I’ve been spending what seems like a lot of time on trains recently. More time, in fact, than I’ve spent since I used to commute to and from Paris on the Eurostar in 1999/2000. Back then, I’m pretty sure the mobile phone of choice was the Nokia 6210 which was soon after replaced by the 6310 (and then the 6310i). Nothing has changed today.
I’ve been really surprised how many “salary men” have a 6310 sitting on the table in front of them. For every 5 men in ties there are at least 3 such phones. Some of these guys have blackberries, they have up to date laptops and ipaqs and whatever. But they have a phone that is, at best, perhaps 2-3 years old and maybe even 4 years old. Checking on the web, a new one costs £270 – hardly the price that you’d expect for old technology.
The truth, then, is likely that the phone just works and that noone in the corporate hierarchy sees a need to replace them with colour screens, cameras, polyphonic warbles or any other distractions. Nokia’s margins on these must be enormous – they’ve been producing them so long they must have figured out how to do so cheaply (just the way that Intel could probably sell you a first generation Pentium now for about 3p).
There is, though, a strong chance of a big corporate upgrade cycle coming. The question for Nokia is will those folks stick with their brand or will they be swayed to some other – perhaps the blackberry phones, perhaps a treo or perhaps a cheap Asian import that, like the 6310, doesn’t try to be too clever but just tries to be stable, easy to use and efficient at what it does: make and receive calls.