Nokia: Design Beyond Belief

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Nokia: Design Beyond Belief

That’s the tagline I would’ve gone with after they stopped using “Connecting People” under the famous “NOKIA” logo. Nokia has produced some of the best designs in the world of smartphones, (along with the weirdest!) and each Nokia device I have bought has always been one I’ve been proud to lay next to my pint in the pub.

Ever since my first mobile, the stylish Nokia 232 back in 1994 I have always opted for a Nokia when it came time to upgrade or to get the latest device with the newest whistle or bell onboard. I kept the 232 for a long time, because back in those crazy days we call the ’90s, mobiles were still rather expensive pieces of kit, and less than a year after buying the 232 I started university, which I’m sure you all know means living on a diet of raw pasta and tap water, so another purchase wasn’t going to happen for a long time. But it didn’t have to anyway, because the 232 was “cool enough” still, and people were still lugging brick-like phones around. But at some point, (and my memories from that time are somewhat obscured by all the Tesco Value lager I was drinking at the time) the UK switched over from analogue to GSM, and my 232 no longer worked. So enter, the incredibly gorgeous, 3210, the sleek, antenna-less texting beast, complete with T9 predictive texting and stella battery life. Followed up by the ubiquitous 3310 and in hindsight I can safely say, I was with the masses for a change!

 

From one of my first to my most recent
From one of my first to my most recent

It was around this time (1998-2000) that Nokia seemed to have permeated into the pysche of the UK  tech market- it was certainly a household name by then, but moreover, if you didn’t own a Nokia phone, but one of the many other brands available, you were seen as a bit strange. Why on earth have you opted for this NEC lump, or this Panasonic brick? Get a Nokia you lunatic!! Actually, the only other brand that had any respect or street-cred (at least within my circle of friends and family) was Sony Ericsson, because they did make rather lovely phones too.

 

Just amazing design over the years
Just amazing design over the years

 

For me, I had choice, and I chose Nokia. Why? I think apart from overall reliability, I loved their designs, hence this post’s title. Fast-forward through the many Nokias they churned out of their factories to the past few years and it’s easy to see why people like me fell for Nokia phones. The E7 was little bit stilted software wise as creases continued to be ironed out in Symbian, and the camera could’ve (should’ve) been an auto-focus unit, but the overall design with that keyboard… how could I not love it? Followed on by the absolutely beautiful Nokia N9 with its curved chassis, gorgeous curved glass screen and immensely satisfying and well-designed MeeGo software. Shame it didn’t make it to full bloom, but I still dip into MeeGo now and again and every time I do, the sheer beauty of the cyan sleek slab makes me yearn for those happy days back in 2011 and 2012. And thanks to the acceptance and popularity of the ‘Fabula’ design of the N9, Nokia went on to carve out more polycarbonate beauties in their new Windows Phone products, starting with the Lumia 800, or as I called it at the time, ‘the N9 running Windows Phone’. Snigger, snort, snigger.

 

For sheer design, I still think the N9 is the cream of the crop
For sheer design, I still think the N9 is the cream of the crop

 

Fast-forward again to today, and my household owns two Lumia 1020s, a white and a yellow. A true ‘Mr & Mrs’ pair of matching sweaters. How lovely! But I doubt anything will come along in the months ahead that will tempt me away from my 1020, even if Microsoft were to release another flagship smartphone with the Nokia badge on it. The Lumia Icon should be it, but for me, the lack of the ever-useful Glance Screen is a show-stopper. If future Lumias come with 1080p screens but sans Glance, then that’s another reason for me to keep my 1020 charged up and ready to go.

 

Most-likely the best camera on a phone in the world
Most-likely the best camera on a phone in the world

 

So yes, today, Friday the 25th of April 2014 is a sad day in some respects, but one we saw coming 8 months ago, maybe even 3 years ago when this partnership was announced in February 2011. The rumour mill certainly churned out some corkers over the time since that original announcement, and now it is a reality; Microsoft own Nokia’s phone department, and I’ve little doubt we shall soon see phones running Windows Phone on devices that, instead of announcing ‘Nokia’ in white paint above the screen, will say ‘Lumia’ or ‘Microsoft Mobile’ (I would prefer Lumia over the latter any day!)

 

Maybe?
Maybe?

 

End of an era? That’s already been said many times. No, for me, I am glad that Nokia has been saved as a company; it still exists thanks in part to the deals that have been struck the past few years, no matter how hard they’ve been to accept. Nokia will continue to guide us around the world with HERE maps, and Microsoft will continue to produce beautiful and superb devices – because the same people that made them under Nokia will continue to design and create them.

Nokia for me has been a terrific ride the past 19 years. From being just the mobile that I liked the look of most that day in the Vodafone shop back in 1994, to being my hobby and passion for the past 5 years since buying my E75 from the New York flagship store. And during that time, it has become so much more than just about the phones. It’s really the people that have made me such an advocate of this great company. Meeting such fantastic people has really been quite unexpected but at the same time just so wonderful.

 

N900: Innovative and still an amazing piece of kit
N900: Innovative and still an amazing piece of kit

 

Thanks to Nokia being Nokia, I’ve met these brilliant peeps: Stephen Quin, Richard Yates, Richard Dorman, Steve Litchfield, Rafe Blandford, Lenny Bonsignore, Jimmy Lee, Erick Macapagal, Nirave Gondhia, James Honeyball, Jay Montano, Clinton Jeff, Mark Guim, Tiina and Heidi from Nokia Conversations, Jason Harris, Tom Hall and loads of others, plus later this summer I’ll finally sit down with Michael Faro-Tusino and Chris Wright and maybe even Nick Robinson.

 

The E7 and its awesome QWERTY keyboard
The E7 and its awesome QWERTY keyboard

 

Much finger-pointing and many a swear word has been used against Nokia’s now ex-CEO, Stephen Elop. Trojan horse? Who knows, but he did keep the company alive, even if he did have to force plastic surgery on its face. If I ever meet Stephen Elop I would slap him for culling Symbian and MeeGo, and then hug him for actually releasing the N9, and the slew of gorgeous Lumias I have owned and used.  I’m sure his security detail would then pummel the crap out of me, but I’d feel it was worth it!

Nokia, I’ll miss your innovation (actual innovation, not like others’ marketing innovation) and your stella designs, but I also look forward to see what amazing and new designs those same talented people cook up under the Microsoft umbrella.

Here’s to the future! :^)

 

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