Last week, Nokia (NYSE: NOK) promised some Symbian news, and today we have it: the company is today is launching its E6 and X7 devices, running on the new version of Symbian, called “Anna,” and has also come out with some updated stats on its app store, Ovi. There’s also at least one operator also confirmed to stock the X7, Hutchison-Whampoa-owned Three.
Although a lot of people assumed Nokia would be presenting a big event today, in fact the company has put out its news in the form of a dedicated web page, complete with videos of the new products.
In all, the new devices and new OS show that Nokia very much intends to continue to push ahead with its own-grown products, even as it works on the first devices that will run on Windows Phone 7 from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). Not much of surprise in that sense: Symbian and Nokia are still leading the pack in many markets, and Nokia’s share price has tanked since the WP7 announcement. Nokia has to keep moving.
Here are the major points announced today:
— Ovi store: Nokia now says the Ovi app storefront — currently available only on Nokia’s Symbian devices — is seeing “up to five million downloads per day.” At this point, Nokia very much needs to court developers, who are questioning what might happen with their apps investments once WP7 hits the scene. Today, Nokia says that more than 40,000 apps have seen “nearly eight-fold growth” in the past year, and 158 developers have had more than one million downloads each.
Today Nokia is also making a crucial move by making the Ovi store accessible also on Series 40 devices: given that Nokia has a huge base of users on these feature-phone models, that could prove to be a big boost to ramp up Ovi usage.
— E6: This is Nokia’s update to the enterprise-focussed E71 and E72 models. It features a QWERTY keypad and touch display, and what Nokia claims to be “the best out-of-the-box Microsoft messaging experience on a business smartphone,” — which, depending on which side you take, either provides encouragement for the Nokia/Microsoft partnership, or makes you wonder why, if services like this can be integrated, why Nokia has chosen to switch over completely to Microsoft instead of hanging on to its own, still-getting updated, Symbian platform.
— X7: The more consumer-oriented of the two new handsets, the X7 features the bells and whistles that have become almost table-stakes in new models of high-end smartphones. It features a four-inch display, an eight-Megapixel camera and HD-quality video. Nokia may have found in its market research that its devices are still perennially popular with gamers, as it has preloaded Galaxy on Fire HD and Asphalt 5 HD games on to the device.
— Distribution: In January, Nokia made some negative headlines in the U.S. when it canned the launch of the X7, which had been scheduled to take place with AT&T (NYSE: T) in February. That might not be the final chapter in that story, though, as Nokia never followed that up with more X7 news, until now.
We’ll speak to Nokia later about how the X7 and E6 will be stocked in markets outside the UK, and will update as we learn more, but in the meantime, Three is the first to announce it will sell the X7. In a blog post, Sylvia Chind, head of branded handsets for Huchison-Whampoa-owned Three, says that pricing and actual release date will be revealed “soon.”
Update: Mark Squires, communications director for Nokia, told mocoNews that today was a global launch, and as such there are still plans to take the X7 and the E6 Stateside — although no word yet on any specific operator deals to market and sell the models. When asked about why the X7 launch with AT&T originally got delayed, again no comment, although one might guess that the OS update to Anna might have been as much of a reason as any speculation over the terms of the deal between AT&T and Nokia.
— Symbian Anna: This is the newest version of the Symbian operating system, and shows that Nokia is still working at its own proprietary OS while it also continues to develop its first Windows-powered handsets. The addition of “Anna”, rather than a new version number, is a clever marketing trick, adding a personalising touch, and following on from Google’s naming of Android versions — can that actually pique users’ interest?
The OS itself has some 50 updates over the previous version of Symbian, including that new font that Nokia worked so hard to create; a new browser; the ability to get a QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode — “by far the most requested feature,” said Squires; and much more.
Anna will ship with the new E6 and X7 and will also soon be available for Nokia’s N8, E7, C7 and C6-01 handsets — both preloaded on new handsets, and available as a download for those who already own them. Nokia says Anna will be coming out for these additional devices in coming months.