Nokia, model names are not the problem

Nokia made a strange announcement on their corporate blog yesterday alongside the launch of the new Nokia 500 smartphone.

Nokia informed they would stop using product model names based on letters, such as C7, E7, N8 and X7 today. They gave three basic arguments:

  1. Intended use cases don’t depend on the product category. Many use Eseries (enterprise) devices for personal e-mail, games and instant messaging too.
  2. The differences between models are hard to communicate. Is X7 equal to C7, or is N8 better than E7 or X7?
  3. People are used to numbers, and easily understand the this logic: the bigger the number, the better model you likely get.

These sound like valid points. But what about the conclusions? This is what their blog post  tells:

So a Nokia 900* would be top dog and a Nokia 100* is the most accessible option. The second two numbers gives each device a unique identifier within that point. So we can release 99 phones at the 500 point before we have to recycle any names, for example.”

This sounds grazy. In my opinion Nokia does not need “99 different phone models”. Haven’t their competitors already proved just one good model can be enough? If you have just a few models, you can also give them names that are easier to remember than plain numbers.

However, I’m quite sure they have thought this more than this hasty blog post makes you think. I don’t think we’ll start seeing announcements of Nokia 501, 502… 50n from now on. I hope they will communicate this better in the near future.

I have followed Nokia’s products almost on daily basis since 2002, and the current situation with Eseries, Nseries and Xseries has been easier to understand than just four numbers they had earlier. However, they recently started to make a mess with adding more bizarre model numbers, such as C2-01, C2-02 etc.

The forth-coming new product names will co-exist with current C, E, N and X series and numbers models for some time, because this change affects new product announcements, and the current models won’t go away very soon from operators and retailers.

* * *

In my opinion the problem has not been in model numbers, but in articial weaknesses and strange differences between models making comparisons and finding the right model very difficult. For example, Nokia E7 could be Nokia’s true flagship model, but how much did they actually save money by putting a lot worse camera than in Nokia N8? Then they introduced Nokia X7, with a nice 4-inch screen, and once again with a worse camera.

Often these limitations and differences have been software based, some apps or features left out or not supported. One example was VoIP support some years ago in Nseries devices. The result: You could buy a more expensive device with less advanced hardware or software features. To avoid this, many seemed to wait for that next model, hopefully with the missing features.

As far as I’ve undertood, by having these differences Nokia has wanted to differentiate their products. But what’s the point of having 20 or more smartphones of which everyone has many limitations, instead of having a couple of very good models offering the best features in their price class? I’d like to see less models with a long product support. And when software bugs are found, customers deserve the updates faster than today.