Angry Birds means Nokia will win in emerging markets

The headlines from Nokia World in London have centred around two things: Its new smartphones running Windows Phone (the new Nokia Lumia 800 and Nokia Lumia 710), and a persistent message around “connecting the next billion”.

While its marketing message has the convenience of a Really Big Number, connecting a healthy portion of those next billion will keep Nokia relevant. This is not about smartphones. It needs to attract those customers in “high-growth” markets (its term for describing emerging markets) because those customers on more basic devices will be the smartphone users of the future.

Its new Asha range of phones is targeted squarely at young, aspirational people in emerging markets. Privately (and hinted at publicly), executives admit that in recent years the company has been very good at shipping phones every quarter.

The demand, especially in emerging markets, was so great that it could afford to be blasé when it came to innovation. It was late with support for dual SIMs – something that consumers in many of these markets expect.

Blanca Juti, VP for Mobile Phones Marketing, says that Nokia “brought voice to billions of people around the world who did not have it. Today, we put that on steroids.”

Nokia is getting its mojo back. Says Juti: “To make a product is an act of love.”

But it’s not just about the hardware. Nokia has been big on locally relevant content and services, and it will continue to drive this in emerging markets. Over 30% of apps downloaded in Nokia Store are on Series 40 (S40) devices.

It launched the beta of WhatsApp for S40 devices two months ago. With very limited marketing, over one-million people have downloaded it on their feature phones. Nokia Maps also comes pre-loaded on the phones. It’s bundled its own cloud-supported browser (a la Opera Mini) which can compress data by up to 90%.

And then, Angry Birds.

This is the killer. For its sheer aspirational aspect, working with Roxio to make Angry Birds available on basic S40 devices is unbeatable. No Chinese or Indian handset maker can do this.

If you don’t think Angry Birds sells devices, let’s chat in six months.

The prices of these four phones are important (aside from Angry Birds). Nokia has to be careful not to price its phones too cheaply, given its aspirational aim.

The Asha 300 will retail for €85 (US$118), the Asha 303 for €115 (US$160) and the Asha 200 (and 201) for €60 (US$83). No Android devices can come close, especially with the level of bundled apps and services. On the lower-end, Android isn’t an option as it’s too bulky an operating system.

CEO Stephen Elop says that the Asha phones “make great design accessible”. They offer “craftsmanship at any price point.

“Sophisticated design at scale is very hard to do.”

Elop echoes what so many are saying: The line between smartphones and phones in general is blurring.

Soon, aside from the real high-end, consumers won’t know the difference.

Image: Jusbe

*Hilton Tarrant travelled to Nokia World in London as a guest of Nokia.



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