Stephen Fry pleased with Nokia Lumia 800 and can’t wait for Nokia Lumia 900 (+ Rant revisited)

| April 5, 2012 | 90 Replies


In the last few weeks, you may have noticed that I have been referring back to an old blogpost where Stephen Fry talked about Nokia, in particular the N97. Stephen Fry is a celebrity particularly famous in the UK for his acting, comedy, presenting, and an all around likeable, intellectual Brit that loves a latest and greatest of technology. He’s a long time user of Nokia, having sent possibly the first few mobile emails in 1996 with a communicator.

“It distresses me more than I can say therefore to announce that the N97 is a crushing disappointment…But the Symbian S60 operating system that drives the device is achingly old-fashioned, sluggish and unfriendly.It really pains me that I can’t rave about this device.”

In that post, we saw Stephen’s concerns about how the device was lacking, and I shared my own worries and frustrations about what Nokia was doing with Symbian and what they could do with their next OS (unknown at the time to be the Maemo 5 N900). I also mentioned how, even if it was to complain, I missed Stephen Fry’s commentary on Nokia, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about..

My response at the time. Rather chilling to still see the same Nokia mistakes year after year :S. This was written in June 2009 and it was not the first post of mine  to share frustration in Symbian. It’s also frustrating to see that they let things slip so much and let iPhone grow so strong – allowing the app market to dominate people’s choices. We took too long to get rid of the rot. I’d just thought it was good to look back on this post for those who like to accuse us of needlessly and suddenly disliking Symbian just because of WP’s arrival. I’ve long been concerned about improving it, and obviously Nokia was too. But they just couldn’t do it quickly enough!


A lot of of the ground achieved by the hardware of the N97 is absolutely mauled by the pathetic looking Symbian S60 5th Edition UI. Although S60 OS is very mature and has been able to do a lot of things Apple’s iPhone is taking years to put in, the UI for the most part appears to be old S60 3rd edition with a touch screen just slapped on. Very few things are optimised for finger friendly gestures. A lot of things are buried in a labyrinth of menus.

Don’t get me wrong. I love S60. But as I may have mentioned before – right now, to Nokia, S60 is a limb gone gangrene that just absolutely needs to be amputated. It does not have the slickness that people (er iPhone users) have become accustomed to.

Maemo Harmattan?

I am very doubtful that S60 will ever receive an overhaul overwhelming enough to rival iPhone’s UI, and hoping that the rumoured Maemo Harmattan (or any other New OS built from scratch) will be the “salvation” Nokia so desperately needs .

OS and UI aside, I really do hope that Nokia will resolve the issue of just making one badass device with the best hardware (just having capacitive would have appeased some of the anger of having to add a tad bit more force when poking the screen). Nokia  – until you make a phone all other manufacturers can look up to:

  • Please, save the whole sifting and separating of devices to meet different markets when it comes to your bloody flagship. We know Nokia’s capable of making the ultimate convergence smartphone. Do it!
  • Don’t make a half-assed flagship phone that’s just “good” in the knowledge that in 6 months you’ll announce a better one which is what the predecessor should have been. Focus all your attention on getting one phone right and be totally amazing, than have several “just good/great” phones. [See rumoured N900/Rover]

Hopefully, Nokia can do this before Apple’s grip with their App Store becomes too great. Apple could, right now, release a pile of sh_t and call it iPhone 4, but it will still be extremely desirable to many, simply due to its bountiful library of Apps. It’s a bit sad that Nokia used to appeal to customers that way – you bought a Symbian S60 phone because of it’s Apps, even if another handset may have superior hardware. A bit like as Fry said, Apps go beyond what the phone could do (as set by the manufacturer), instead flourishing and evolving with the ingenuity and creativity of the new applications. The problem with Nokia is that really, only people “in the know” could actually find and install those applications.

