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Summary:

Nokia today announced a developer contest offering up $10 million to the winners. AT&T is partnering as a judge and application entries must run on the new Nokia N8, which does support AT&T’s network. Might this be Nokia’s foot in the door to the U.S. market?

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Nokia today announced it is partnering with AT&T in, a developer contest targeted at the North America region, and plans to award $10 million to the winners that create the top mobile applications. Developers have until the end of January to submit their apps for Nokia’s new Symbian^3 platform which supports development from Nokia’s Qt framework, Web Run-Time plug-in or Java. The prize pool will be split among 51 winners in 3 categories and the bulk of the two grand prizes are in the form of Nokia marketing dollars to help promote the top apps in the Nokia’s Ovi store. The contest details may have tipped Nokia’s hand: it looks like the new Nokia N8 could be offered by AT&T.

The contest is arguably one of Nokia’s largest efforts to attract attention the U.S. market, a place where smartphone adoption is quickly rising and yet Nokia has a limited presence. Perhaps the largest reason why Nokia is on the outside looking in at the U.S. is the lack of carrier partnerships: very few Nokia smartphones are subsidized and offered by U.S. carriers.

Indeed, Colin Gibbs provides several examples of how carriers can hold the keys to the castle (subscription required) in a recent GigaOM Pro thought piece. Without carrier subsidies and marketing dollars to help push products, Nokia hasn’t really had a chance to compete. But as my podcast colleague Matt Miller notes at Nokia Experts, this contest may be a foot in the door to the U.S. market for Nokia.

Evidence of this is on the Rules page where the details state, “Qualifying apps must be designed, developed, fully compatible with, and published for, the Nokia N8…” Wow, doesn’t get much clearer than that, does it? I can’t imagine that Nokia is just counting on those of us who will be buying SIM-unlocked N8s and the evidence is mounting that AT&T will be picking up the N8.

Nokia is running this contest for two main reasons. First, it’s continuing to drum up support from developers for the Symbian^3 platform. Current developers building apps for Nokia devices are already happy with the programming tools, but Nokia wants to catch the eye of app makers building for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android devices. Second, the Nokia N8 is arguably the company’s flagship smartphone so the company is wisely putting some marketing muscle and money behind it. Yes, Nokia announced three other Symbian^3 handsets at Nokia World last week, but the N8 was introduced back in April as Nokia’s “fight back” phone to showcase an improved Symbian^3 platform.

So how does AT&T fit in with the Calling All Innovators contest, aside from assisting with the application judging? Nokia desperately needs a carrier partner if it wants a successful smartphone in the U.S. and AT&T will soon need some new hot handsets to counteract the likelihood that it will lose it’s iPhone exclusivity. However, the U.S. market doesn’t generally support the unsubsidized, full-price model found outside of the U.S. so at $549, the N8 won’t attract big sales numbers.

A deal with AT&T that subsidizes the phone for $199 or so changes the situation, however, and further builds AT&T’s smartphone lineup, which may also be getting the INQ/Facebook phone detailed by Om. Such a carrier deal to bring the N8 to the U.S. would give AT&T customers yet another platform choice, and could give AT&T a competitive advantage long after the iPhone exclusivity is over.

It’s worth noting that Nokia wisely included support for five mobile broadband data bands in the N8. That means every model of the N8 works around the world and in the U.S. with AT&T — or T-Mobile for that matter. I’m expecting a review unit of the N8 in the near future, but my brief hands on with the phone last week showed a vastly improved user interface over prior Nokia smartphones. The hardware specifications rival or exceed competing devices in many areas as well. If Nokia does indeed partner with AT&T to offer a subsidized N8 handset, I’d call it a huge win and a step towards growth in a market where Nokia is a relative unknown.

  1. Perhaps not just the N8 but certainly the Symbian^3 phones. I think the C6-01 is the one that will be the most tempting as a hook.

    If AT&T offer subsidised handsets then this is a real step in the right direction.

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    1. Amen to that – an attractive, subsidized phone would be a very positive step. And as much as I want to see the N8 come to market here through a carrier, that little C6 would indeed appeal to many.

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      1. Note the prize is for a device at around $400 – that points away from the N8 and towards the C6-01. That makes marketing sense for AT&T as well, giving it a mid range price “smartphone” as opposed to another top heavy high end device.

