If Nokia is about being Open why is data initially set to off?

After a lively debate on twitter tonight I’ve decided to reorganize my thoughts into post. My discussion with @chansearrington has really gotten me thinking about what Nokia’s perspective is on data usage and frankly why I think it’s wrong for today’s consumer marketplace.  Let me caveat this by first stating that I am considering only the higher end products … $500 and above which for Nokia is actually quite a few devices.

Let’s first consider a few things.  The iphone changed it all.  By forcing an unlimited data package into the purchase the iPhone lowered the bar to trial of basic data services and led the way to the applications marketplace which is clearly a runaway success.  The G1 followed and also included an unlimited data plan and now the PalmPre has arrived and comes with an unlimited data plan. 

Of course all three of these leading smartphones is offered through operator subsidy and that certainly makes things a bit easier as the data pipe is ready when you turn your phone on.  While Nokia sells gobs of phones through carriers none including the pending N97 flagship have mandatory unlimited plans.  I realize that outside he US, unlimited is a relatively new concept but again reflecting on the change the iPhone has brought the smartphone consumer has changed as well.  People now expect a data “tax” or an associated bill along with their usage of the phone.  There’s no way around that frankly as it’s the only way to get value from a workhorse like a smartphone.  If you don’t need or want that you’ve probably purchased the phone because you think it looks nice … now move along!

Chase argued that :

@atmasphere I’m sorry, bud. but you’re wrong. the more high end a user the aware they are of wifi and less likely to purchase a data plan

and did actually follow that up with:

@atmasphere on the flip side, higher income users with high income devices do tend to have data connections (think origin. black berry user)

Awareness of wifi and it’s value to your data experience does not mean you don’t want to have easy and open access to cellular data.  In my case (and yes I am on the extreme side) I use cellular data as much as possible unless I know my indoor coverage is going to limit my access to 3G.  I might use both more frequently if Nokia offered a smarter connection switching technique, but that’s yet another topic!

The key piece to the puzzle for me is how Nokia actually configures the software for you.  Presumably because the old way you would buy data was in an incremental manner, the device tends to ask each time you want to connect.  You not only have to confirm your intent to go online, but you have to choose your connection type.  Some people like this … I try not to think of the number if times I have agreed to go online. 

My suggestion is that the higher end Nokia devices (and I’m using $500 as the benchmark for high end) be set to just connect automatically to the internet through whatever operator sim is in your device.  Perhaps a single confirmation the very first time you go online and then never again would satisfy the legal department has caused this consumer frustration.  I’m willing to bet that the consumer purchasing a device in this price range is well aware and has the desire to go online frequently to consumer content. 

The N97 is loaded to the gills will ways to go online.  Apps, widgets, email, the store etc … imagine confirming your desire across each of them.  Why?  Just go online.  If I recall how my iphone works correctly (it’s been ages since I used it), I set a wifi point and then when in range (based on the scanning interval) it switches over.  there’s no prompt – in fact I have to go find wifi.  Cellular is the default.

In my view, everyone wins in this equation.  The consumer gets what they want – access to “stuff.”  The manufacturer gets happier more educated consumers using more of their devices … and I would be willing to bet more likely to purchase a next one.  The operator gets usage and a nice bill to share.  With the right plan structure it’s fair.  We just want to be able to access online content in a reasonable way for a reasonable price.

12 comments for “If Nokia is about being Open why is data initially set to off?

  1. nondual
    6/9/2009 at 8:07 pm

    i think this post just is a very long and complicated way of saying “nokia's connectivity UX sucks”. and i agree 100%. no matter why, and for what reason, it's simply crap. period. (former N95, now proud iphone user)

  2. 6/9/2009 at 9:44 pm

    I posted similar thoughts on this here: http://www.symbian-guru.com/welcome/2008/12/s60

    As much as I love my S60…er…Symbian-powered smartphones, this is just another area where Nokia and Symbian have failed to keep up with the times, alongside not being able to map a contact's physical location straight from their contact card and more.

    They got it half-right with Destinations in the newer phones – at least my N79 and 5800XM don't ask me for the access point anymore, but the big FAIL is that 1. I had to go find it (and know wtf a 'destination' was) and awkwardly set one as the default. I also then still have to manually agree for various applications to go online.

    The worst offenders here, IMO, are the highly-pushed WRT widgets like Facebook, Weatherbug, and others. I have to individually give them permission to connect *every time* I use them. It's absurd. I've had an unlimited data package for the past 5 years. YES, for the love of pete, I want to go online, and I don't particularly care how the phone does it (3G or WiFi).

  3. 6/10/2009 at 1:20 am

    WRT is supposed to follow the lead of the browser since it's also webkit, but the browser has to be open first … not a great first experience. sigh.

  4. 6/10/2009 at 1:25 am

    fair enough … the UX is definitely wrong but it seems because the thinking is focused on the way it was, not the way things have evolved.

  5. 6/10/2009 at 11:10 am

    Great post. A sentiment I totally agree with.

    My name's James Whatley and I endorse this message.

  6. 6/10/2009 at 8:13 pm

    Good post.

    Regarding the iPhone wifi: the way it works by default is that it will ask you, if it sees wifi access points in range (and you're on the Springboard), if you'd like to join any of them. Once it sees a wifi point you've joined once, it will auto-reconnect to that one seemlessly, as you described.

    3.0 is bringing automatic hotspot login, so if you're frequently at the same coffee shop you won't have to keep popping open a web browser before checking your email.

  7. Observer
    6/11/2009 at 2:13 pm

    In new Nokia phones (at least 5800 and N97) you can choose how you want it. You can choose what connection is first priority too. There is even apps witch look best connection for you in different places.

    But when you go abroad its gona cost you so there has to be possibility how you can control this.

  8. joel
    6/11/2009 at 2:48 pm

    Sorry but flat rate data has been around for quite some time, both in the US and to even greater extent in japan and korea. something like 80% of the users on japanese 3g networks are now on flatrate data.

    Email/messaging was the obvious killer app when the devices weren't powerful enough for general purpose internet use, now frankly they are, (well maybe not Nokia's but I digress, update the browser please, and put in a real processor). Now it's the internet stupid, and if the device doesn't come with internet it's demonstrably less useful then one that does, (and no people are not interested in being metered, you don't know what a webpage will cost to download before you download it)

  9. Matt Harmon
    6/12/2009 at 11:33 am

    u can choose which options you want. if you set up your device properly u can choose weather it will always ask you or if you want to select a default access point. this can be done with the wifi also. i think the only reason it is set to always ask is many network, particulary here in the uk, like to set a limit on unlimited data. i know with orange its about 500mb a month (which is an additional £7.50 a month or about $12 a month) and im sure other networks have their limits on unlimited data as well. its the same with broadband, where providers say its unlimited, but there is a monthly cap (normally around 40gb). maybe this is just a uk thing, or european thing. i think nokias biggest problem is their 'one size fits all' configuration. if the US is ahead on data plans, then they should configure their software approperiatly.

  10. 6/12/2009 at 2:50 pm

    exactly. we don't live in a one size fits all world and you'd think Nokia would get that given the number of devices they make. We need a higher end focus!

  11. 11/23/2009 at 8:02 pm

    In my view, everyone wins in this equation. The consumer gets what they want – access to “stuff.” The manufacturer gets happier more educated consumers using more of their devices … and I would be willing to bet more likely to purchase a next one. The operator gets usage and a nice bill to share. With the right plan structure it’s fair. We just want to be able to access online content in a reasonable way for a reasonable price.

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