Will Context Aware Be Enough for Nokia?


Nokia has placed some big bets on location-based technologies, including buying a handful of companies and making a $8.1 billion bid for Navteq. The company’s vision of the future revolves around making wireless Internet more context aware. In particular, Nokia is betting on applications that, when married to location-based services, are going to keep demand for its S60-based phones growing, a point that it’s likely to trumpet at the S60 Summit in Barcelona later this month.

That may not be enough if Nokia wants to continue being the No. 1 mobile phone maker on the planet. The company sees the mobile phone as a computer and as a result has crammed many awesome hardware features into its devices. Their usability, however, is less than stellar. I’ve had some frustration with Nokia’s S60-based user experience. For instance, while I love the Nokia N95 8GB, it cries out for a simpler and more elegant music player, as well as for a camera interface that isn’t so confusing. What Nokia really needs to do — in addition to adding context awareness to its devices — is to simplify their usability.


Pelle Boese

Well, I own S60 phones and an iPhone and also work a lot with Blackberries. And to be completely honest, none of them completely satisfies my needs. The Nokia UI looks pretty nice, but it’s quite hard to find specific settings or programs sometimes. And nokia phones are unbelievable slow. The iPhone has a lot of nice features and eye candy and the ui is awesome. But with the touchscreen keyboard it’s not really designed for business use. And the lack of 3G and some other major features like MMS or copy and paste is hilarious. Blackberries have one of the most ugly UI’s i’ve probably ever seen. The menu structure is the opposite of intuitive but for business use it’s still the best phone available (IMHO!). So over all, the iPhone is a very nice toy (which btw lacks GPS functionality) and with the next version it will hopefully become mature and ready for business use. Nokia phones are nice allrounders with a lot of features and good business functionality and Blackberries are all you want for business and nothing else.


Attn: Jose Miguel Cansado

Are you serious about the Blackberry having a better UI????!!!
I agree that the Iphone has better UI then the S60 device, but my N95 8gb can do more then the Iphone, its smaller and its not limited with strict rules or tied to Itunes.

You guys need to get over the Iphone hype.

kamla bhatt

Interestingly, I saw quite a few LBS applications in Asia, esp in places like Singapore etc.

Earlier this year I used Nokia’s Navigator in Bangalore and really liked it…they don’t have LBS apps but they do offer built-in maps and access to local information. I guess there is a cultural context to LBS and how we view might depend on where we live.


Kamla Bhatt


I’m not one to judge cell phones (I don’t own one) but it is striking to read about all of these really cool phones with amazing features that are available in Europe or Japan and which are not available here. I understand that the technology is not compatible so it isn’t a matter of bringing them over to the States. It’s a pity though that American manufacturers aren’t innovative enough to come up with a wider variety of styles and models, to appeal to different segments of the population who use their phones for different purposes. It should be like 31 one flavors of phones because they’ve gone beyond purely practical use to become almost an accessory. And just making the phones a different color isn’t enough.

Hey, I guess I am judging after all. But I’m one of those consumers who isn’t convinced that I need a cell phone (i.e. potential customer).


The S60 UI is not so bad. Real problems are the slowness and lack of ability to play well with third party applications. Much like the iphone, it can be a bit hard to use at first but you learn quickly. However, I’ll grant you it does not do well in terms of “licking” which the iphone does extremely well.

Context is great, but Nokia can’t seem to make a revenue stream out of it. As a competitive feature, both Apple and Android will be be at the same level soon.


Last weekend I happened to encounter a Nokia smartphone (N95 I think). I thought I’d try and check my g-mail. It found and connected to the unsecured Wifi easily enough. I managed to enter the URL with some pain. Then I tried to enter my password for my gmail account but since I couldn’t see what I was typing, it kept failing. Then I gave up.

A few months ago, I tried the same thing with an iPhone and was checking my e-mail in no time. I realize that if the Nokia was my own phone, I’d have everything bookmarked and forms pre-filled so that things would be must faster. Still, it was striking how with the iPhone, web surfing just worked while with the Nokia, it didn’t (at least to a newbie user like me). UI really does matter, especially when trying to surf on a platform as sub-optimal for the exercise as a phone.

Jose Miguel Cansado

Fully agree with Om. Usability in Nokia phones has a lot to improve. iPhone, Windows Mobile or Blackberry are better by far.
Just as example, the time to restart an N70 or N72 is close to the time to reboot a PC!


