Even giants stumble, as Nokia Corp. discovered over the weekend when it pulled its mid-tier 5800 ExpressMusic smartphone from shelves at its New York and Chicago flagship stores.
The current troubles appear two-fold: one is faulty earpieces, improperly sealed against moisture; the second is the device’s difficulty in finding a 3G signal on AT&T Mobility’s network.
Nokia’s 5800 ExpressMusic smartphone
It wasn’t clear from press reports – and Nokia spokespeople were unavailable for comment Monday morning – whether the 5800s shipped in the U.S. had the faulty earpieces, but the company said over the weekend that the issue had been resolved. But complaints that the 5800 couldn’t find a 3G signal apparently led to the handset being pulled from shelves only hours after they’d gone on sale.
The glitch is a bit of insult on top of injury, to some observers: Nokia launched its first touchscreen smartphone in the U.S. without carrier support and the 5800 had gone on sale last week only through Nokia flagship stores at $400 retail.
The theme is familiar, if irksome to Nokia. Intense competition drives products to market and, despite extensive testing, handset glitches often aren’t found until a product hits market – and egg lands on face.
Last week, for instance, NTT DoCoMo in Japan and Research In Motion Ltd. said that a small fraction of BlackBerry Bold products sold there – about 30 in 4,000, the companies said – experienced overheating problems. The companies said that they had eliminated the possibility that the units’ batteries were to blame but did not confirm the precise problem.
Other, high-profile launches in the past year have seen their share of attention-grabbing glitches. The iPhone 3G also had 3G connectivity issues upon launch. The BlackBerry Storm had a tumultuous launch, with complaints over the sensitivity of its touchscreen.
In Nokia’s case, the 5800 is the company’s first touchscreen device launched in the U.S. at a time when Nokia’s market share is at a historic low and the company has repeatedly touted its efforts to regain a footing in North America. Nokia’s market share in the U.S. has steadily dwindled from 27% in 2003 to 8% last year.
The 5800 XpressMusic launch glitch comes at a particularly bad time for the vendor. Competitively, the U.S. smartphone market is widely considered to be a ray of hope in an otherwise down market.
Analyst Ittai Kidron at Oppenheimer today revised his global forecast for the current year’s handset industry down to negative 15%, from his prior forecast of negative 10%. In contrast, the market for smartphones has been projected for positive growth in the high single, low double digits.
Kidron questioned whether Nokia might soon give pre-earnings guidance reflecting a lower first-quarter performance.