Nokia's and Apple's Mobile Histories Side By Side

| June 13, 2010 | 14 Replies

Writing the articles about my history with Nokia was apparently quite well-timed with the announcement of the iPhone 4, where Apple yet again announced a load of new features as being brand-new, game-changing aspects of their new device, despite the fact that Nokia have been pushing out countless gadgets with such things for a while.

Before I go on, I should point out that I’m not anti-Apple. It’s true that I don’t agree with their approach to promoting their products by outright lying about them, and I’m not keen on their attitude within their products of “you must work the way we designed things to work”. However, there’s no denying that the iPhone did open up the market to new types of devices – Nokia tried and failed to get touchscreen into the mainstream more than once, but Apple nailed it. Also, the iPhone OS (iOS now?) user interface is incredibly intuitive and user-friendly and does seem very robust and stable (albeit due to the aforementioned “doing things the Apple way” approach – break out of that by jailbreaking, and that stability breaks down). They’ve really done wonders for the whole mobile market by raising the standards that everyone else aims towards.

Which would you prefer?

Anyway, I thought I’d just break down some of the features that we’ve all come to know and love in our devices, and just see when Nokia and Apple actually pulled them off first. It’s likely to be a little biased against Apple, if only because they’ve not been in the market as long as Nokia, but a lot of these features really should have been the bare minimum in the first iPhone. I’ll try to give them credit where they were in the market through other mobile devices previously. As an aside, it may be worth noting that in one or two cases, my beloved N900 still lags behind a little. However, this table is looking at the companies, rather than the OS.

Also note that these items are based on what the company ships with their handsets, and my research has been mostly focussed around iOS and Symbian/S40 based devices – feel free to add comments with more accurate years for any I’m wrong on.

Nokia Apple
Multitasking 2001 (9210 Communicator)

(any before this?)

Not really

2010 (iOS 4, limited)

Cut and paste 2001 (9210 Communicator)

(earlier Communicators too?)

App purchasing Pre 2007 (Nokia Download)

2009 (Ovi Store)

Music purchasing 2007 2001 (iTunes)


2007 (iPhone)

Full web browser 1996 (9000 Communicator?) 2007
QWERTY keyboard 1996 (9000 Communicator) 2007
Touch screen 2004 (7710) 1987 (Apple Newton)

2007 (iPhone)

8+Gb internal storage 2006 (N91-8Gb) 2001 (iPod classic)
3G connectivity 2002 (6650) 2008
Accelerometer 2006 (5500 Sport) 2007
MMS 2002 2009
Video calling 2005 (N70) 2010 (Wifi only)
5MP camera 2007 2010
320 x 240 (or more) resolution 2006 2007
HD video recording 2010 (N8) 2010
Music/video player 2005 (N70) 2001
Wallpapers/Themes 2001 (and before?) 2010
Turn-by-turn navigation 2006 (?) Not yet
Voice commands Not sure (before 2009) 2009
Open source OS 2010 (Symbian) Not yet
Office suite 2001 (9210 Communicator) 2010 (iPad)
Community software* 2001 (and before?) Not yet
Text-to-speech 2006 (5500 Sport) Not yet (?)

* This is perhaps, just perhaps, a dig at Apple’s insistence that all apps installed on the iPhone be approved and supplied through the App Store. Nokia’s devices, on the other hand, have always allowed developers to distribute their software however they see fit, though there is still some approval process involved in getting listed on Ovi Store.

Of course, it’s worth noting that Nokia opted to drop some features for prolonged periods along the way. I doubt I’m alone when I suggest that the Office suite that Nokia inherited from Psion and implemented in the 9210 Communicator was superior in many respects to those available for Nokia devices now, for instance. It also dawned on me as I went along that I’m not entirely certain about how Nokia’s Series 40 has developed, or even Series 30, but I doubt they come into the running particularly…

Anyway, a lot of this is just food for thought really. It’s probably not a fair comparison, as ultimately we find ourselves in a world were both manufacturers are pushing out devices that appeal to a very large number of people. In my mind, it’s just a shame Apple didn’t aim higher to start with, or perhaps I wouldn’t be sat here today with a drawer full of Nokia devices…


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Category: Nokia, Symbian

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  • mrbean

    Great article and comparison,i learned a few things today =]
    i lol’d at Video calling nokia had it since 5 years and apple just got it now and make it seems like revolutionary
    but overall super article ,appreciated the read and info

  • mrbean

    here’s a video from first to recent nokia phone

  • hi mr. bean.
    you have nothing to lose if I buy a nokia product. nokia is the best

  • Nick

    Wallpapers/Themes 2001 (and before?) 2010

    Haha loved that one! And might I just point out, the iPhone still doesn’t support themes out of the box. DOH! x_x

  • I’m not completely sure on the year, but the 6680 was around before the N70. I think late 2004. It had video calling and turn-by-turn navigation (TomTom).

  • Jarno :
    I’m not completely sure on the year, but the 6680 was around before the N70. I think late 2004. It had video calling and turn-by-turn navigation (TomTom).

    And of course the music/video player.

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  • Great post Andy!

    Maybe add also when Nokia first started doing video recording (2003 with 3650?)
    Or when Nokia did VGA video recording 30FPS, (2006 with N93)
    We only got this in what, 2009 with iPhone!


    I know iPhone fans will say that this is what “antiApple” folks always say, that we (fans of other brands) got features first and that it’s all about software/content/ecosystem) In one sense that may be true, but then it’s all about what users actually need. Apple has an amazing way of making you want/need their products and forget that you used to want/need other features.

  • luvnokbut

    All this need to justify that Nokia’s been and done it all is a little bit thin ain’t it? Apple do what they do in style whether there’s substance is a debatable notion but the thing we need to remember is the fact that almost 90% of users are not interested in all of these facts they are average usees. Apple probably recognise this fact more than any other manufacture.

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  • jwf1990

    Great article does show how you can manipulate people and Steve Jobs is a master of these

  • Mulligan

    I don’t really understand what’s your key point. You are trying to drive the fact that Nokia has been ahead of Apple in terms of feature timelines and Apple is not necessarily 1st to market. But, do consumers really care about who’s 1st and 2nd?

    Consumers care about what gives them the best experience and even with more than a billion devices sold, Nokia has not been able to do that.

    So what if the Download folder was available pre-2007 for paid and free apps. Did you ever try it? The experience was crap – even with 3G and with 2.5G

    In 2005-06, Nokia had more than 10,000 developers but they never offered anything substantial to them – add to that the vagaries of the Symbian platform.

    As a developer, I had seen poor developer evangelism from Nokia even though they had the highest share. Some of my friends who work or used to work in Nokia tell me that the app story / developers were never a high priority for Nokia (till Apple AppStore became successful.)

    Compare that to the outward and enthusiastic evangelism from Android, Apple and Microsoft. They really take the application story seriously.

    Nokia is now paying for its high-handedness and arrogance of not listening to the consumer and not going with trends.

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  • Jemma

    Not to mention dual processor in ’06 & tv-out in ’06 plus projector, high res 416×352 screen 06. Then theres the jobs-ite fear of a decent keyboard. I could go on but to be fair I just cant be bothered. Apple could be said to have democratised the smartphone, nope, they just sold them to the real life equivalents of Baldrick. Electronic dung for dinner; from Apple.