Early last year, a Nokia team set out on a global project called Asharama, with the aim of gathering stories and insights from the very people who were using, or were likely to use, an Asha mobile phone.
The result was a number of honest, unscripted and revealing videos called ‘Me and My Asha.’
However, more than just a series of personal Asha experiences, some of the young people they spoke with also provided the inspiration for the recently announced Nokia Asha 501 – both how it looks and its innovative user experience.
We spoke to Jussi Mäkinen and Heini Haartti from Nokia’s product marketing team for mobile phones to find more about the Asharama project.
While consumer feedback has always been an important part of planning for new products, such has been the level of engagement for the Asha 501 research process that they have called it ‘co-creation’.
“Without this kind of research, consumer inspiration and empathy we wouldn’t have the same vision for Asha and this story starts with the Nokia Asha 501,” says Jussi.
“It’s not just this one product but a refresh and a new direction for the whole range.”
Starting in January 2012, and over the next year, the project team travelled to India, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, Egypt, UK, Russia and Nigeria.
By the end, they had spoken, and co-created, with over 300 people worldwide, most of whom were aged 16-24, but some were much older and some were as young as eight.
At these sessions, where local Nokia staff often joined them, they showed off product concepts, ideas for new experiences and brainstormed together on the future of the Asha product range.
Heini and Jussi also wanted to get to know these young people and how they lived their lives. They met their families and friends, visited the places where they hang out and got to know them outside the research room.
“When you talk to young people in these countries you find out that they are very similar in their mind-sets and tastes. The Internet is very democratizing and the cultures of the world are coming together,” says Heini.
“Also, you can easily be amazed how knowledgeable these young people are. For example in India, there was a 16-year-old girl and she really challenged us on very detailed technical specifications of some of our phones.”
To inspire, not dictate
The stories and insights they gathered are intended to inspire Nokia’s engineers, programmers and designers.
Jussi says, “There is a triangle of marketing, R&D and design that needs to work together seamlessly in order to create really good products, and products that people really see helping them to make the most out of their lives.”
One girl told them how important it was that her phone had to be fast. It was a common feeling, particularly in high growth and emerging countries, that they wanted speed in their lives – and by extension their phones.
This finding inspired the creation of the new homescreen for the Asha 501 called Fastlane, which means that you are never more than a swipe away from accessing all your favourite things.
“We will continue exploring new ways to make technology more human through democratizing the way our products are created and I believe the Nokia Asha 501 and the research that has preceded will make quite an impact inside Nokia,” says Jussi.