Giants rise and they fall. A few years ago, there were two big names in the industry – Nokia and BlackBerry. Now it’s Apple and Samsung. Last week though, marks the beginning of the end of phones with Nokia’s famous logo on, as its handsets and services division has been acquired by Microsoft.
Anyone born before 2000 will have (probably) owned a Nokia phone at some point in their life. Pre iOS and Android, many would have had a Nokia as their personal phone and a BlackBerry for business. In my opinion, Nokia was the Apple before iPhone. Easy to use, simple and effective – but with great battery life (something we’ve traded for the power of modern smartphones).
As a mobile app developer, all of our employees are passionate about mobile – this passion may well have started, or been inspired by, a Nokia phone. I know that mine was. When Snakes was all the rage and phones still had antennas, I would take any chance I could get to play on a friend’s phone. The first mobile phone in our household was a Nokia 3210. My first was the 3310. Over the years I had a number of phones – finishing up with the much praised N95.
Nokia was the brand you would recommend to friends and family. Sony became popular for the capabilities of their cameras and colour screens but ultimately lacked the usability and simplicity of Nokia. Motorola had the wildly successful and diminutive Razr, but again they weren’t as easy to use as Nokia handsets. It was for this reason, and the wide variety of handsets on offer, that Nokia went on to become the world’s number one maker of mobile phones (a crown they lost last April). Not bad for a tire company.
The company’s cool status was further reinforced when The Matrix came out, as our head of Android, Jonathan Fisher remembers well, “When I saw The Matrix, I wanted the phone more than anything in the world.”
The Nokia message tone was everywhere, from boardrooms to Dom Jolly’s Trigger Happy TV. For a time, you could be pretty certain that most houses you entered would have a Nokia charger. Senior project manager Tanya Daley-Antoine recalls “spending my weekends going to buy new cases for my 8210, it was small and brilliant. I could type without looking and used sit in Biology class programming my own ring tones.”
Usability wasn’t the only trick Nokia had to deploy. Durability was another key factor as Clair O’Neill, Mubaloo marketing assistant, remembers “Dropping mine hundreds of times and it still working – and being intact! Snakes was so addictive, there is a huge amount of nostalgia for that game!”
When everything changed after 2007 and we firmly started to move into the smartphone era, Nokia’s usability crown moved to the iPhone. Apple took it to a new extreme. From babies to pensioners, it seemed that anyone could pick up an iPhone and start using it. Nokia, like many, failed to stay ahead of the game. Despite still selling millions of feature devices around the world, Nokia couldn’t match Apple’s profit margins or media attention.
Nostalgia goes so far though. Nokia has managed to bring out some fantastic phones since focusing on Windows Phone, but it hasn’t been enough to get people to switch to Nokia in an age of iPhone and Android handsets. Nokia has helped Windows Phone into a firm third place of smartphones but with Android being available on ever cheaper devices, the firms feature phone sales are shrinking fast.
The deal marks a change and a new direction, we’re excited to see what will happen, but at the same time – we will miss seeing Nokia branded handsets in the market. Who knows, maybe the ones sat in draws gathering dust will go up in value now – nostalgia can be valuable.
By Robert Haslam, PR & account manager

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