Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 14 News List

[TECHNOLOGY REVIEW] Nokia 5800 XpressMusic: More than just an 'iPhone clone'



With many electronics manufacturers around the world once again playing catch-up to Apple’s innovations, it is no surprise that Nokia has announced its first touch-screen mobile, which is more than a little similar to Apple’s iPhone.

“If there is something good in the world, then we copy with pride,” Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia’s Executive Vice President, said when asked about similarities between the new Nokia 5800 XpressMusic and the iPhone. While the words “iPhone clone” are now being used to describe almost anything with a touch screen, the new 5800 has certainly been inspired by the iPhone. Nokia, which previously was openly against touch-screen products, has now changed direction and after 18 months finally responded with its first ever touch-screen handset, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic.

However, the Nokia 5800 is certainly not directly aimed at the iPhone market. It costs a fraction of the price of an iPhone, offers many different features and ships with a huge built-in collection of music. Quite clearly Apple has started a trend and this is only just the beginning of Nokia’s attempt at winning some of the market. Their future touch-screen products within the N-series range of phones are more likely to be direct competitors to the iPhone in terms of price and hardware.

Ironically, it is not the hardware as such that competes with Apple’s business model — Nokia doesn’t yet need to worry about Apple’s tiny bite into the mobile market; what concerns the company more seems to be the iTunes Store.

Apple’s iTunes Store currently holds around 90 percent of the digital music market, which represents more than 5 billion songs sold worldwide to date. Nokia’s new “Comes With Music” contract, launched in London last week, is clearly what threatens Apple the most, since it allows users to download as much music as they like for free within a 12-month period — provided they purchase the new 5800 handset from Nokia, which was priced at US$230 at its recent UK release. Apple will undoubtedly suffer from this new package since people will be able to download their tunes for free, rather than being forced to use the iTunes store or resort illegal downloads. Indeed, this is the first initiative in the world that has the potential to compete with music piracy. Illegal music downloading represents 15 percent of the market, according to Nokia’s UK managing director Simon Ainslie, who said, “It is better for music companies to receive something for their music than nothing.” With piracy laws becoming more militantly enforced in many countries, illegal music downloaders are bound to feel somewhat drawn to a package that essentially allows legal piracy for the price of an inexpensive, iPhone-like handset.

So what is the 5800 actually like in comparison to the now iconic iPhone? The most major difference is the way the touch screen works. The 5800 allows only one finger to be used when touching the screen, meaning none of the more human gestures of the iPhone are present. This includes things like “pinching” an image with two fingers in order to zoom in or out. Immediately Apple will be rubbing its hands at this inferior touch screen, which is presumably because the 5800 is a budget phone with a competing contract designed to go head-to-head with iTunes rather than the iPhone itself. Perhaps only time will tell, but this one-handed design could make the phone less cumbersome than the iPhone, which often requires two-handed operation. However, if Nokia truly intends to encroach on the iPhone market, then it is surely planning a multi-finger touch screen for the future.

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