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How Nokia can make a comeback in the U.S.: 7 theories
Ten years ago, half of U.S. cellphone users had a Nokia, but now iPhones and Androids rule. What must Nokia do to succeed in the smartphone age?
 
The Lumia 800 is one of Nokia's new Windows smartphone that could help legitimize the struggling phone company again.
The Lumia 800 is one of Nokia's new Windows smartphone that could help legitimize the struggling phone company again.
Nokia

Nokia once dominated the U.S. mobile phone market, with a 50 percent market share. But that was a decade ago. Today, it has less than 7 percent of the U.S. market, and most of its phones are lower-end models. Now, Nokia is hoping to make a comeback. On Wednesday, it announced two Windows Phone-powered smartphones — its first "legitimate forays into the modern smartphone space." While Nokia's Lumia 800 and 710 phones won't be available in the U.S. until next year — they're first launching in Europe and Asia — there's already talk that this could be the start of a comeback. How can Nokia rise again? Here are seven theories:

1. Offer something truly unique
Nokia needs to "focus on design" and "be very, very different," says Mike Isaac at Wired. It shouldn't even try to compete with the beautifully designed clean modernism of the iPhone, or the boring "techie stylings" of Android offerings. With its polycarbonate casing in whimsical, "candy-coated" colors, the Lumia is a good start. 

2. Stick with Windows Phone over Android
Going with Microsoft's "underdog" operating system is a "bet the company" move, but it could pay off, says analyst Ross Rubin, as quoted at Wired. Consumers, carriers, and businesses just might be looking for "a strong global alternative to iOS and Android." Instead of "trying to out-iPhone Apple, or out-Android the host of Android handsets," says the article's author, Mike Isaac, Nokia and Microsoft are "looking to become a healthy, respectable David to the smartphone industry's two Goliaths."

3. Attract app developers by offering them visibility
The Windows Phone has around 30,000 apps, compared to the Android's 300,000 and the iPhone's half million. "What's Nokia to do?" asks Isaac. It needs to entice developers with the prospect of discovery. Countless apps go unnoticed in the Apple App store, but with the Windows Phone, up-and-coming app developers can be big fish in a small pond.

4. Patch things up with carriers
First and foremost, Nokia needs to mend fences with AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile USA, says Eric Zeman at InformationWeek. Nokia insisted on making its phones its own way instead of responding to requests from the carriers, and as a result they aren't selling many Nokia phones. The company should heed that lesson. "Without U.S. network operator support, Nokia isn't going to gain any traction."

5. Give customers want they want
Rather than design phones specifically for the U.S. market, Nokia has typically just modified its European and Asian phones, says Zeman. That has often meant that features Americans wanted got dropped. Nokia needs to design phones specifically for the U.S., with features cellphone users here need, like mobile hotspot support and expandable memory. Americans also want user-facing cameras for video chat and fast, dual-core processors — both of which the new Lumia is lacking. 

6. Go after people who don't own smartphones
Sure, Apple and Android are way ahead in the smartphone market, but only 40 percent of wireless subscribers own a smartphone, says Marguerite Reardon at CNET. Nokia can succeed by targeting the 60 percent who are looking for a simple, easy-to-use smartphone, which Andriod certainly isn't. Nokia has a shot at these late adopters, many of whom value the Microsoft brand and associate it with their friendly Windows desktop.

7. Marketing, marketing, marketing
Many Americans have forgotten Nokia, and that's a problem, say Zeman. The company is planning a big advertising and promotion campaign to get some of its U.S. mind share back. It is also setting up partnerships with retailers. Nokia "is going all-out to make sure its Windows Phone 7 smartphones are successful," and it has to. "If Nokia can't make its new smartphones a hit with buyers, both it and Microsoft will be in a lot of trouble."

 

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