>before iPhone I beleived Nokia had the best user interface of all the crap we had in market. And even now compared to iPhone, it’s debatable. Like I hate a touch screen keyboards.

i am not agree with you

nokia is good device and i prepare to use nokia more then i phone


Real problem with Nokia [and with most device manufacturers for that matter] is that they have no idea what is the value of UX . if not for iPhone they would never have learned . on top of that they have 4 platform to support and their device distribution arm has no co ordination with their platform evangelism arm . this create a cacophony .

As far as Mobile LBS is concerned its a complicated business .Consumers in most of the developed market [ US,EU] have dedicated device for GPS based Navigation . i doubt they will change their habits to keep nokia in Business . in emerging markets like India &other asian countries, cost of owning a s60 device is still prohibitive for most of the population [especially for college Kids and young professionals ] unless Nokia subsidize the cost of device through a distribution deal with someone like Airtel . i don’t expect any considerable rise in adaptation of LBS or Mobile Internet . So LBS is Big Business thats right but is Nokia positioned to exploit it ? not with their current way of working .


Yeah. I agree with you that the interface is way confusing and sometimes sluggish compared to iPhone. The one thing I like in n95 8gb is that I can use it using one hand for browsing while eating etc. Usability needs a big improvement for the 650 bucks I dropped on this phone.

Kevin Leong

Om – I’m here at the S60 Summit at the Hesperia in Barcelona. I’ll post more comments here, if it’s okay with you. We were invited to demo our N95 Web Runtime Fon11 product because we won the Americas competition. The porting and trip out here all happened last three weeks – so no time for press release yet.

A few things about Web Runtime. It’s really cool. We ported both Fon11 and Open Landmark to Web RT in one week with nine developers (three developers spent about forty hours and six part-time developers about 25 hours), organized as a code camp. We managed to keep our look and feel. However, without touch, we have to do a lot more work to enable the navigation softkeys.

Lasse Enersen

Very true. Nokia is still a very engineer-driven company that doesn’t think of usability as important function as technical specs. They are very smart in marketing and technology, but this is something they have to improve on.

Jukka Paulin

These comments are very to the point. N is kind of dragged behind by their very experimental 1980s lab development style.. Now it’s 2009 and the same rules don’t play the ball anymore. Everyone has basically the radio technology in place and chip miniaturization and power consumption levels off. Of course there’s going to be development in each of these areas, but perhaps the pace is not so radical. So all eyes are starting to look at the user interface and “what can really DO with this phone?”. Can I book tickets? Watch TV? Record my favorite shows? Communicate in internet? Hear the morning news podcast? Find my way in a city? etc.
And even when these are theoretically possible, it’s far from swift (I have a e71). In several places waiting times are in the order of 10-30 seconds.. And the chain of steps to make something concrete is filled with risk. I’ve encountered errors many times – it’s like phones are now in the developing phase of e-commerce 10 years ago; people were set aback by web servers & business logic behaving erratically.

But the opensourcing of Symbian seems like an interesting move.


This is a good article. I agree, Nokia got stuck big way, their phones have no schick and their applications are pale compared to iPhone.
They also stayed out of Android, which could have given them the applicaions but they are too proud to accept it. I think it is a classical story of an empire that is going down because they think they are unbittable and the whole world is dancing to their music…and yes…their music ….Om is right…so borring !!!! they need something completly out of the box to compete in that space, but i doubt if they have the DNA inside Nokia to do it.

Tim F.

Not only is overall UI less than stellar, but it appears any location-awareness advantage will be made irrelevant by location-awareness APIs in iPhone and Android. Not only is each of these devices likely to have core, built-in location-awareness features but a broad array of third-party software. All without having to spend 8+ billion.

Jukka Paulin

In fact, I’ve been wondering for years, why isn’t Google producing a phone that utlitizes their in-house knowledge of data mining. That would really take the audience by surprise and set a new startrekish standard for communications devices ;)

Even the Chrome web browser was kind of neutral – yet another browser. It’s like their holding back, not going for the stars. I know that G has a huge potential also in the hardware market, which is becoming more and more about software and the connections, services, and new innovations.


spoiled iPhone users.

before iPhone I beleived Nokia had the best user interface of all the crap we had in market. And even now compared to iPhone, it’s debatable. Like I hate a touch screen keyboards.

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