'Design' won't get Nokia back in the smartphone game

Finnish device maker reportedly counting on innovative handset design for WP7 phone

Based on a long article in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, Nokia intends to stake much of the success of its Windows-based smartphones on superior software and next-generation functionality.

If only that were true, then Nokia might actually have a chance to grab a decent piece of smartphone OS market share from Google and Apple. Unfortunately, according to the WSJ, Nokia is betting that "the innovative design of its new phone will help it stand out and draw attention away from software problems the company has faced as it struggles to compete in the lucrative market."

In other words, in a market driven primarily by demand for mobile apps and functionality, Nokia thinks its prettier phones can win the day.


Don't get me wrong, aesthetics count. But it will take more than a curved glass screen to pry iPhone and Android users away from their smartphones.

Have people been attributing Nokia's dramatic loss of market share to inferior design? Of course not. Nokia has stumbled because its Symbian OS got old and slow, and Meego wasn't developed in time to take up the slack.

Nokia head designer Marko Ahtisaari told the WSJ that modern touch-screen phones require too much attention and focus from their users:

"When you look around at a restaurant in Helsinki, you'll see couples having their heads down instead of having eye contact and being aware of the environment they're in," he says.

"Designing for true mobility...makes it easier for people to have more eye contact and be aware of their environment, and is an example of what people would not explicitly ask for but love when they get it," Mr. Ahtisaari says.

OK, so you strap your smartphone to the forehead of your dinner partner. Then what?

Good luck with that design play, Nokia.

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