Posted by Mike Evans in Nokia on September 20, 2010

The Nokia N8. A phone that Nokia desperately need to succeed. A phone that was first announced over 6 months ago. And now a phone that has been delayed. Again!

In a move that’s bound to cause angst amongst the fan-boys, Nokia have just announced that the N8 has been delayed again, this time apparently for some “final amends.” The problem with this is that the N8 was first meant to be released in May 2010!

This then slipped to July, which turned into August, which turned into September. With Nokia’s latest announcement, we’re now looking at an October release, which is awful news for the company.

Not only is the N8 not exactly receiving good reviews (it’s a good feature phone and a brilliant camera phone, but it’s not the best smartphone, not by a long way; and the world wants smartphones!), it’s also arguably a phone that Nokia should have released last year instead of the N97.

To be this late means that Nokia are now perceived as a technology company that can’t create cutting edge tech or release it in a timely manner. In the mobile phone world, where super-fast innovation is a necessity, that’s lethal!

However, there is one slight glimmer on the horizon – the Nokia E7.
Nokia N8 Symbian^3 user interface

Why the Nokia E7 makes much more sense

The Nokia E7, which I’ll review later on this week, is actually a sweet bit of kit. It’s a QWERTY-based smartphone with the same Symbian^3 OS as the N8, but rather than being a feature phone focused on the consumer market, it’s a business phone, pure and simple. And compared to other business phones, it’s perfect.

In fact, the E7 just makes sense all round. It uses Symbian which doesn’t have many apps. This isn’t a problem for blue-chip corporates, as apps are a security risk and a nightmare to support.

Nokia E7 smartphone
Its QWERTY keyboard is one of the best on the market, it’s screen is great, it connects to virtually every email service on the market, and comes with all sorts of enterprise-based goodies, not least of which is the ability to read and edit Microsoft Office documents.

Best of all, it has some serious horsepower underneath, and can deliver PowerPoint presentations to a huge HD screen over HDMI (or, for that matter, play a video over the same HDMI connection!).

In other words, it’s perfect for its target market – business!

Now take the Nokia N8. It’s got a great camera, and some nifty video and multimedia features. But it has no apps, which is a problem for consumers, who don’t care about security, are quite happy to tinker with their phones, and want the largest number of apps they can get their hands on. Its user interface is not exactly sexy. No problem for business users – they’re all professional and non-sexy anyway. But consumers have the iPhone, Android and, soon, Windows Phone 7 user interfaces to play with, each of which have super-sexy interfaces.

It’s not the N8 that’s the problem for Nokia – it’s the competition in its market segment.

Should Nokia kill the N8?

So here’s the big controversial question. Should Nokia kill the N8?

The Nokia N97, released last year, arguably did more to damage the company than if it wasn’t released. It was an awful phone and singled Nokia out for heavy criticism. In fact, it was so bad, that the Nokia N900, a phone that never received even half as much marketing support as the N97, which was supposedly the company’s flagship, received much warmer reviews and arguably saved the company’s technological reputation.

Hands-on Nokia N97 review

And now they run the risk of doing exactly the same thing. The N8 won’t win over many non-Nokia fans, it’ll receive luke warm reviews at best, yet will be gifted a huge marketing budget in the tens of millions – just like the N97.

The E7, meanwhile, hits its target market perfectly. It’s technically superb, and indeed does much of what the N8 does, and so shows that Nokia can still make gloriouslt technical phones. But because it’s not the company’s flagship consumer phone, it won’t get even a tenth of the marketing that the N8 gets.

Has Nokia killed the N8 anyway?

And now for the really controversial question: has Nokia actually killed the N8 anyway? It must know that extra delays will hurt the phone’s sales. If it does a bad job marketing it, its sales will be even worse.

But this actually makes a lot of sense, as the company’s next phone can easily beat the sales of a poorly performing N8. If that new phone has Nokia’s next-gen technology within it (such as MeeGo, Nokia’s new mobile OS that we haven’t even seen yet), then it’s much easier to announce the new technology as a huge success.

Nokia N8 menu

OK, so this is perhaps bordering on the realms of fantasy. But odder things have happened in the mobile phone market. Sony Ericsson have killed off many a phone before it was launched because it was deemed not technologically strong enough compared to its competition. And Microsoft released the Kin for three whole weeks before shelving the whole project.

Perhaps, Nokia, it’s time you did the same with the N8, and go back to the drawing board and give us a phone that really hits its target market where it really hurts – slap bang in the middle of Apple!