsets in the developing world, but that doesn't sound as sexy from a marketing point of view.

And it's kinda sold its soul here. By going with Windows Phone, it can't make the huge customisations that Android OEMs can to differentiate themselves, so it has little maneuverability. Ultimately, that means it has to concentrate on the hardware to make ripples.

Nokia's always been one to churn devices out. 10 years ago, a trip to The Link (remember them?) would have seen dedicated Nokia sections with handsets competing for different demographics: the 3000 line for the populists, the 6000 line for the serious, the 7000 line for the fun types, the 9000 line for the serious business folk and so on.

You didn't get removable covers on a 9210i Communicator, but you did get a great business machine for its day. This was a very specific, targeted strategy that really worked. Nokia owned its OS and it owned the market. How times have changed.

The biggest lesson the Finns can learn from these changes now is this: less is more - especially when you're fighting for your survival.

I've reviewed dozens of phones and tablets for TechRadar over the years - each time putting them through their paces in the most unbiased, rigorous way possible.

But as well as being a professional, I have a love/hate relationship with tech, and that's what these columns are all about: the passionate howlings of a true fanboy. Tell me why I'm right, wrong or a hopeless idiot in the comments below or by tweeting@techradaror @phillavelle.

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