Now, with Ovi Store, Nokia is trying to reclaim what little presence they had in terms of apps, (and also with ringtones and wallpaper -_- ). But it’s doing it with a fragmented base (different phones/different OS), and spearheading it with S60. Yes it’s good, in that there are a lot of S60 devices. It allows Ovi Store to somehow grow some roots with people, and establish an awareness of Nokia’s services. But being S60, it also embeds a rot. A rot that will continue to harm Nokia’s position in the high end smartphone war if S60 UI remains prehistoric. To get rid of the rot:

  • Nokia needs to relegate S60 to lower end devices, focusing resources on maybe a new OS for higher end handsets (with emulation capabilities to run S60 library of apps)
  • S60 UI needs to get a bigger face lift than Joan Rivers and Michael Jackson combined. Either be up to date with current expectations in UI or totally blow us out of the water by exceeding the expectations on how intuitively users can interact with their devices (instead of hopelessly attempting to catch up and cringe-worthily failing).
  • (Deserves own post, but the implimentation of Ovi Store – yes it’s in its infancy and desperately needs guidance to maturity)

Maybe the answer will not come from Maemo Harmattan, but what ever the Symbian Foundation is cooking up?

We can just wait; in hope that Nokia will pleasantly surprise us.

Although, with all the wait and hope for an improved/revamped/brand new Nokia OS, I’d sooner just love to see a Nokia Smartphone with WebOS/Android or even iPhone OS. But that is but a dream.

Yup. Wishing for a Nokia hardware with a decent alternative OS that would come and rival iPhone so Nokia’s strengths can shine. I did not know how amazing Maemo 5 would be, and clearly, Nokia didn’t either otherwise they would not have let Symbian strangle its development. I’m somewhat happy that I underestimated the brilliance of what Nokia achieved in Maemo 5, which did deliver beyond expectations. But I also anguish in the thought that the potential saviour to Nokia’s problems did not get the support it deserved.

How long were we supposed to wait for Symbian to improve it’s UI huh? And then how much longer do we wait when the competition improves again? Nokia threw away the opportunity to snuff out iPhone, and then again, missed the chance to prevent the rise of Android.

Stephen Fry has spoken up again about Nokia who also looks back into Nokia’s history. In a huge blog post about everything in technology in general, four and a half years on (looking younger than he did in 2007…crickey, was that so long ago 🙁 )

Fry looks back at Nokia:

Nokia, Nokia – Who’s There-ia?

Nokia, then undisputed number one in mobile phones were, back in 2007, producing low and medium end phones of great usability and huge global popularity. Using power efficient flavours of Symbian and a reliable and simple menu driven interface, hundreds and hundreds of millions were sold and That Ringtone was heard in every corner of the land. Restaurants kept Nokia chargers by the front desk on the off-chance that a diner might need a top up in the evening.

At the higher end, they chugged out silvery plastic oblongs so ugly that it gave one diverticulitis and the squits just to look at them. No one seemed to mind as high end phones weren’t their ‘core business’. But what they didn’t seem to be able to see was that smart phones would soon be the onlybusiness to be in. Which is strange because they can be regarded as the pioneers of the smartphone every bit as much as Palm or Handspring.

As I say in that damned blog, I owned just about every model of Nokia Communicator through the Nineties and Noughties. I was sending emails from my phone in 1996 using the first communicator model, the 9000. To put things in perspective, this was five years before the iPod came into being, a longer period of time than exists between now and the first iPhone. Since Nokia knew what smartphones could do, it can only have been a misreading of the road ahead not to see how quickly the future would slam into their windscreen.


It wasn’t for the lack of trying. Nokia knew what they had to do to change Symbian. They just could not deliver quick enough. Just look at Maemo 5 in 2009 and then N8 in 2010 and X7 in 2011. What on earth is that about? Symbian was always meant to be replaced, with Maemo at the top. But because of management, all Nokia’s resources was spent misplaced trying to fix Symbian instead of nurturing the brilliant Maemo. In all that time, iOS ensured they stole the limelight, with Android as the alternative. As you all know, Maemo became MeeGo and for what ever reason, it was decided that that project was too late.. Fast forward to now and we have Windows Phone as our main platform.

The blogosphere has been, on the whole, rather positive about Nokia’s WP devices

And now it seems, rather surprisingly, even Fry is looking forward to the Lumia too.

