|Open Democracy, via Flickr (CC license)|
|Can Nokia move fast enough to keep competing with the iPhone in the US? Time’s running out!|
I’ve been hearing the rumor, and Gizmodo claims it’s true: Apple is supposed to debut the next-generation iPhone on June 9, during the keynote address of its Worldwide Developers Conference. I would expect it to go on sale in the US pretty soon after that. (But of course, you never really know with Apple.)
Apparently this new iPhone will include 3G network compatibility. That’s really important for people who want a true multimedia content creation and distribution tool, not just a phone. It’s also likely to have real GPS — which is far more accurate and useful than the crappy fake GPS the current iPhone uses (based on cell phone tower triangulation). That’s important if you want to accurately geocode the content you create (photos, video, etc.).
BUT… the new iPhone is not likely to be the complete Max Headroom device that journalists and mobloggers really need. Because it’s not likely to get a much better camera (currently just 2.0 megapixels). And it’s not likely to support a Bluetooth keyboard. And it’s not likely to get a built-in video editor. So it’s still meant mainly for mobile content consumers, not creators.
In other words, the new iPhone still won’t be as good a product as Nokia’s N95 already is — at least not as far as journalists and mobloggers are concerned.
Nevertheless, I might soon end up settling for an iPhone — unless Nokia pulls its US service act together damn quick. (Specifically, before the new iPhone goes on sale in the US.)
Why? Because the new iPhone might be barely good enough for much of what I need a mobile device to do. More importantly, Apple has proven, through its service practices, that it stands behind its products and cares about customers’ experience after they buy. Apple understands and respects that users of high-end phones run their lives on those devices, and thus cannot tolerate being without them for more than a few days at a time.
Meanwhile Nokia’s dearth of US local service centers, requirement that customers ship damaged or dead phones to Nokia at their own expense, and warranty that allows Nokia up to 30 days to return a phone — plus its risky, clunky, PC-only firmware update process — convey the message that Nokia doesn’t really care much about its US customers. (At least, not after they fork over $500-$700 for an N-Series phone.)
And when it comes to must-have, multi-use mobile devices, service quality is at least as important as product quality. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for me, service is more important — since evidently I am willing to compromise (within reason) on the product I want in order to get the service I need. I doubt I’m the only journalist/moblogger willing to make that tradeoff.
That said, I know that Nokia has recently woken up to the fact that its US customers are so very displeased with their service, and they are starting to try to make amends. Here’s where that’s at so far…
Today, Nokia blogger Charlie Schick writes that Nokia Care USA (Nokia’s US service/support division) is now “interested in getting directly engaged” with discussing US service issues in public with US consumers.
Charlie’s helping Nokia Care craft a plan to conduct this conversation “over the next few weeks,” since “We here at Nokia Conversations have taken this discussion as far as we can. And I do not think we or this site are well suited to take this discussion where it needs to go.”
That’s some progress — but it many not be fast enough given Apple’s plans and US consumers’ impatience.
Charlie also noted “I do know that in the past three weeks the head of Care USA has been exploring and working on something concrete that she attributes to the conversation going on [in the Nokia Conversations Blog]. I do not have the details, so do not want to say anything further until the head of Care USA is ready to tell us the whole thing. Indeed, we are trying to give them some space so that they come out on their own and speak for themselves.”
That also sounds interesting — but once more, time is of the essence.
What I want to know is: Will Nokia take most of the risk of their fancy phones off US consumer’s shoulders? Specifically, will they devise a way to guarantee that they will repair, replace, or deliver loaners for damaged or dead N-Series phones to US users within, say, seven days? (For a start — 2-3 would be a better goal. Apple already moves that fast.)
Most critically: Can and will Nokia USA put that kind of solution in place by the time I can buy an iPhone? (Or very shortly after that launch.)
We’ll see. Meanwhile, tick, tick tick, Nokia… I still hope you succeed in the US, but it’s really up to how fast you’re willing to move at this point.