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While, by any reckoning, the new Nokia 105 is a modest device, a conversation with its product manager, Tracy Chen, at MWC last week revealed that the phone is also a great example of Nokia innovation.

In technology circles, the word ‘innovation’ is applied liberally. A bigger camera, more megahertz or a faster way to dial phone numbers can all receive the label.

But what is innovation? Many people, including some well-respected dictionaries, mix up ‘innovation’ with ‘invention’.

‘Invention’ means making something new. ‘Innovation’ is more than that. Its origins come from the Latin word for ‘change’ or ‘renew’. Innovation is about creating new value. David Schmittlein, Dean of the MIT School of Management, says:

Innovation does not relate just to a new product that would come into the marketplace. Innovation can occur in processes and approaches to the marketplace.


Tracy Chen agrees. She’s a modest person, and the enormously positive reaction to the Nokia 105 both in the technology press and on the stand was a very happy surprise to her. But it made her think again about the phone’s place in the world.

The price of the Nokia 105 – €15 – was the key talking point. But it’s not just inexpensive: it also brings the phone into a new place. It makes people feel excited about the possibilities.

This is innovation in another direction. Innovation on price. It’s taken something that people already know – a mobile phone – and moved it into a new area; given it a new life.

A phone that costs less than a round of drinks means that it takes zero consideration to decide to buy one. People who had never thought about having a back-up phone, or a phone especially for holidays or sports, suddenly want one. Chen was approached by many people on the Nokia stand who wanted to buy the Nokia 105 right then and there.


“A lot of people came up and said, ‘Can I buy this now?’

“It’s not just individuals, either. There are also business opportunities. We were approached by companies that wanted to be able to give the phone to all their employees. A travel company approached the stand, with the idea that they could give the phone to holidaymakers as part of their ‘welcome pack’ when they arrive at their resort.

“It’s a mistake to think progress is always about making things more complicated. Making things simpler and less expensive is another dimension to progress.”

Nokia 105