By Quentin Fottrell
Nokia’s struggles may have an upside for those shopping for a new smartphone: steep discounts.
The once dominant Finnish firm plans to “deeply” cut prices on its new $99 Lumia Smartphone, but experts say consumers shouldn’t just be blindsided by price tags when buying mobile technology. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop declined to provide details on the discounts Thursday, but the company says the phone has not sold well – particularly in the U.K. Given that the phone is already relatively inexpensive, the new discounts create the prospect of an ultra-cheap model that could upend the low-priced smartphone market, says investment blogger Andy Nyquist. Apple and Android dominate the high-end devices, he says, but the cheap phone market is still more competitive.
When considering mobile gadgets, the operating system should be high on the list of concerns, analysts say. The Lumia uses Microsoft’s Windows operating system. “Microsoft brings determination and cash, which gives them a much stronger likelihood of succeeding,” says Michael Holt, an analyst with Morningstar. But buying struggling gadgets is not always the best move, analysts say. When H-P discounted its $399 TouchPad by 75% to $99 last year it was not regarded as such bargain by many experts. Why? It worked on a smaller WebOS operating system, which didn’t provide as many apps as Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS, which have around 500,000 respectively. “If you bought into that ecosystem it became a dead end very quickly and it was a waste of money,” Holt says. Amazon’s $199 Kindle Fire didn’t have that problem: it came with Wi-Fi, Flash video and access to Android apps and games — plus all the movies, books, songs and other digital content Amazon sells.
For those determined to access the latest hot apps or browse the web fast — a completely new smartphone may make more sense. “If you’re going to be stuck with this phone for a year or more, make sure you like using it and it meets your requirements in terms of battery life,” says Rick Singer, CEO of GreatApps.com. Plus, the length and details of the contract offered by the carrier should also play a significant part in deciding to buy a new phone or tablet, he says. But this works both ways. Yung Trang, president of TechBargains.com, says people often buy the coolest gadget to be, well, cool. “If you don’t need the capability of an iPhone or iPad, why spend $199 or $399?” he says. “Why would you buy a Mercedes Benz to drive one mile down the road?”