Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why the Nokia Communicator was loved in Southeast Asia

In my last post, as I wrote about the doorway to the Internet opening very quickly in Southeast Asia markets, I also remembered how the Nokia Communicator came to the market. 

Why?  Because the Nokia Communicator was one of the very first converged smartphones in the market - a wide screen, comfortably spaced QWERTY keyboard, sms, fax, connectivity to the internet, black and white to color in a solid clamshell build ... from the Nokia 9000 in 1996 to the Nokia E90 in 2007, a new Communicator arrived every 3 years.  And the Nokia Communicator certainly caught the hearts of a number of loyal fans and communities in Southeast Asia.

I remember fondly of being part of the launch of the Nokia 9500 Communicator in Southeast Asia (a touch of nostalgia for fans of the Communicator with the attached Nokia 9500 product video), and particularly the Indonesia go-to-market experience.

During the 2004 launch of the Nokia 9500 Communicator in Indonesia, consumers were lining up since 4am in the morning.  Here is a photo of crowd I took on the day of launch.  A steady flow of people streamed in continuously in long lines, some with babies in hand and a thick wad of cash in the other for the converted smartphone!

3 things which drew the Southeast Asia fans to the Nokia Communicator:
(1) Status
One of the very first converged smartphones in the market, the Nokia Communicator belonged to a league of its own class.  Those who owned a Communicator felt that they had achieved a key milestone in life.  Both the men and the ladies - businessmen, celebrities, I spoke to in Indonesia (and other markets) would attest to that.  Status is a very key driving factor for Southeast Asia (and the larger Asia) consumers.  And the Nokia Communicator grew a strong and loyal following in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

(2) Communication Options
The Nokia Communicator had sms, fax, internet connectivity and email as part of its rich communication options and further complemented by a wide screen and a well-spaced QWERTY keyboard.  Businessmen used the Communicator to keep in touch with their personal and business networks with the flexible communication options.

(3) Productivity
Asian consumers have a very large number of contacts.  I remember talking to many businessmen and government officials in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, who literally owned a filofax of thousands of contacts in their Nokia Communicators!  Just look at the photo I captured below of a consumer (notice the intense look) who was transferring the contacts, sms messages from his previous Nokia Communcator to his new Nokia 9500 Communicator.

Key productivity use cases of the Nokia Communicator:
  • Festive sms greetings could be prescheduled to their networks.
  • Business agreements conducted and captured over long sms threads.
  • Purchase orders could be conveyed over fax.
It's been a rather fascinating journey back in time as I reminisced the birth and passing of one Nokia Communicator to the next.  With great interest and anticipation, I look forward to the arrival of the Nokia E7 smartphone, which just may herald the coming of the next line of modern Communicators into the market after the previous Nokia E90 Communicator in 2007 (of which I was also proud to be part of the go-to-market).

Any thoughts from you on your experiences with the Nokia Communicator?

Til later, more thoughts
Nelson Wee


Timothy Hou said...

To add on, it had apps way before apps became mass market. The users of this smartphone had developers creating apps that had a huge following such as managing messages and contacts and sms, privacy, security, etc. These apps were driven by users demand.

I believe that the success was also technological leadership. It was the highest end of price and customer segment that offer the best combination of form and technological function. It was THE device of that time. To standout from the crowd is more difficult now as consumers have now moved to another level of touch and feel beyond the beautiful hardware.

Nelson Wee said...

Indeed, there were apps to port data from older communicator to newer communicator, app for fax, apps for SMS management, for customisation and the list goes on. The Nokia Communicator certainly was in a league on its own - ok disclaimer, I may be biased here, having being part of the launch teams ... :)

Anonymous said...

I very much remember the hype way back when. I was mesmerized by Palm's devices when they first came to light and very much after. Nokia didn't have much of a 'leap' in the US then, as the 'stockmarket' played into the popularity contest. My family back in Thailand used to tell me about the Nokia's wave of desiredness in S.E. Asia back then.

Wow, have the times and tides changed. Let see what 2011 brings. Should be interesting the way TECH is moving.