We’ve seen some fantastic new feature phones from Nokia during the past month, including the Nokia 301 and Nokia 105.
They come from an illustrious family of handsets, with Nokia having made some of the most influential and best-selling phones of the past decade. We’ve been talking to Marco Mildenberger, Director of Product Management to find out which models have been the most influential, what features they’ve brought to market, and also how the current models extend that heritage.
Rewind to the beginning of the century, and the mobile phone landscape was massively different. Mobile phones had keypads and monochrome displays, and were used for calls and texts rather than surfing the web or satellite navigation.
The year 2001 saw the introduction of the Nokia 6310, and it turned out to be a game-changer for Nokia. Marco explains:
“The Nokia 6310 is a good starting point when we look at the heritage of feature phones. Everybody who ever had a Nokia seemed to have this one, or it was one of the phones they wanted to own.
“When you ask people what they thought about the Nokia 6310, they highlighted robustness, simplicity and battery life. This product was still on the market in 2005. When I started at Nokia in 2006, people were still talking about it.
“I remember a lot of input, people asking: ‘Can’t we extend this product, can’t we bring it back again?’ There were a lot of people on eBay trying to find that exact phone, which is true even today!”
The Nokia 7650 was also launched in 2001. It combined a colour screen and camera into a sliding form factor. “With high-end features including Bluetooth, infrared, an email client and a premium price tag, this product was bought by business customers,” Marco explains.
“Following on from this, the Nokia 3510i was a much more attractive device for consumers, bringing a colour screen to a lower price.
In 2007 the Nokia 6300 hit the shops.
“It was hugely successful, selling in very high volumes,” says Marco. “It highlighted the same three key features as the Nokia 6310: robustness, simplicity and battery life. It also came with a metal housing, which was very difficult to do back then.”
Before the 6300, metal only appeared on high-end devices like the Nokia 8800. The Nokia 6300 was a good development on the simplicity side, too; the software was a good step forward. Battery life was still really high on the agenda. Looking back at consumer feedback, it was a very reliable product as well.
Marco highlights a change in form factor as one of the next big steps for the feature phone:
“Typically, a feature phone was a monoblock. Then QWERTY came on the radar, and the Nokia C3, launched in 2010, was a very important product. Before the Nokia C3, BlackBerry was dominating the QWERTY market.
“We managed to transform that into a consumer market and offered relevant features addressing messaging and social networking at radically lower prices. In many countries like Indonesia, we became number one in a very short space of time.”
“There have also been other important innovations recently, like our Easy Swap Dual SIM. We weren’t the first to produce Dual SIM, but we invented the hot-swapping of the second SIM,” says Marco. “It seems like lots of people in many countries actually have more than two SIMs. So a device like the Nokia C2-00, hitting the stores in mid-2011, was an important step.”
“Later the Dual SIM technology appeared in all sorts of different form factors,” adds Marco. “The Nokia C2-03 ‘Touch and Type’ was important for us, as it combined Dual SIM and touch capabilities. There were lots of people who didn’t want to use a full touch device at the time, so this was a stepping-stone for them towards full-touch devices.
“The line between feature phones and smartphones is blurry today. Meanwhile, there is still a huge market for traditional phones. Many people aspire to a smartphone, but due to affordability aspects, feature phones will play an important part for a long time yet.
“What’s important is that we continue to bring those high-end or high-value innovations to lower-priced devices, focussing on features we know our consumers will enjoy and love.”
The Nokia 105 is a great example of a phone that delivers these features, providing 12.5 hours of talk time, a dust and splash proof keyboard, colour screen and a host of games. The Nokia 301 adds 3G connectivity and a 3.2-Megapixel camera to the mix, proving you really can have everything you need at a low price point.
What’s your favourite Nokia feature phone? Leave a comment below.