Nokia Series 40 phones: 1.5B sold and counting

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One day before Nokia announces results for the most recent quarter, the company is touting a sales milestone: 1.5 billion Series 40 phones sold. Nokia shared the news on Wednesday, pointing out its first Series 40 phone, the Nokia 7110, went on sale in 1999. It’s fitting for a few reasons that the 1.5 billionth handset was sold in Brazil and the phone has both a QWERTY keypad and runs a lite version of the monster hit, Angry Birds.

Mayara Rodrigues, a 21-year-old woman, purchased the Nokia Asha 303 handset, because she “loves staying in touch with friends and family through social networks.” Back in 1999, of course, there were no social networks, and texting was a clunkier experience without QWERTY keypads on phones. And Angry Birds? That egg wasn’t even close to hatching.

The sales figure is a certainly a huge accomplishment, and the timing of the news is interesting: It follows the very day after Apple announced quarterly iPhone sales of 37.04 million units. Part of me thinks Nokia’s news is meant to show the world Nokia is still very relevant to the mobile space, even as its status as a smartphone leader has declined in the past few years. Given how people are starting to buzz about Nokia’s Windows Phones, I think, like the Angry Birds, Nokia will fly again, even if not as high as before.

However, I’m not sold on Series 40 devices taking as much market share in emerging markets as they have in the past. During most of its long lifespan, Series 40 hasn’t had to contend with low-priced Google Android phones like it does today. We’re now starting to see dual-SIM Androids, even from the likes of Samsung, which is contending with Apple as a global smartphone leader.

Are the best days of Series 40 behind it? Perhaps, but even if it they are, it’s hard to argue Nokia’s relevance around the world: 1.3 billion people on the planet still use a Nokia phone today.

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