Should Nokia Build an Android Smartphone?

December 15, 2009 by Lisa Oshima | Uncategorized

I recently swapped my Nokia E71 out for an unlocked Motorola CLIQ (running on AT&T).  I won the CLIQ at the recent MOTODEV Summit, and despite being excited to start using what looked like a great device, I was a little sad to give up my Nokia E71. Why? I like the E71 hardware a lot. It is billed as “the world’s thinnest smartphone,” and it is one of the best, most elegantly designed pieces of mobile hardware I’ve ever used.  Why did I switch? It’s not the hardware.  It’s the Symbian OS.  It may be the world’s most popular OS, but it’s also an old OS. When I compare the Symbian Series 60 use experience to to iPhone and Android it feels clunky, and using a Symbian powered phone in San Francisco made me feel old and achingly un-hip.  When using the E71, it took me too many clicks to get to where I want to go on the device, and the web browsing experience was mediocre at best.  Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to start using the CLIQ, but I wish it were as thin and elegantly designed as the Nokia E71.

All of this got me to thinking… Why doesn’t Nokia bite the bullet and give Android a whirl – even if only for one, very basic, smartphone?  Nokia knows hardware, and Google knows software.  It’d be a match made in heaven.

Android 2.0 is a great OS for users, developers seem to like it, it’s open, it works well, and it is ready right now.  Maemo is out there in the wild, but sentiment and awareness seems mixed among mobile developers.  According to a recent “mobile developer sentiment survey” conducted by Ewan MacLeod over at Mobile Industry Review, a shocking 30% of developer surveyed “declared Maemo the, ‘last gasp from Finland‘.” Yikes.  27% of responding developers called it ‘irrelevant to me as a developer‘.  In total, only 44% of respondents called Maemo ‘very exciting‘.  Yikes. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

At the very least, launching an Android smartphone would be a good experiment for Nokia. It would help them hedge their bets as Maemo and Symbian evolve.  It would also give them greater insight into their competition and may help them recruit Android developers to Forum Nokia and expose those developers to Maemo and Symbian.

What do you think?  Let me know by writing a comment.  <UPDATE: I tried to embed a Google Survey in this blog post, but the survey tool is broken, so please comment below.>

Disclosure: The opinions and questions in this post are my own. I worked for Nokia in the early ’00s and am a Nokia shareholder. Motorola is a former client.

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