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      2. Nice find, Ewan! But I still want a subsidized N8 ;)

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    2. AT&T is not always known to do the right thing or the thing which makes most sense especially when it comes to its customers — overloaded network comes to mind. At any rate, I am on the verge of ditching them and the Iphone for one of those Android phones on Spring. If they subsidize this N8 then they have me for life. I would think they would do that and I am afraid they will take a page out of Sprint and the Epic, where they were asking for $250 up front and THEN a 2 year contract on top of that. I know the mind set and if they can get more than $199, which is kind of the norm right now for a subsidized phone then they are going to do that because if there is a company that is AAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLL about the bottom line first, then AT&T is it — sad to say.

      Will you pray with me that I am not right? ;-) Thanks.

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  2. [...] Tarkoitus on koodata applikaatioita Symbian^3 pohjaiselle N8:lle. Verkossa alkoikin välittömästi spekulaatiot pääseekö N8 AT&T:n listoille subventoinnin ja markkinointikampanjojen pariin. Miksi AT&T [...]

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  3. kevin,

    great to see that you have an open mind. having read most of your nokia needs to go android and meego is bullsh* i think visiting nokia world has given you a different perspective of the Finnish phone maker.

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    1. Thanks Andre, I’m as pragmatic as I am opinionated. ;)

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  4. What is great about this is that the same apps will also work on the upcoming MeeGo N9!

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  5. It’s not just AT&T, but T-Mobile as well. I talked to Nokia on their website and they said it will be available for purchase for AT&T and T-Mobile, just to give a greater variety of sellers. Of course, you’d probably have to buy them out right in this manner. But it is an excellent device and I’d be – I already am – willing to spend the money.

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  6. Poor Nokia. Admittedly, it must partner with AT&T, if it’s going to try to make headway in the U.S. market. T-Mobile just doesn’t have the network, nationwide, to complete with AT&T’s. But, woe be it to any hardware manufacturer who chooses to partner with AT&T. Well, unless you’re a hardware manufacturer who’s not got Steve Jobs at the top of the organizational chart. Unless you’re Apple, AT&T is gonna gut your hardware (goodbye, wi-fi, as in the otherwise pretty beautiful Sony Ericcson c905a), disable most your services (OviMaps? I doubt it), and fill your phone with AT&T-branded crapware. Really, no self-respecting Symbian fan will buy an AT&T branded Nokia, even with the carrier’s subsidy. Over a 2-year contract period, it’s just not worth buying half a Nokia and a while AT&T crap phone.

    Okay, now I’m sounding like a ranting lunatic. But, that’s just because I’ve got to live with the realization that, on U.S. shores, GSM adherents are stuck with AT&T as our network of choice. Kill me now.

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    1. I agree, I was prepared to wait for Amazon to get the N8 for around 450 unlocked but if the horrible AT&T will carry it I will not get it. They destroy the phones they put their hands on apart from the IPhone. The latest versions of Ovi Maps have been great and to think one would have to use AT&Ts horrible navigation make me want to throw up. Plus regardless if I get an unlocked N8 most likely AT&T will have the IMEIs to force everyone to get their new and improved (NOT) data plans as opposed to unlimited 10-15 dollar plans depending on if you have family or single plans. That is what happened when they got their hands on the X10.

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  7. [...] has a small presence in the U.S., the Ovi Store does business in 190 countries. The company may be poised to enter the U.S. market in a big way, so it will soon be even bigger. Nokia customers are already downloading more apps [...]

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  8. Nokia has used the worst US marketing techniques. New CEO Elop should fire everyone associated with directing its past USA sales efforts (ignoring the duopoly of GSM carriers and abandoning the CDSMA market). In USA, there is no saving in the GSM market with an unlocked phone.

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    1. Thats not true.

      If you buy a unlocked “smartphone” or any phone a carrier would consider to be a smartphone, it’s your choice if you want to get a data plan. If you buy a subsidized phone, you have NO choice. You have to carry a data plan whether you want it or not.

      I use an unlocked X6 on T-Mobile . This phone has WiFi and that works well enough for me. I don’t have to have the $30-$40 a month MANDATORY data plan that comes with a subsidized phone. That’s what almost $400 a year?

      If you get a subsidized phone for $100 and tack on the $360 a year for the data plan, that adds up to more than I paid for the X6 unlocked in just the FIRST year of the contract.

      That doesn’t count the second year of the contract. That is when you really lose money compared to buying unlocked.

