Should “new” Nokia stick with polycarbonate or go premium?


It’s widely regarded that Microsoft’s Nokia acquisition didn’t work out well for… well, anybody. It didn’t work out well for Microsoft, it didn’t work out for Nokia, and for the most part, it didn’t really work out for the consumer. There were many disappointing aspects of the acquisition, one of which involved witnessing the disappearance of Nokia devices from the market altogether.

Traditionally, Nokia was one of the biggest innovators in the mobile industry. Way before Apple and Samsung’s reign, there was reliable and quirky Nokia. A good many of you reading this site probably had a Nokia “brick” (which incidentally is a term that means something completelydifferent these days) as your first cell phone, because at one point Nokia was just what people used. A BBC article that sums up the rise and fall of Nokia included a good quote regarding Nokia’s influence in the 1990’s, stating, “Nokia were so dominant. People didn’t talk about what brand, it was just about the number, 3210, or whatever you had.”

Between colored displays, plate changes, QWERTY keyboards, touchscreens, internet-enabled cell phones, and excellent cameras, the best way to describe Nokia for those who don’t remember is that the company was yesteryear’s Apple. Eventually, that ship sailed once Apple (and Android) moved in on the mobile scene and completely changed the way that people use their cell phones. Nokia failed to adapt to these rapid changes, and thus Nokia quickly became irrelevant. After experimenting with Symbian OS, MeeGo, and Windows Phone, we can see today that Nokia never did end up recovering.

But not all hope is lost. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and apparently Nokia is still using their will to find their way. Recently, Nokia made a post stating that the Finnish company plans to make smartphones and tablets once again using the Android platform. As I read the official statement given by Nokia, I started to wonder what exactly Nokia could do differently to make the company stand out from the hundreds of Android devices already on the market?

My first thought was about the design. We’ve gotten to this place where we expect smartphones to be premium and of high quality. These days, “premium” refers to metal or glass materials being used, whereas plastic and polycarbonate are seen as lightweight and cheap. However, polycarbonate has primarily been Nokia’s go-to in their Lumia devices for Windows Phone. While this didn’t seem to hurt Nokia, the Windows Phone corner of the smartphone world didn’t have a lot of competition. When you turn to Android, the use of polycarbonate casing hasn’t panned out as well. Samsung’s use of polycarbonate didn’t go over so smoothly, and have since switched to a mix of aluminum and glass casing.

The other aspect of design to consider is if Nokia will go with the slab style devices that we’re used to, or go back to their old Nokia ways and come up with something crazy. My guess is that they’ll probably stick with the slabs; that’s what they did with the Lumia, and historically speaking those weird designs never lasted long anyway; they’re just fun to bring up.

I’m pretty excited to see what Nokia brings to the table for Android, but I don’t think they’re going to be able to use their brand recognition to wow people anymore. They’re going to have to come up with something really special to sway people their way again. It’s possible that tough, polycarbonate casing that continues the legendary “indestructible Nokia” phones could be that differentiating factor, but we’ll just have to wait and see.