When you think of companies who really understand mobility and mobility use cases, there's only one contender, and it's Nokia. Even Apple's iPhone, as pretty as it is, is a sophisticated expression of ideas that others pioneered first. If you want to know where mobile is going, the company to watch is Nokia.
So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I accepted the invitation to sit down with a few of Nokia's product managers to preview their announcements for today – the Nokia 6210 Navigator, 6220 Classic, and the newest members of their multimedia computer line, the N78 and N96. These products are at the confluence of the two major mobile trends today – social networking and multimedia. They represent, in my opinion, both the future of mobility and the next logical expression of many trends that have been emerging for the last several years.
So let's begin with the Nokia 6210 Navigator. Priced at 300 euros, this is a mid-range consumer slider phone with 8G of flash memory, a 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera, integrated GPS and a built-in compass. The magnetometer-based compass is a great innovation, which allows this device to be targeted at the pedestrian navigator, rather than the automotive navigator. Maps automatically orient themselves to the stance and position of the user, and with Nokia Maps 2.0, the device also knows about pedestrian routes. It can, for instance, tell you to walk through a park or across the street to reach your destination.
Nokia Maps 2.0 incorporates satellite, 3D, and hybrid views. Taking full advantage of the graphics capabilities in the phones, it's capable of easily rotating maps to any viewing angle. Maps 2.0 has two modes – drive or walk. As many will tell you, I am not a fan of phone's as devices for automobile navigation. Nokia's goal with drive mode is to allow phones to become replacements for dedicated navigation devices. They've optimized their map retrieval algorithms to give performance equivalent to dedicated navigation devices. In addition, with traffic information updates, it can now route drivers around traffic obstructions. With these kinds of innovations, Nokia may yet convince me to abandon my dedicated navigation device.
In walk mode, Maps 2.0 incorporates pedestrian routes. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the fusion of multimedia and maps that Maps 2.0 provides. With multimedia travel guides, the phone can provide pictures, videos and walking tours of destinations. The guides will be provided initially by Berlitz, but we should expect to also see guides from other well known travel guide companies. Nokia representatives wouldn't confirm, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Frommers, Rough Cuts, or Lonely Planet.
The Nokia 6220 Classic is best described as N95 functionality, but at a consumer price point. Priced at 325 euros, this is a slider with a 5 megapixel autofocus camera, xenon flash, and a assisted GPS capabilities. It's for imaging, and sharing. In addition to the features we've come to love in the N95, the 6220 also adds geotagging of photographs. Now you can upload your photos to Flickr or Nokia's Share with Ovi, and they will be automatically geotagged. Nice!
The new N78 is really the successor to the N73. It's a candybar style phone with a 3.2 megapixel camera, upgraded to include a 3.5mm headset jack and GPS. Like the consumer grade 6200 series phones above, it also includes a GPS for geotagging capabilities. Perhaps the most fun new feature, however, is the built-in FM transmitter. Sitting in your car, you can now listen to your music through car's radio!
I also saw the N96, some details of which were leaked last week. Optimized for video playback, the N96 supports multiple codecs, including DVB-H. It also includes a 5 megapixel camera, and sports a whoping 16G of internal memory, and can have another 8G of SD added externally. Nokia representatives informed me, given the screen size and compression, that this 24G of storage was enough for 20 to 25 Hollywood blockbuster. And, in perhaps the best tradition of Nokia's industrial design heritage, it even includes a tiny pop-out kick stand that surrounds the camera lens.
In all, I was impressed. The two new N-Series phones are the continued expression of Nokia's focus on multimedia. The 6200 series phones take the innovations pioneered on the N-Series and make the available at consumer price points. And the new focus on navigation across the entire range brings a host of new sophisticated tools for geo-tagging and sharing media, while also enabling new navigation scenarios.
Consumers are going to love these phones. I certainly plan to take along a 6210 Navigator with multimedia travel guides this summer when our family vacations in Europe!