      And if I choose to have an internet plan, I can get unlimited access for $10.00 a month as opposed to what T-Mobile says I must have.

      On a basic non smartphone, the savings probably isn’t much but on a higher end device A person can definately save money compared to entering into a 2 year contract.

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      1. Thank you for your comments. Don’t I need a data line to get my WiFi HotSpot with JoikuSpot?
        I am in Miami and I see no T-Mobile data service for $10 per month.
        I want to use the N8 as a phone and also a WiFi HotSpot with JoikuSpot for a laptop, desktop and another phone.
        You did not mention on my thoughts of NOKIA abandoning CDMA in the USA.
        Miami has really inexpensive CDMA plans through Boost and MetroPCS.

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      2. If you have an unlocked phone that is not being subsidized like I have with the X6, you can get T-Mo unlimited internet for $10 as an add-on service, just like a text messaging plan. I had it but then dropped it because the WiFi was enough for me and it cost nothing and unlike the N8 and some of the other new Nokia Devices coming out, the X6 like the 5800, N97 etc are not compatible with T-Mo’s U.S.A 3g signal. So all you get with that is EDGE Speed.

        But! the new Nokia Phones are Pentabands which means they are compatible with both AT&T AND T-Mo’s 3g signals. So unless they change their policy, If I had an unlocked N8 I could get unlimited 3g Data for $10 a month

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      3. Thanks again. I’ll call T-Mobile and verify the $10 plan will allow me unlimited web. I’ll use T-Mobile’s prepaid cell service for a telephone number. Then I’ll order the N8 install Joikuspot and use it instead of my home phone and its DSL which costs $40 per month.You gave me better customer service than NokiaUSA did. My wife and I are 65 and she needs her own phone so that we can find each other when we are shopping. Your suggestions would be appreciated. garygrometatgmail.comk

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      4. No problem! Hopefully when you call T-Mo, they don’t try to shuffle the shoe shine on ya and say that you can’t do it.

        I just added the service to my account via the online method and it worked.

        Hopefully T-Mo will allow you to get the $10 internet plan with the N8 as it has with other unlocked Nokia Devices.

        Let me know what they tell you with the N8, cause if I shell out the $$ for the N8, the cheap data is one of the big reasons for doing so.

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    2. I didn’t mention or comment on NOKIA abandoning CDMA in the USA cause I don’t know anything about that subject!

      I try to remain silent about things that I don’t know anything about. It’s the best way of preventing myself from sounding like a dolt! LOL

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  9. @ garygromet & JP

    With Nokia N8 you probabyl don’t even need JaikuSpot, because the handset has teethering over bluetooth 3.0

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  10. [...] It’s possible that the N8 or a similar Symbian^3 device could wash up on U.S. shores with a ca…, bringing the price to $199 or less. Such a price point is in line with high-end handsets like Apple’s iPhone 4 or any one of the many Google Android offerings. The N8 is meant to compete with these devices, but even with an improved operating system and app store, U.S. consumers won’t abandon the iPhone or an Android device in droves for the N8. Here’s a rundown of likes, dislikes and other observations from using the device over the past two weeks. [...]

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  11. [...] the attention of developers because of this situation and all three are trying to woo programmers with multi-million dollar contests and enhancements to application stores and toolsets. Over time, that may help bring more [...]

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  12. I got my brand new N8 last week. I have AT&T.
    I’m afraid it has all the same problems that my previous phone had – N97 8GB.
    Potentially great hardware, but plagued by problems.
    Regular resets. Poorly designed UI. Headphones in the package didn’t even work.
    Now it’s sitting in front of totally dead, as in doornail.
    Barring surprises I’ll be returning mine for a refund.

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    1. Why did you not call NOKIA? Your comment sounds fishy to me. If you emailed/called Nokia or chatted with Nokia, what is the case number?

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  13. [...] nor refreshingly new. To be fair, Nokia is caught in the same trap that Research In Motion is: Much like the new BlackBerry 6 OS, Nokia can’t run the risk of alienating its vast S60 user base with a radically new interface. [...]

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  14. [...] of the new Symbian devices announced at Nokia World in September. A developer contest held by Nokia tipped off the possibility of a new Nokia device on AT&T, mainly because AT&T was a key sp…. Now it looks like that plan has either fallen through or been postponed, at best. And that hurts [...]

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