More details are emerging on Nokia’s rollout strategy for its N9 MeeGo device — the one that quickly warmed so many Nokia-stoic hearts, but then broke them just as fast when it was reaffirmed by the company that this was just a small pit-stop en route to Windows Phone land.
Nokia (NYSE: NOK) will not be officially rolling it out in another of its two of its bigger markets, Germany and India. But it looks like some retailers will be selling the devices, unlocked, in “unsupported” markets anyway. And, it turns out that some operators might even be, too.
The Germany news comes from the site Heise Online, which notes a confirmation from a Nokia spokesperson.
Interesting insight: the site notes that there could be a connection between the N9 rollout strategy and the countries where Nokia is planning to roll out its new Windows Phone 7 devices first.
It so happens that Germany, too, is, relatively speaking, a supporter of the Windows Phone platform: figures from the latest research from Kantar Worldpanel Comtech found that Germany had one of the highest adoption rates so far for the platform in Europe: it picked up 7.1 percent of all new phone sales in the last quarter.
But it turns out that if you live in one of the countries that is on the “no” list for Nokia, you might still be able to get an N9 through various retailers as an unlocked device. For example, in Germany, Amazon.de will be retailing the device for €619 ($882). And in the UK, one of the bigger phone retailers, Expansys, has set up preorder pages for the different colours of the product (no price listed yet, though).
And it looks like India, another country not supported with an official Nokia rollout of the N9, will also have at least one retailer selling it in October, Indiaplaza.
The problem with these routes is that a user will have to pay a large whack of money — nearly $900, going by Amazon.de’s guide price — without even starting on a network contract. And in some cases, such as the UK, a lot of consumers have become accustomed to options for subsidised models, where the operator offers the device for a significantly smaller price, and sometimes free, if the consumer takes out a two-year contract.
“I have no doubt that I will be able to buy an N9 from etailers such as Play.com, etc, but the N900 which I have happily used since its UK launch was £450 sim-free when it arrived, whereas my T-mobile contract with an unlocked handset was £110 upfront followed by eighteen payments of £20, or £470 in total. I am very keen to own and use a Nokia N9 but question why, in the UK, I would willingly pay the RRP for a phone when I can get it along with eighteen months of calls, texts and internet for £20 more.
“I understand that you would urge me to have a closer look at Nokia’s new, and no doubt innovative, WP7 handsets that will be arriving in the near future, but I remain uninterested in them just as I remain uninterested in iPhones or Android phones. I merely seek reassurance that Nokia’s UK product support for the N9 will not preclude UK carriers from offering this handset on contract?”
And Elop (unconfirmed by Nokia) replied:
“I can’t comment on what specific operators may or may not do in each country – many of those decisions are happening right now for the latter part of the year. In all cases, the operators will make decisions about which products will be made available, with which rate plans, etc. Each operator in each country only has so many “slots”, and they divide those up between ourselves and our competitors, and within Nokia they can mix between N9, Windows Phone, Symbian, etc. Right now, many of the larger operators are showing a strong preference towards WP…”
In effect, if this is really Elop, it means that carriers might end up offering the N9, in bundled plans, even without Nokia’s official launch and support.
Does this sound like a bit of a confusing picture to you so far? Here’s more: Nokia has an availability checker on its landing page for the N9. But even that does not include all the countries where it appears to be launching the device.
One example: Turkey does not come up on the list; but the Turkish blog Teknoblog notes that next Monday, August 15, Nokia is holding an N9 launch event. It even includes a picture of the invite:
We have contacted Nokia to see if it can provide a full, updated list of rollout countries; confirm the other routes that one might use to get an N9; and confirm whether that really was Elop speaking the truth. Will update as we learn more.