Nokia said today that it has purchased Novarra, a company that delivers a faster browsing experience on feature phones. There are only 400 million smartphones among 4.6 billion total mobile subscribers, so buying a firm to boost browsing for the rest of the world makes sense.

Nokia said today that it has agreed to purchase Novarra — a Chicago company that attempts to deliver a faster browsing experience for feature phones — for an undisclosed amount. I covered Novarra two years ago in a story about the rush of companies attempting to deliver a build once/run anywhere web site or widget for mobile phones (yes, this was back in the widget days). I said at the time that:

On of the more interesting approaches is being taken by Chicago-based Novarra, an eight-year-old company that is working with carriers including Vodafone, U.S. Cellular and 3 Hong Kong to deliver the web to any phone, even low-end handsets. Novarra offers an appliance for carriers or a service that essentially offloads 80 percent of the data processing associated with downloading a web site to servers run by the carrier or Novarra. This cuts down on the amount of data traveling over the carrier network, and makes load times faster. Content providers such as Yahoo also use it to deliver lighter applications for mobile phones. Novarra powers Yahoo’s oneSearch via mobile.

I also shared Novarra’s stats that showed carriers using the technology reported a between $5 and $15 increase in average revenue per user, which is nothing to scoff at. There are still only 400 million smartphones among about 4.6 billion total mobile subscribers, which means anything that delivers a better browsing on feature phones is still of interest, despite the digerati’s fascination with Android and the iPhone.

Plus, Nokia has long had a huge presence in the developing world, which it may be losing to cheaper handset providers. Building another path to revenue in countries where phones are the primary source for access to the web just makes sense, especially since Nokia can’t seem to pull itself together to compete with the high-end smartphones.

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  1. A tough year for Nokia but things pulled up in Q4. As for high end smartphones, they sold about 35 million N and E Series so they seem to be doing OK there.

    This looks nice – seems to be doing what SkyFire already does for Nokia and other phones.

  2. Enjoy the Benefit of Affordable Contract Phones With Vodafone Network | Cell Phone Choice Blog Friday, March 26, 2010

    [...] Nokia Nabs Novarra for Better Browsing on Low-end Phones [...]

  3. This makes sense especially when you consider Nokia’s only real presence in the U.S. market is lower-end phones.

    Nokia has always made some good smartphones (and some terrible and expensive vanity phones.) I used to think Nokia’s issues in the U.S. were due to the closed locked subsidized model of the carriers. But Apple was able to crack the marketplace mostly on their own terms. Why can’t Nokia?

  4. The key to your article is the last sentence when you isolate that Nokia can’t pull itself together on smartphones. So they are going to win the market from the bottom up? This doesn’t stick. Classic innovator’s dilemma issue: Nokia is trying to make the mobile web better for older phones, while Apple, Google et.al make better phones for the mobile web.

    I wrote a whole post on my blog about it today

  5. The key here to analyze this is your last sentence that Nokia can’t get its act together on smartphones. So they are going to win the market by innovating in old feature phones? doesn’t make sense. This is classic innovator’s dilemma: Nokia is trying to make the mobile web better for older phones, while Apple, Google et.al make better phones for the mobile web.

    wrote a post on my blog today with more depth

  6. Umm. This sounds exactly like Opera Mobile.

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