What’s wrong with Nokia?

Today Nokia “announced” its newest Nseries, the N86.  It has all the usual Nseries goodies including a 3.5mm jack, WLAN, GPS, and comes with some extras like an OLED screen and an 8MP camera—the first from Nokia.

But something is wrong with this picture.

The N86 looks out of place.  First off, it’s essentially no different from other Nseries devices.  It’s a standard dual-slide with a medium-sized screen and a T9 keypad (which looks almost identical to the SE W995’s keypad, for whatever reason).

The other thing is that it looks very similar to the N85.  Same 2.6-inch OLED screen, same dual slide, same camera configuration at back with a dual-LED flash.  The only change to the N86 is the bump from 5MP to 8MP.

While the phone is indeed the N86, it apparently wasn’t always if this video from the phone’s launch in Singapore is to be believed:

This proves that the pre-production name for the N86 8MP was in fact the N85 8MP, a similar tactic to when they replaced the N95 with the N95 8GB.  For all intents and purposes, the N86 should have just been an update to the N85 and not a completely new model, which in my opinion it doesn’t deserve to be.

The reason this is upsetting is because it shows that Nokia is seemingly uninterested in bringing an imaging-centric device to market.  They did so with the N95, which had the first 5MP camera, and again with the N82 which had the first Nokia Xenon flash.  The N86, despite being the first 8MP from Nokia, is not only a gimmicky update to a preexisting phone, but they didn’t even see fit to give the thing a proper flash.  Not only that but the N86 also doesn’t include face/smile/blink detection which 8MP phones from Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG already have.  And not only THAT, but it also is limited to VGA video recording, when all of its 8MP competitors can shoot at least D1 or WVGA.  It seems pretty obvious that Nokia is no longer interested in bringing out imaging-powerful phones, which would also explain why their “flagship” device, the N97, is stuck with a three-year-old 5MP shooter.

It pains me because I love Nokia.  I love the Nseries.  But it seems as though the Nseries is becoming—or has become already—decidedly mainstream.  Sure, mainstream products sell more.  But that was not the original mantra of the Nseries, which was to release the most advanced and powerful devices before anyone else and do it better.  That hasn’t really happened since the N95. In fact, save for the 3MP camera boost, the N86 is virtually identical, spec-wise, to the great N95.

Compare this—no, compare the N97—with the Samsung Omnia HD.  The N97, Nokia’s flagship, has a 3.5-inch resistive LCD touchscreen, a 5MP camera, VGA video recording, and TV-out.  The Omnia HD has a 3.7-inch capacitive AMOLED touchscreen, an 8MP camera, 720p video recording, and HDMI-out.  See the difference?  While both devices are good, the N97 could almost be considered midrange nowadays with those specifications, which is completely unforgivable for a top-of-the-range Nseries unit.

The N86 isn’t much more competitive.  Strip the touchscreen, add some more megapixels, and there you go.

Additionally, the N86 is purely a Me Too device—it exists for no other purpose than for Nokia to have something the other guys have.  If they cared only marginally less about competition, they probably wouldn’t have even developed it.

This N86 also signals what has been brewing in Espoo for a while.  Nokia is interested in becoming a services/networking company, offering Internet services such as Ovi and other things to bring its devices better communication and sharing packages.  So far, they’ve done well.  In fact, the services an online aspect is probably one of the best things about Nokia right now; it really is awesome when it all works together.  However, this has come at the expense of falling far behind in the hardware aspect, where other companies are seeming to strike a balance.  2009 shall be no different, it would seem.

The N86 will likely be a good phone, don’t get me wrong.  It’s just sort of a kick to the junk for loyal customers and for customers who wanted something a little more competitive.  Nokia clearly doesn’t believe the N86 is competitive at all, or they wouldn’t have chickened out and announced it halfway across the world from where MWC is being held.

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6 Responses

  1. I agree with everything you say in this post.

    Myself, I was really let down. That Samsung is killer, but I won’t do a touch screen only device after having used a iPhone for a while. I want the Samsung with a slider keypad. I can type as fast, if not faster, on my N95’s keypad as I can any device with a full keyboard, and it lends its self to one hand use better.

    Sadly, with the rush to beat the iPhone, everyone is chasing touch devices only. I was hoping to replace my N95-4 sometime in 09, but as of yet I have not seen anyone announce a device that fits my needs/wants.

    As a side note, love the blog. Its nice to see a fellow Omahaian geek out on this stuff too. Would love to see a post about what S60 apps you use.

  2. Thanks!

    You from Omaha too? Awesome. We’ll have to compare phone collections someday. 😛 And I may have to make that post.

    I like the S8300 from Sammy, too. I’ve become quite accustomed to using T9 for a few years now and so the hybrid T9/touch QWERTY is a nice combo.

    That said, I am kind of head over heels with the Omnia HD right now and do plan on purchasing it as an upgrade to my N82. The N86 and N97 are simply not worthy of my cash at this point.

    I’ve never used a touchscreen-only phone before (having a physical QWERTY on the Treo 650 and VZW XV6700) but I’m certainly willing to give it a try. That, and the phone also has a touch T9 keypad too for one-handed use.

    It’s supposed to be out in 2 months or so, according to this video I saw on YouTube, so I’ll try to get my hands on it before I leave for London and post about it. Or, failing that, play with one in London.

  3. Oh, and don’t get me started on the iPhone. I think I have an entire rant about that one somewhere.

  4. I am currently using a iPhone and a N95 (work and personal respectively). The input on the iPhone is horrible. However, its unix in my pocket allowing me to do whatever I need to with it jailbroken. This turns into a big deal for me, for a lot of various purposes. But with apple’s approach to control of the device, I would never spend my own money on the device.

    I will be keeping my eyes over on the Omnia HD when it comes out, but man I wish it was a slider. Not having tactile feedback really sucks for typing fast.

    I also have a N810, but frankly it has not been very useful at all.

    But yeah, I have enjoyed the blog for some time, and only discovered it was from Omaha when you were going on about ATT 3G coming to town. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks a lot, again!

      I’ve been interested in the N810 for a while, but could never justify getting one. Apparently there’s supposed to be a new tablet from Nokia sometime this year. Maybe. It’ll be interesting to see.

      Oh, and the N86 is “official” as of today. Still not doing it for me. Apparently it does have a panorama mode, but there don’t seem to be many more improvements.

  5. Informative post, thanks..

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