April 12, 2011, 4:20 PM — With plenty of time to kill and more market share to lose before its first Windows Phone 7 devices begin shipping in volume next year, Nokia on Tuesday unveiled two new smartphones based on an updated version of its Symbian OS.
The Finnish cell phone giant hopes the pair of devices will keep even more customers from drifting off to smartphones powered by Google's Android, Apple's iOS or even Research in Motion's BlackBerry.
The launch of smartphones running on an updated version of Symbian -- long criticized as too old and clunky to compete in the post-Android market -- comes just two months after Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft that essentially would phase out Symbian and replace the smartphone OS with Windows Phone 7.
But this is what happens when you have to stall for time while you and your equally lumbering partner slowly develop a product for a market that moves at a pitilessly fast pace: You release stopgap products to give Nokia loyalists in the market for a smartphone this year a reason not to sign a two-year Android or iPhone contract.
Which has been happening a lot lately. Once the top-selling smartphone OS in the world, Symbian, was surpassed by Android in the fourth quarter. Market share for Nokia's mobile OS has fallen from 44 percent a year ago to 31 percent in Q4.
The two new smartphones target entirely different market segments. The Nokia E6 is for business users, while the X7 is geared toward users into games and other entertainment. The upgrades to Symbian include improved text input, faster browsing, new Ovi Maps as well as new icons.
Not exactly groundbreaking, but it's not intended to be. The head of Nokia's Smart Devices unit admits as much in an official statement:
"With these new products and more Symbian devices and user enhancements coming in the near future, we are confident we can keep existing Nokia smartphone customers engaged," said Jo Harlow.
Nokia Stopgap Fever: Catch It!