Nokia hopes next-gen Asha phones will take on Android in low-end segment

Every now and then pops a rumor claiming Nokia is looking closely at Android and is considering giving it a shot to revive its smartphone fortunes. Even Nokia CEO has been ‘quoted’ by the media saying anything is possible. But at its earnings call, Elop made himself heard loud and clear that Android isn’t the way to go for Nokia.

When pressed by analysts on Nokia’s strategy to counter cheap Android smartphones, which would get dual-core processors and big displays for as low as $100, Elop said that the company continues to innovate on Asha and is working with Microsoft to bring down the prices of Lumia smartphones even lower.

“We are clearly innovating with Microsoft around Windows Phone and our focus on taking that to lower and lower price points, you will see that over time to compete with Android. But at the same time we’ve said consistently and you’re just beginning to see it in the Asha full touch products that we will continue to innovate around our Asha smartphone line in order to compete with the very lowest levels of Android with assets that we have. So we are not in a situation where we are considering something to different than Windows Phone combined with what we are doing with Asha,” Elop said during the course of the call.

The big worry for most analysts, however, seems to be whether Nokia can scale an ageing platform like S40 that powers Asha phones to make them competitive enough as entry-level Android smartphones get more powerful processors and become more usable than before, one of the key reasons for the success of Nokia’s Asha range last year.

“We are bringing Internet access to the lowest price points with Asha with other attributes than Android like the best battery performance and things like that which are very important in that low end of the market. But we need to be able to continue to manufacture, make price innovate on the Asha low end so that we are riding on that very, very low end of that Android competition,” said Timo Ihamuotila, CFO and executive vice president, Nokia.

Nokia also seems to be preparing for some new Asha phones, something that has Elop visibly excited. “I can’t provide specific product details or announcements, but clearly it’s our intent to be very competitive in the right countries at the right price points. And we definitely continue to invest and innovate around what we’re doing with the Asha product lines. There’s a lot of excitement with that product line ahead this year,” he mentioned while answering one question.

Whatever it is, Nokia’s Asha series will be equally critical as Lumia, if not more so, for Nokia’s attempts for a revival. If Nokia is able to turn around an ageing and limited platform like S40 to compete with full-blown smartphone platform like Android, it would definitely make it easier to come out of its transition period. Having said that, time is running out for Elop and Android smartphone vendors are catching up on the ground they lost to Asha phones in the last six months with better, more feature-rich smartphones with reference designs from MediaTek and Qualcomm that have multi-core processors and bigger displays for as low as $100. The clock is ticking for Elop.

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