Over the years, Nokia has changed its phone and smartphone naming convention multiple times, with the latest iteration of a letter to mark the series, followed by a number, for a result such as the Nokia N8. Now, Nokia is abandoning that naming scheme in favor of a three-digit numerical series, such as the Nokia 100 or Nokia 700 series, for example. While the old naming convention didn’t help Nokia stand out of the pack, especially in the U.S. where the phone giant has had trouble gaining market share, the new naming convention might not do much either as it isn’t as memorable as a good name, such as HTC’s and Sprint’s “EVO” brand or Verizon’s “Droid” brand.
The three-digit marker now will identify the breadth of Nokia’s new smartphone lineup, though it’s unclear if that convention will continue over to the Windows Phone 7 days when Nokia releases its debut Microsoft-powered handset. The first digit will denote the model number–the higher the number, the more feature-rich the smartphone will be–and the last two digits will denote unique device identifiers, perhaps growing as the series progresses through evolution, like a Nokia 500, a Nokia 510 as a successor, and a Nokia 530 to follow, for example.
While the convention follows that of BMW’s series–think 3, 5, or 7 series–I am wondering if Nokia has enough clout in an iPhone dominated economy. Apple’s iconic iPhone comes with an easy enough name to remember, and Samsung’s Galaxy S series is a memorable flagship. Having pure numbers, versus memorable names, may not help Nokia build an emotional connection in trying to ‘connect people’ to its brand, as the company’s motto will have you believing.
According to Nokia, the company’s prior naming convention became too convoluted and confusing. For instance, the N-series, often the flagship, focused on camera and photographic features; the E series offered messaging and business capabilities; the X series centered around the music experience, and the C series became the consumer choice. However, as smartphones evolve, features often blend together as devices become more feature-rich and powerful, thanks to powerful platforms, more advanced hardware, and the growing convergence needs of users. All Nokia phones possess excellent cameras, though the N8 is still the de facto standard, and many devices will play music and provide navigation features. Nokia’s E series is perhaps the most differentiated in the bunch as those models provide physical keyboards, but aside from that, a C series device can perform, for the most part, like an N series.
While having a chintzy name for each phone model released may not be the way to go, but having a series name for each platform–Symbian, MeeGo, Windows Phone 7–may be a good option, just as Verizon has done for the Droid lineup. This provides a constant reminder of the platform and model, and also a relevant Nokia connection. In an age where we store numbers and contacts and speed-dial on our smartphones, numbers are forgettable, and it would be unfortunate if Nokia’s excellent hardware don’t gain more market traction in light of the company’s recent change to Windows Phone 7 to become more aggressive in the smartphone sector. Perhaps, as the company has fallen to dominate the low-end smartphone space in emerging countries, advertising that a higher series number means more will lead consumers to chase after the biggest model number. Lookout 900 series, here I come!