The lumbering, slumbering giant awakes…

The redoubtable Finnish giant, which started life in lumber and loo-rolls has rebooted itself as a manufacturer now of Windows Phone devices, while still producing the cheap and affordable handsets that, through M-PESA, more or less power the Kenyan and other African economies. I own a Lumia 800 and am very pleased with it, although for my taste it’s a little too small and I can’t wait for their up-coming larger 900. It’s pleasing and, I am sure a huge relief for Nokia and Microsoft, to see such enthusiastic pre-ordering and buzz for this device, running an operating system on which the futures of CEOs Ballmer and Ollila may well depend.

Ollila has long been NOT CEO of Nokia (even when he reviewed N97 it was already OPK). We have had OPK and Elop since Ollila. Perhaps he knows something we don’t and Ollila is coming back :p.

Apparently, out of the wealth of devices available to him, amazingly, the Lumia 800 is one he carries with him. no doubt the prominent appearances of the 800 in UK adverts (and its intrinsic likeablity) make it a desirable device that you wouldn’t mind being in your pocket.

As a matter of course, the iPhone goes in one pocket; the Lumio or HTC HD7 Windows Phone into another

Lumio? Perhaps a typo or Fry’s affectionate, more masculine name for his Lumia :).

Fry has been using a Lumia 800 for a while it seems. And actually wrote about Nokia previously, it’s just I don’t think I noticed.

For some weeks now my jacket pockets have been bulging in an unsightly manner as I have gone about the world with a BlackBerry Bold 9900,  two HTC Android handsets, the “Rhyme” and the “Sensation XL with Beats Audio” and the all new Nokia Lumia 800 running Windows for Mobiles 7.5 “Mango”.!/stephenfry/statuses/134934741882376192

Good to see that since November, the Nokia Lumia has earned a place in Stephen’s pocket.

As Fry sees it, 4.5 years later…

Nokia and Microsoft are making a recovery after a very, very rocky few years in this sector.

Fry does not claim to be an analyst, though he does seem to know a good thing when he sees it.

Q2/Q3 are the quarters to look out for. It is now Crunch Time, make or break for Nokia who must survive long enough to deliver WP8 Lumias (Q4). The the future of Nokia and the Lumia line rests delivering consistently good experiences with the 610, 710, 800 and 900, which should hopefully translate into good sales for Nokia. The 808 and other smartphone projects are different entities altogether – Nokia’s focus right now is to execute and deliver the core strategy but that doesn’t mean they should be forgotten.

The road to recovery is a long one (unnecessarily longer due to many unavoidable detours by Nokia) but at least we do seem to be on one. Belle FP1 is looking great. Nokia 808 looks to destroy cameras, with other camera phones probably not even worth its time (if only to let them bask in its glory, and later humiliate them). Meltemi might not be seen for a while. Lumia is entering more markets, an important one recently being China. 610 is also an excellent value handset which is expected to help Lumia sales take off this summer.  There’s a lot of exposure for the 900 in US. The reviews for the Nokia Lumia 900 are out and we can only hope that a great user experience at a great price will be enough to please and delight consumers, like the 800 did for Stephen who’s already anticipating the 900. (cheers prashant)

Whilst a man of technology, Stephen’s also quite down to earth and more representative of the common man and what is important to them regarding smartphones.

In the next four and a half years, I hope Nokia would have recovered. Maybe not as high and back to the very top as those early analyst predictions about WP and Nokia (remember by 2015 they believed WP would some how rocket past iOS and Android :S), but at least one that isn’t riddled with uncertainty. It might not even be WP anymore. Elop has hinted that when Nokia’s ready, they’ll might have something that would render everything they’re doing (even WP) irrelevant. Either way, I just want Nokia to be successul. Be it with WP and/or their own offerings. Here’s to a Nokia that will consistently deliver on time, awesome and desirable devices to all (geek and common person).


Source: StephenFry

update: via AAS

Thanks npo4 for the tip!



Category: Maemo, MeeGo, Nokia, Rant, Symbian, Windows Phone

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Hey, thanks for reading my post. My name is Jay and I'm a medical student at the University of Manchester. When I can, I blog here at and tweet now and again @jaymontano. We also have a twitter and facebook accounts @mynokiablog and Check out the tips, guides and rules for commenting >>click<< Contact us at tips(@) or email me directly on jay[at]