Last week, Nokia invited us along with a select group of bloggers for an offsite event to showcase its upcoming Symbian Belle devices, which are expected to be launched in India later this week. The smartphones – 600, 700 and 701 – form a new wave of Symbian devices, all running on a 1GHz processors and a revamped UI that makes it slightly more intuitive to use with a better touch interface. Surprisingly, specs and feature updates were not the main focus of Nokia’s spokespeople at the event. Instead, most of the time was spent on NFC and how Nokia will differentiate its offerings and user experience from its competitors. Hit the break to continue reading.
With these new NFC-enabled smartphones, Nokia will drive its Just Tap marketing campaign with ‘pairing and sharing’ – how users can pair Bluetooth headsets and speakerphones or share pictures and other content between NFC-enabled phones. The company will also place app-specific NFC-enabled tags at retail stores from where consumers will be able to download apps by placing their phones on the tag. The tag contains the URL from where the app can be downloaded. These smartphones will also come pre-installed with Angry Birds Magic, a special version for these phones, where new levels are unlocked every time the phone is paired with a new NFC-enabled device. Nokia already has a couple of NFC-enabled Bluetooth headsets and will also launch a 40W speaker – Play 360 – that will also play nice with these devices.
Nokia seems to have a good story going here but its success will depend only on how it can develop the whole ecosystem. We spent a complete day with these devices and the NFC-enabled pairing and sharing feature mostly worked, these alone will not be sufficient to engage users. The world’s largest handset vendor by units needs to find ways to integrate NFC in daily user activities.
Talking about the devices, we found the three smartphones to have undergone a vast improvement. The UI is zippy, the fixed-focus cameras generated some surprisingly stunning shots and the battery lasted us an entire day of heavy usage. What Nokia still needs to work on is the apps ecosystem. For instance, Symbian would probably be the only platform that does not have an official Twitter or Facebook app. The alternative free apps are pretty basic and we had to buy a paid app in order to share our pics on Twitter.
Symbian Belle does add some bells and whistles to a burning platform and we reckon more can be done to make it Nokia’s workhorse platform for entry and mid-end smartphones.