Poof! There went Nokia’s high-end US market…

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Ooops, sorry, Nokia — was that YOUR market?

Nokia has been running a US TV commercial featuring the world’s most inept magician, to tout its high-end N95 8G phone. How appropriate — because today, Nokia’s high-end US market just went “Poof!”

Apple just announced its new 3G iPhone — and I think it’s most of the way toward being a pro-level tool for journalists and mobloggers. I plan to get one as soon as they become available in early July.

I say “most of the way” because the 3G iPhone still has a glaring omission — no provision for an external full-size keyboard, either Bluetooth or docking. That’s a bummer. I’ve demoed the iPhone touch keyboard several times, and have found it frustrating to try to write anything more than a few words at a time with it. That may be fine for the vast majority of iPhone users — but for serious journalists, bloggers, and mobloggers, that’s a serious handicap.

But lack of keyboard support no longer a dealbreaker-level handicap as far as I’m concerned. Not like Nokia’s abysmal US service, which can leave users of the fancy, pricey, delicate N95 (a superior device for journalists and mobloggers, in my opinion) without a phone for up to a month — or longer, some users report.

In contrast, Apple offers prompt, excellent service at many, many US locations. I’ve used that service for other Apple products, and I’ve been impressed.

I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: For a high-end, can’t-be-without-it mobile device that people put their entire lives on, service quality is at least as important product quality. Nokia may still have the superior product for high-end users — but their service sends a clear message: We don’t really care about your experience after you buy our fancy phone.

Besides myself, I’m sure that the new 3G iPhone has swayed the opinion of many other would-be high-end phone users in the US who have been waiting (and waiting, and waiting…) for a mobile device that will let us create and share the kind of content we’ve always wanted to make on the go — with the confidence that if and when it goes awry, we won’t be stranded.

This is very, very bad news for Nokia USA. Because…
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3G iPhone Coming June 9 (Look Out, Nokia!)

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…
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