By Jeremy Olshan
Nokia’s foray into the smartphone market today could be a boon for all handset users, say analysts — even those loyalists who insist they’ll never ditch their iPhones, BlackBerries or Android devices.
Today Nokia unveiled a line of new Windows-based phones, aiming to reverse its fortunes by making a dent in a market now dominated by Apple, Google and RIM. Though Windows Phone accounts for just a sliver of the smartphone market, Nokia’s big bet on the operating system, and its ability to mass-produce hardware at relatively lower costs, could help drive down prices for all models, analysts say. “Anytime you have more choice and more competition, it will help keep the prices low,” Michael Gartenberg, a technology analyst at Gartner says.
The new Lumia 800, for instance, which will be sold in Europe for $584 and made available in the U.S. in 2012, could be produced for half the cost of the iPhone 4S, says Neil Mawston, of Strategy Analytics. “It’s not going to be an iPhone killer –as Nokia is aiming for more of the middle range to appeal to first time smartphone buyers – But Nokia is going to be very competitive on price.”
Windows has never really recovered from the poor reviews of earlier mobile releases, Mawston says, so even though the new operating system is more robust, its best chance is targeting consumers who are new to smartphones, or are disenchanted with their BlackBerries and Rim’s recent outages.
Apple and Google did not return calls for comment.
Of course, making inroads against Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android will not be easy as the two account for 66% of the smartphone market, according to the latest comScore data, compared to just 6 percent for Windows Mobile devices. And even with a better price point, Windows Phone lacks the library of apps available for the iPhone and Android – a fact that could turn off even new smartphone customers. “U.S. consumers tend to use the number of apps available as a deciding factor,” says Todd Day, an industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan. More than 300,000 apps are available on the iPhone and more than 200,000 for Android devices compared to just 15,000 or so for Windows Mobile, according to a recent analysis by Distimo.
Android is probably Nokia’s target more than Apple as the devices unveiled today are not as full featured as the iPhone, says Gartenberg. “Android is the weaker of the two targets and there’s definitely room for another player here – the question is can Nokia pivot enough to be that player.”