Nokia’s Mobile Phones division has long been a key contributor to the company’s business. The Nokia Asha range has proven especially popular, with the most advanced phones in the range now accepted as smartphones by some analysts.
We talked to Jussi Nevanlinna, VP product marketing, to find out more.
So what is a smartphone and how do some Nokia Asha phones fall into that category?
Well, I think it’s more about what customers define as a smartphone than any definition laid down by us. There seems to be three things that people expect. The first is a touch screen. Then, inside, they expect web browsing and the integration of certain apps and services into the operating system, especially in the areas of social and location. And third, that they have the ability to get more apps.
Of course, we have touch screens on all the Nokia Asha Touch products, from the Nokia Asha 305 to the Asha 311.
With integrated services, the Nokia Xpress browser is key here, compressing pages by 90 per cent compared to other mobile browsers. And the cost implications of less data downloaded are really important to people who are perhaps new to smartphones and being connected to the Internet from their mobile. Then of course, we have Nokia Maps on all Asha Touch smartphones. These are the same great HERE Maps that we have on our Nokia Lumia family of smartphones, and you can preload them onto your phone – so there’s no need to wait for them to download when you’re on the move.
When it comes to more apps, people set a lot of importance on what games are available, and how many. Our deal with EA which lets owners download up to 40 leading titles for free is of enormous importance here. And that gives them the confidence and experience to download and buy more. Nokia Asha has become a very large apps platform with the Nokia Store on board.
So will all phones be smartphones in a few years?
The demand for smartphones is massive and it’s the affordable end of that market that is growing fastest. Over time, they will increasingly be the products people want.
However, people are different. There’s a whole set of users who are actually looking for a phone that does just a few key things very well. They want a curated experience.
Then, of course, there are a large number of countries where people are still entering the mobile phone market for the first time. They want the best they can afford, but that may well not be a smartphone for their first purchase.
So how does the cost of manufacturing a phone break down? Which parts contribute most to the expense?
Well, as always, ‘it depends’. The costs in creating a touch-screen phone are very different to those involved in creating a feature phone.
The biggest cost is definitely the screen, and there’s a clear relationship between screen size and the overall cost of a phone.
Then it’s often the memory and storage space that’s the next highest cost.
Following that, it’s the speed of the processor. And then it’s often the choice of construction materials for the case that’s a key consideration.
Do these components get more powerful and costs reduce every year, as we’re used to with PCs? i.e. Moore’s law.
Generally speaking, that’s the case, yes. Though not everything evolves at the same speed, so sometimes there are pauses and then big steps in the evolution of the specifications.
Sometimes particular components in the Asha range are actually ahead of the curve. Take battery life, for example. People who use a smartphone have been taught not to expect a particularly great battery life – a day or two, perhaps. So a phone like the Nokia Asha 309 comes as a real revelation to them. This phone has a standby time of 42 days. You could leave it on the kitchen table, go off sailing round the world for a month, come back and still have several days’ work left in it.
This is, of course, the result of years of research and investment into battery technology and making the most out of a limited resource. It’s not because battery capacity technology manages to double every year. But “trust and quality” is one of the keystones of how we’ve shaped the Asha brand, and great battery life is a proof point of us delivering on that.
And lastly, how is the Series 40 operating system holding up into the 21st Century?
Pretty well, we think. Again, we have to base this on what our customers tell us. The OS has an extremely high Net Promoter score – that’s a measure of how likely people are to recommend something to other people. They describe the user experience as “rich” and say that it “performs quickly”.
And, of course, while Series 40 was first conceived quite some time ago, it’s in a continual process of evolution. When we moved to touch, that demanded a whole host of technical improvements and redesigns for the interface and user experience.
Asha Touch devices are actually the leading smartphones in a number of markets. In China and Indonesia, the Nokia Asha 305 is the top-selling smartphone in its price band. In India and Pakistan, in fact, across the IMEA (India, Middle-East and Asia) region, it’s the top-selling smartphone overall.
One reason for this is the way we go about creating them. We don’t just take an expensive design and then shrink it down or chop things off until it hits the price point. Some of our competitors do this, and it can lead to phones that feel ‘cheap’. Our phones are built from the ground-up to deliver a particular set of user experiences. They are purpose-built, not cut-down.