Smartphone Announcements from Nokia and Sony at Mobile World Congress

BARCELONA, Mobile World Congress 2014: Nokia has launched their first Android smartphone range, the X, X+ and XL will use Google’s OS. Sony announced a high-end Xperia Z2 tablet and smartphone. Gadget aficionados will love the Sony Xperia Z2, but will Nokia’s fortunes improve with their low-cost alternatives?

Sony Xperia Z2 Smartphone

The Sony Xperia Z2 can be summed up in 3 words; camera, audio, processing. Sony, synonymous with quality (and accompanying price) has gone for 4K video and 20.7 mega pixel camera, with Exmor RS camera sensor and BIONZ for mobile image processing. The Z2 runs runs on quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset on Android 4.4 KitKat. For audiophiles, Sony has included noise cancelling technology and MDR-NC31EM digital noise cancelling headphones.

The Xperia Z2 is aimed at high-end users who demand high-fidelity of both video and audio and responsiveness of platform. The Z2 wont be cheap but it will satisfy affluent and sophisticated smartphone users in established markets, particularly Asia, Europe and North America.

Sony’s Xperia Z2 tablet is squaring up for battle with the iPad Air and is a credible contender for some of Apple’s extensive market share.

Smartphone, The : Anatomy of an Industry

Nokia X, X+ and XL Smartphones

Nokia announced their first Android phone, an interesting move given their £4.5bn take-over by Microsoft which is due to complete next month. Rumours had been circulating for some time that Nokia would bring an Android device to market. This helped temper what might otherwise have been a perplexing announcement.

Nokia’s strategy is to target low-cost, quality offerings at emerging economies. Their aspiration to “connect the next billion people” is bold and given their dwindling fortunes in existing markets is wise. According to Nokia’s press release:

“- The Nokia X, Nokia X+ and Nokia XL are priced to capture the fast-growing affordable smartphone market and provide an on-ramp to Lumia and Microsoft services like Skype, OneDrive and outlook.com.

– The Nokia Asha 230 is Nokia’s most affordable full-touch Asha device to date, priced at EUR 45.

– The Nokia 220 is an Internet-ready mobile phone with social apps, priced at only EUR 29.”

Stephen Elop, executive vice president of Nokia’s Devices & Services, said: “Nokia has connected billions of people around the world, and today we demonstrated how our portfolio is designed to connect the next billion people to great experiences.”

“Our deliberate approach is to offer four tiers of products including our affordable entry-level devices like the new Nokia 220; our entry-level Asha touch phones like the new Nokia Asha 230; our new Nokia X, Nokia X+ and Nokia XL smartphones primarily for growth economies; and our Lumia portfolio, which is where we introduce the greatest innovation and provide full compatibility with the Microsoft experience,” he added.

There is potential for confusion however. The low-cost Nokia X devices are an eclectic mix of Android, restricted Google services (i.e. not all Google services that come with Android will be available) and Microsoft services (Bing, Skype, Outlook etc.). This could be a frustrating ‘hodgepodge’ for consumers and Nokia will need to tailor this and explain the product offering and its benefits to users carefully. It could be an ingenious way to funnel new customers onto Microsoft services, but this could also backfire and create a frustrating experience for customers.

Time will tell if the X devices survive the Microsoft merger. Will they be re-platformed or ‘killed off’? My guess is no, and Microsoft will inherit smartphone products they couldn’t otherwise have created themselves.

Market Contrasts at Mobile World Congress

The Sony and Nokia announcements at Mobile World Congress demonstrate sharp contrasts within mobile markets. In developed economies high quality, high expense status goods are in demand. Increasingly these have accompanying (and better integrated) wearable tech counterparts (e.g. the Samsung Galaxy 5S with smartwatch). There is equally a major opportunity to bring new smartphones into high potential emerging economies. Apple, Samsung and Sony may have crowded Nokia out of the former, but if they can secure significant sales in the latter, the potential for growth is huge. Establishing brand loyalty in emerging markets is a smart long-term play. As you bring second and third generation devices to market you will already have an established brand following and marketplace.

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