Ask any giant: being big means being slow. But some new information shows that cellphone giant Nokia is finally getting what smartphones are all about. For its future phones, the company is copying the works of the smartphone masters: Apple and Google.
The leak comes from an unexpected source, the designer of the Nokia N97, Axel Meyer. He was captured on video talking about the design philosophy behind the N97, and during his presentation showed a number of prototype devices too—all evolutions of the N97 smartphone.
The smartphone interfaces look like a hybrid of Apple's intuitive Springboard—the launcher software that powers the iPhone's OS—and the Android operating system. The idea of single-touch launching of apps, multitouch gestures and a screen that morphs depending on landscape or portrait positioning are key features of both Apple and Google's design. And its a tribute to those trail-blazing innovations that Nokia, no slouch in cellphone OS design itself, is more or less copying those ideas directly.
Meyer's words suggest that Nokia plans to follow on Apple's coat tails. Since its launch, Apple has characterized the iPhone as more a mini-computer than a smartphone, touting its more-or-less complete OS X implementation. During several Q&A sessions Apple's executives have argued the iPhone is Apple's entry into the netbook market—the company doesn't want to have a conventional netbook as it "doesn't know" how to make one that's not terrible. And in the video clip we see Meyer trotting out an almost identical line: "We're going to redefine what 'personal computer' means. The N97 was the beginning of a new era." Chutzpah aside, presumably he means a new era for Nokia—the N97 is by no means the first smartphone to do what it does.
Meyer also points to a more social network-centric future for Nokia products. He wants to tweak the functionality to allow for with single-click access to Facebook and other sites, thus "putting the most important of people for you in the front of the UI." It sounds very groovy, but you could argue it's just an evolution of Apple and Google's thinking—by organizing your own front page in Android and on the iPhone, you can have all your social networking access right there with a single click.
The gearheads at GSMArena think that a leaked prototype appears in the video as well. They're suggesting the rounded black flip-QWERTY phone is the Ivalo, the N97's successor. It's due to have a 3.5-inch touchscreen, AGPS, FM transmit and receive function, 5-megapixel camera and other smartphone goodies. All of this sounds a lot like the predictions for the iPhone version 3, in fact, and the Ivalo is rumored to arrive on the scene at about the same time.
All in all it looks like Nokia is embracing the smartphone platform, just terrifically late—much like its adoption of touchscreen tech. We'll have to wait and see whether the Ivalo or the other prototype devices ever arrive, though, to see if Nokia is innovating or simply cloning the thinking of already successful gadgets.