Nokia sells more handsets than any other manufacturer in the world, but they have never really caught on in the United States. Rather, they make their bones selling simple, cheap, virtually indestructible phones in Europe and in much of the developing world.
To avoid getting pigeonholed in this less-lucrative corner of the market, Nokia has increasingly been moving into offering services built into their handsets. A year ago, they launched Nokia Life Tools in India– a suite of applications meant particularly for phone users in rural, disconnected areas, to give them access to agricultural information, educational services, and entertainment media.
The services were evidently a hit, as Nokia is now rolling out the same Life Tools in Indonesia, starting later this year. The tools, which run off a graphically rich, multilingual interface, help users by enabling access to weather forecasts and market prices for their produce, test preparation and English-language training, and music, jokes, and movie reviews.
In addition, Nokia just announced five new low-cost phones intended for rural environments, including their cheapest model to date. The $30 Nokia 1280 has a slightly shorter battery life than its predecessor– 8.5 instead of 9 hours– but it has other built-in features that make it a useful tool for a typical villager, including a flashlight and an FM radio. My favorite aspect is that the new phone enables five separate phone books; in many poorer areas, phone-sharing is an increasingly common way for people to stay connected, and the separation of phone books is a feature that– irrelevant in the US– makes the phone more valuable, and more functional for a user in rural Indonesia. Another great insight from Jan Chipchase and his colleagues at Nokia.