Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
Nokia chose Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system over its Symbian platform for its newest smartphones.However, the company’s board chairman Risto Siilasmaa recently said that the company has a backup plan, just in case Windows Phone doesn’t work out.
What is it? Forbes briefly suggested the backup plan could be Android, and we agree, although Nokia may also have in-house alternatives ready to go.
Here’s why Android could be Nokia’s perfect backup plan.
Nokia Makes Killer Hardware
Nokia is dead-focused on maintaining its status as one of the world’s largest smartphone makers. Google could help it achieve that status, and Nokia has the know-how to make a device that could stack up against the Galaxy S III and the HTC One X. If anything, Windows Phone is limiting what Nokia can do with smartphones. NFC, higher-resolution displays, HDMI-out, custom user interfaces, quad-core processors — all of this is available for Android now. Why should Nokia wait until Windows Phone 8 to include those features in its handsets?
Nokia has a killer hardware team. The Lumia series are a perfect example of what the company’s industrial design team is capable of building. I could also point you to the N9 or any of its flagship smartphones from the past several years. A slightly modified Android version of those phones could easily go head-to-head with the best from Samsung and HTC.
Nokia’s problem was its software. Symbian may have been attractive for emerging markets, and certainly had its fan base, but it was outclassed by Android and iOS in nearly every way — especially when it came to wooing European and U.S. customers. That’s why the company turned to Windows Phone, save for a few devices such as the Belle-powered 808 PureView. Microsoft’s platform is more powerful than Symbian, and Windows Phone 8 will enhance the OS even further, but it’s far from a guaranteed win for Nokia. If Nokia really believes in Windows Phone, Siilasmaa wouldn’t have said the firm has a backup plan. So why Android, specifically?
Android Has Momentum
Android devices are being activated faster than ever. Presumably, due to the sheer number of manufacturers using the OS, much faster than Windows Phone devices are being activated. Google said there are now more than one million Android device activations a day, or 12 devices every second of every day. 400 million Android devices have also been sold to date. Those are impressive figures. Nokia could jump on Android and get its phones in the hands of more consumers around the globe, both in emerging and developed markets, faster. All it has to do is link up with Google. Imagine a Nexus-branded Nokia-built Android device? Microsoft might stand in the way of that dream.
Microsoft has already pumped $1 billion into its partnership with Nokia. I don’t think it’s going to let the Finnish phone maker slip away and work with Google without a fight. That’s why it’s also possible that Nokia is secretly improving on its homegrown Harmattan and Meltemi initiatives, which were allegedly put on the back-burner. The issue with those platforms, however, is that Nokia would be entering an already dangerously crowded marketplace, one which it helped build with its Windows Phone devices. iOS and Android currently have the largest slices of the smartphone market pie, but IDC says Windows Phone is expected to surpass iOS’s share by 2016. Nokia could hope and pray for that predication to come to fruition, or it could ride Android’s faster upward trajectory now.
Android Has a Better Ecosystem and Larger App Store Than Windows Phone
Windows Phone currently has more than 100,000 applications. Android has six times that figure. Microsoft’s Windows Phone Marketplace is growing at a fast rate, but it’s still not home to favourites such as Draw Something or Words with Friends (although they are coming soon). Microsoft’s Zune software provides access to music and video content, but Google provides a larger selection and also offers TV shows, books and magazines. Consumers may like Windows Phone for its user interface, but Android offers much more compelling content to consume. I don’t see Windows Phone catching up to Google in this regard any time soon.
Nokia Can Focus on Quicker Time-to-Market with Android
We also need to take timing into consideration. If Nokia worked with Google it might be able to push out new handsets at a quicker pace. Nokia launched several Windows Phone handsets, including the Lumia 610, 710, 800 and 900 in just a few months. We haven’t heard much from the phone maker since the Lumia 900 hit the market, however. What does it have in store for Windows Phone 8? Is Nokia going to sit still until the holiday season? Probably, but that doesn’t seem like a safe bet for a firm that needs to increase its market share. We’re betting Nokia launches a new Windows Phone 8 flagship that lands on Verizon, AT&T and maybe even T-Mobile; three carriers that have already expressed support for the platform. The problem? We’re going to see incredible new Android devices, probably powered by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, by then. Plus, there’s the inevitable launch of the iPhone 5.
Speed isn’t necessarily a good thing if quality is a concern, but it could help Nokia build its presence in the United States at a faster pace, especially if the company aunches a half-dozen handsets to each of the major U.S. carriers. Samsung and HTC are flooding store shelves with handsets that run the gamut of price points — it’s working for Samsung and less for HTC. I think it’s possible that Android-powered Nokia smartphones ranging from entry-level to high-end could work in Nokia’s favour, especially when it comes to competing with Samsung and HTC — the younger batch of U.S. consumers grew up on Nokia devices. We already love the brand.
Maybe I’m reading into Siilasmaa’s statement too much, but Android is Nokia’s most powerful alternative to Windows Phone. Google’s platform is largely working for every other major smartphone manufacturer on the market — save for Apple — so why shouldn’t Nokia give it a try, too?