Why Nokia can’t get it right.

Before I start, let me make it clear that I like Nokia. I have owned, and continue to own a good number of the products they sell and in many ways wouldn’t look elsewhere. However they are increasingly (and sadly) getting it wrong at very grass roots levels – and it wouldn’t take much to fix – I just don’t think Nokia “get it”. Here’s the most recent example based on the “Nokia Music” service and the very much related “Comes With Music” facility. In theory an absolutely great idea and the only chance for Nokia to compete with iTunes from Apple. Except Nokia have royally missed the boat.

Comes Generally Without Music…

First up, “Comes With Music”. The principle is good enough. Buy a Nokia Phone, get unlimited access to music. The reality though is less favourable. You can only get the service on a very limited number of handsets, and not all variants – so just because Nokia advertise the Nokia 5800 as “Comes With Music” it is in fact only that on certain models from certain networks. Whoops.  For me that makes this a little pointless – I use a few handsets, I bought a Nokia N97 SIM Free direct, but still no Comes With Music. I’d have had to buy it subsidised via Phones4U for that. No thanks. Right now I’ve got the “Flagship” N900. No Nokia Music Store to buy or play stuff I own, no Comes with Music option.

I’m not entirely sure why Nokia can’t just offer a “Comes With Music” subscription you can buy for your Nokia Phone. £10 a month. £15 a month. I’d buy. I guess I’d be less annoyed were it not for the fact I buy my phones SIM free, so I’ve already paid £499 for my N900, and £499 for my N97. Yet some getting it bunged free as part of a contract can in some cases get Comes with Music too. Own goal Nokia.

Nokia Music Store… or “Ovi Music”…

Another idea that in principle is good but they’ve royally messed up on. So they create an app called “Nokia Music” which is the front end to the Music Service – including the one for Comes With Music users. However it has a handy option (well a compromise I guess) which means I could pay them £8 per month for “unlimited streaming” to my PC. Ideally I’d want that on my phone, and certainly it would make more sense, but nonetheless I subscribed. The rationale was simple, with the Nokia Music app on my PC I could get access to a good choice of music, could easily see new release albums across Genres I was interested in (a key to why I liked Nokia Music), rediscover old albums etc. All good and worth the £8, even without the “on phone” facility.

I tried “Spotify” – the “on phone” stuff is excellent in concept, the desktop client fine to have too, but I don’t like the lack of proper genre searching, it’s just messy and not overly clever. I found with Spotify I pretty much need to know what I want to hear which wasn’t really why I used it (if I like something I go out and buy it! Also £9.99 a month while not much more seems bad value when it doesn’t work as I want. I tried out “Napster” too – much better than Spotify, as it had Genres but not as much music I wanted – less of the big names seem to be found on Napster – £5/month so good value. Since then Napster seem to have binned the “app” and now does it via a web page – all well and good but sometimes music play gets interrupted when something “takes over” the browser. Bad move.

Nokia Bin Streaming

The other day I suddenly found that the “Play with Unlimited Streaming” icons had disappeared – initially figuring I’d just logged out I then find out Nokia have binned the Unlimited Streaming option. No warning, it just disappeared. Gee thanks.

Recapping….

So why are nokia totally missing the boat?

  • Making the “Comes With Music” option limited to very specific variants of handsets mean the facility isn’t known of to many potential customers, let alone used much. Meanwhile every iPhone sold includes access to iTunes. OK sure not “unlimited music streaming” but people will pay for music as iTunes shows, so even ignoring “Comes With Music” nokia shoot themselves by not including it.
  • Having “Comes With Music” available as standard on all phones that could support it even if it is an add-on subscription would grow usage, and help Nokia keep market share as in the same way it is unlikely iPhone users will move away from Apple if they have to lose iTunes, they’d likely think twice on moving from Nokia. I guess it’s “lock in” and there are drawbacks but the fact the most obvious competitor today does it, and what’s good for the goose….
  • “Nokia Music” store was pretty good – if a little unstable from time to time, but nonetheless it worked well. The upgrade to “Ovi Music” though was plain stupid. Slower, and most importantly with a “playlist” screen that constantly disappears with no way to “pin” it to keep it showing – why it has to keep scrolling up again is beyond me.
  • Limiting the exact phones you can get Comes With Music on has stopped more than one person I know from buying a new Nokia. They wanted a new phone, they liked the idea of Comes With Music, but the phone they wanted doesn’t come with Comes with Music. Funnily enough the phone itself is a major part of the choice, and certainly likely to matter more than compromising on the phone for the sake of Comes With Music.
  • Doing smart stuff and having what I think is the best Music availability and choice (well certainly in the genres I care about) is typical Nokia. Shocking limitations, poor communication of change and short sighted decisions are what will kill Nokia.
  • Not allowing streaming via its own products. Firstly technical issues: Yes, I know data usage is a possible issue, but surely that’s my decision – I don’t mind paying for data – besides most phones have WiFi now anyway so it could be less of an issue than considered – especially if it could cache content. Secondly “ARE NOKIA MAD” – why would you release a service that cannot actually be used on your own products. Madmen.

Here’s hoping Nokia wake up, smell the coffee and sort it! (N900 first pleaseeee)

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