Until recently Motorola’s software interface has been criticised by consumers and industry experts alike for its confusing layout, complex settings and the number of key presses required to perform simple tasks such as text messaging. A major European network operator actually undertook some research into this a couple of years ago and found Nokia users sent more than double the number of texts compared to customers with Motorola handsets.
The simplicity of the original Nokia interface (which provided the basis for the current ‘Series 40’) was seen by many as one of its chief weapons in the long-running battle which saw it eclipse Motorola and establish market dominance in the late 1990s.
However, there is mounting evidence Nokia users have some of the lowest mobile content consumption rates, while Motorola appears to have discovered an effective formula for inducing consumers to buy downloads.
The problems with Nokia’s content download interface were apparent from a presentation by Scott Weiss of Usable Products Company (UPC) at the PMN Mobile User Experience (MEX) conference in September. An extensive UPC study of the download process used a range of handsets from several different manufacturers and on different US networks to record consumers’ overall experience.
Of the 10 handsets tested, the two Nokia’s ranked as the worst and third poorest performers respectively in terms of the time taken to find, download and install content. Both used the Series 60 interface. Users with the worst performing Nokia device took an average of 436 seconds to complete a download operation, some 159 seconds (nearly 3 minutes) more than the overall average across the 10 handsets in the study.
A separate piece of research from M:Metrics confirms these usability issues are impacting the consumption of content among Nokia users in the US. Of the top 10 handsets used to access mobile content only one was manufactured by Nokia – the 6010 – while Motorola was the clear leader, occupying half of the league table.
The 6010 ranked 9th with 15.4 percent of owners accessing content services, while Motorola’s top-ranking model (the RAZR V3 – 2nd overall) recorded a 47.7 percent ‘conversion rate’. Sanyo’s SCP-8200 was top of the list at 49.9 percent, a result M:Metrics attributed to the close integration between the Sanyo hardware and Sprint’s network services.
This integration between network and handset is, of course, a critical part of the equation and some of Nokia’s poor performance could be attributed to a failure on the part of the carrier to deliver effective download capabilities. However, it does not fully explain the significant difference in performance between Nokia and Motorola, nor the US company’s superior content consumption rates across a range of carriers and network technologies, including GSM, CDMA and iDEN.
With the commoditisation of voice and text services set to accelerate in developed markets throughout the next 12 months, operators are paying more and more attention to the ability of handset manufacturers to deliver products conducive to content consumption.
Nokia benefits from the continuing loyalty of an existing customer base convinced its handsets are the most effective tools for performing basic communication tasks, but it could face mounting competition as operators switch their subsidies and marketing budgets to support manufacturers capable of encouraging high margin download activity.