Don’t call it a mobile phone, says Nokia


30 Aug 2006

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As more non-telephony features make their way on to mobile handsets, the leading manufacturer has said it’s time to stop thinking about them in terms of just making phone calls with add-on features.

Internally, Nokia has begun referring to its top-of-the-line range as multimedia computers, said Conor Pierce, general manager of Nokia Ireland. “They shouldn’t be called mobile phones any more. In fact, products within the multimedia range would be internally described as multimedia computers. And they can make a phone call, as opposed to the other way around,” he said.

As an example of this, camera phones are now a mainstay of the mobile market and two of the biggest trends have seen music features (for the youth market) and mobile email capability (for business customers) added to new phones and devices.

Of the 57 handsets currently in Nokia’s range, 42 have music player features, Pierce pointed out. The N91, for example, is the company’s flagship music product and it comes with a 4GB hard drive and 2MP camera. “It’s a converged product,” he said.

“The N91 is Nokia’s first step at making a fully fledged music device; people see it as a music player, which obviously it is, but you also have Wi-Fi, 3G, a 2MP camera and you can make phone calls and send texts on it,” said Pierce.

“I think that’s one of the challenges we have in the industry, not just Nokia but vendors and operators and anybody who works in this industry, namely trying to make people realise that rather than carrying multiple devices around, be it a digital camera or music player or email device, there is actually one device,” he said. “To be honest that’s a mindset thing; it’s not going to happen overnight,” he added.

These claims are likely to be met with scepticism by manufacturers of dedicated portable music devices who believe converged devices offered reduced quality and won’t eat into their market share. Last May, Geraldine De Bonis, European business manager for MP3 with Creative, which manufactures the Zen Vision:M portable music device, told siliconrepublic.com: “”By adding features to mobile phones the core features can potentially be compromised, with the main one being battery life. Essential core features of MP3 players could also be compromised, ie capacity and especially audio quality. It is the same analogy as the camera features on phones — people are still buying digital still cameras to ensure quality photo images.”

By Gordon Smith