Both Nokia and Blackberry are brands that were previously quite dominant in the smartphone industry, but they’ve had trouble as of late in securing any significant portion of the smartphone market. With a market dominated by the likes of Samsung, Apple, and Google, is there any hope for the once beloved brands to make a comeback?
Last February, both Nokia and TCL (who acquired the BlackBerry branded phones back in 2016) announced plans to reinvent themselves and contribute a competitive smartphone that could compete with offerings from more dominant brands like Samsung. A year later, we’ve yet to see anything nearly as revolutionary from the companies as we were expecting, so many are wondering what the future holds for the likes of Nokia and Blackberry phones.
Regardless of the grandiose plans of both companies, we doubt that either will be able to return to the heights of their popularity – largely due to the changing landscape of the smartphone arena. While Blackberry saw dominance as the go-to phone for business professionals – even extending their reach into the general population due to the ease of texting on their physical keyboard – their design feels dated even after acquisition by TCL, and they fell behind due to their insistence on remaining on their own proprietary OS for so long. Nokia was once the king of smartphones, offering durable phones with an incredibly long lifespan. However, as budget smartphones have gotten less and less expensive, the appeal of a phone without these useful features has been lessened.
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Both Nokia and BlackBerry-branded phones have since changed their direction, but is it too little too late? Whether or not there’s room for these two companies in a market that is already saturated by highly-competitive Android phones is up for debate. Sales figures show that Nokia sold less than 6 million phones last year, with BlackBerry branded phones shipping around 170000 units in the fourth quarter. BlackBerry has since seen great success in the cybersecurity industry as they stepped away from phone development, and it appears that TCL is having trouble revamping the brand. Compared to the 77.3 million iPhones that Apple sold in a single quarter, it’s clear that the disparity between these brands is extremely high.
While companies don’t have to be as successful as Apple to carve out a niche in the industry, the fact remains that the numbers Nokia and TCL are putting up in terms of sales are quite low. With the cost of development for phones getting higher and higher – even for the budget and mid-range phones we expect from the likes of Nokia – failing to see the sales the company expects could spell trouble for these once-dominant brands.
However, a comeback into the smartphone arena doesn’t happen overnight. With two huge players in the form of Apple and Samsung, any sort of significant gain will be hard won. Over multiple years of building up their brands, BlackBerry and Nokia phones may be able to carve out a niche for themselves. Expecting to win big right off the bat after being obsolete for a few years just isn’t realistic.
We haven’t seen anything major from TCL and Nokia thus far, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that something isn’t coming. We expect to see an update from the brands in the coming months, with Nokia presenting at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, and a BlackBerry phone set to be revealed later in March.
However, in order to compete with industry behemoths like the upcoming release of the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, the two companies are going to need to deliver something exceptional. Samsung’s new flagships, while not necessarily revolutionary, have a large fanbase and are some of the most powerful devices on the market. While BlackBerry and Nokia phones may be able to capture a portion of the market with more affordable phones, releasing a flagship with a similar price point to Samsung’s new phones around the same time may be a recipe for disaster.
Additionally, this time around, Nokia and BlackBerry phones are setting themselves up for success by embracing the Android operating system. While several flagships from BlackBerry have run on Android at this point, it’s a first for Nokia and both phones are relatively new to the most popular operating system in the world. As phones continue to get smarter and smarter, people rely on support for apps. This is one of the main reasons the Windows Phone has struggled to compete with Android and iOS devices. The problems feed into each other: with a smaller user base, fewer developers release applications, and with fewer applications, fewer users opt for these proprietary operating systems.
Taking the jump to move their phones onto Android may pay off in a big way for both brands, and as they rebrand and make a name for themselves in the industry, we may soon see Nokia and Blackberry phones that can hold their own against Apple and Samsung. While we likely won’t see Nokia and TCL quite as successful as they were in the past, other companies have proven that it’s possible to see success without reaching the size of industry dominators like Samsung. We’ll have to wait and see what exactly we can expect from Nokia and TCL during their upcoming reveals.