This post is not sponsored by the manufacturer. Neither do I get dividends from the sales. This is pure lips service to a great product line I've used for years.
We all have cell phones. Well, if you don't (I wonder were you managed to hide all these years), no worries, soon you will. A joke was once told that rather than giving people social identification number, they better be given a cell phone number - that way it's unique and you always keep in touch. As they say, in every joke there's a little portion of joke.
My first cell phone was Nokia 2110i. A bit bulky, TDMA sound quality, but very user friendly, reliable and simple. I loved that phone - made me feel cool in high school and was helpful when I was missing the last bus.
I learned the wonderful meaning of the word "contract" and once could get out of that, got Nokia 5120. That was c-o-o-l. Brand new technology, smaller size, more functionality, improved every single aspect of phone with one important thing - consistency. Nokia managed to keep the learning curve low by leaving the familiar user experience, yet overloading with new and improved functionalities and features (SMS, Wake alarm, better profiles, etc).
Nokia 9110 a.k.a. Communicator was a wet dream of those days, but I never got a chance to own one. Yet playing with it was great - guess what, same familiarity despite the WAP browsing, sophisticated records management and fax capabilities.
Nokia - Connecting People. With 3510 I felt it was more than a slogan. It was a reality. I loved every feature. Not to mention the colour it brought into the life. Playing more than a snake on your cell - yahoo. Calendar that looked both decent and be useful - again, with same familiar style and ease of use.
While working at Mushroom Interactive, I had a real chance to see what differentiates a good cell phone from a crappy popular toy. Nokia 6600, N-Gage, 3600 went through our office along with other "competitors". What a joke. I will never forget the one we struggled with just to render properly a drop down list (Mobile ASP.NET) - Panasonic. Felt like a merchandise sold a kilo for a buck.
Then the regression days began - we moved to North America and I discovered that being the best is not enough, you also have to know how to do the domestic politics and promote sales. The best I could get through a provider was 3220. I'd rather have an intermediate Noka than an advanced Samsung. Man I was right. My wife got Samsung :)
These days seems like changes are coming. Nokia N95 (8GB model) made it's debut here, and despite all the sexiness and coolness of iPhone and it's imitators, proves that if you want functionality with UX that just make sense you will find the truth. Now my wife is on N75 and I am (finally) moving on N95.
What's the point in telling all this besides going over the history of some Finish company and it's line of products? They made it right. Not from the beginning, but gradually and consistently. They wanted to be the number one and they became. They put quality on top and they served it. I think this is a great sample and a lesson how we can build software - value user experience and business value. Listen to what customer desires for, and at the same time be bold enough to innovate. Don't imitate your competitors, let them copy you, be ahead. Don't settle on achieved, wish for more.
PS: if you are interested in time Nokia phones timeline - this will give you a clue :)