Nokia has 'phab' plan for Chinese mobile market

Updated: 2013-11-23 11:18

By Shen Jingting (China Daily)

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Finland-based mobile communications giant Nokia Corp is pinning its hopes for the Chinese market on a phablet, the big-screen Lumia 1520, launched in Beijing on Friday.

The phablet, which functions as a hybrid between a smartphone and a tablet, is the first such product from the company that was once the world's leading mobile phone vendor.

Now, as Nokia struggles to make a comeback, it sees "huge potential in the world's large-screen smartphone market," Amanda Huang, product marketing director of Nokia China, told a Beijing news conference.

She estimated that about 200 million phablet devices will be shipped globally next year. The Asia-Pacific region, especially China, is likely to consume half of those big-screen handsets in 2014.

The Lumia 1520, with a 6-inch screen, distinguishes itself in the market by featuring superior imaging capability, good mapping services and embedded Office software that connects mobile devices and personal computers, according to Erik Bertman, general manager of Nokia China.

Since losing its spot as global mobile leader, Nokia has been overtaken by rivals such as South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, as well as Apple Inc.

In China, Nokia was the seventh-biggest mobile phone vendor in the second quarter, but it wasn't even among the top 10 smartphone makers in the country during the period, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.

Bertman declined to speculate on whether Nokia will return to the top five. "The Chinese market is the ultimate place if a company wants to compete (in the smartphone field)," Bertman said.

Nokia has to adjust to market shifts more rapidly, he pointed out. With Microsoft Corp having agreed in September to buy Nokia's mobile phone business and related patents for $7 billion, Nokia will gain more resources to develop powerful handsets.

"Nokia and Microsoft's assets in China are very complementary," Bertman added.

The smartphone sector will be Nokia's biggest bet in China. Bertman said the company has continuously strengthened partnerships with Chinese telecom operators and will focus on developing more fourth-generation smartphones next year.

Though many mobile phone companies have decided to phase out their feature phone businesses, Nokia retains a strong interest in the sector.

"We hold obvious advantages over rivals in terms of feature phone products, because consumers believe Nokia feature phones are good-looking, reliable and have a long battery life," Bertman said.

Nokia joined forces with Microsoft in 2011 to produce smartphones based on the Windows Phone mobile operating system, but analysts said that the alliance has yet to bear fruit.

James Yan, an analyst with International Data Corp China, said Nokia devices pose relatively minor challenges to Samsung and Apple in the premium smartphone sector.

Meanwhile, the company isn't as nimble as domestic players, including Xiaomi Corp, in responding to market changes.

Flann Gao, head of communications for Nokia China, said Microsoft and Nokia are still waiting for regulatory approval to complete the acquisition.

It is believed that Nokia's mobile assets, including products, facilities and staff, will come under Microsoft's brand in the near future.