Symbian is dead. For real this time. Nokia is now an upstart in smartphones, with 1% market share

Nokia has previewed the Q1 2012 results today. And they are a disaster.

I did expect Nokia’s first quarter to be bad. But nowhere as bad as this. In Q4 2011 Nokia sold 19.6 million smartphones. 18 to 19 million of them were Symbian devices. This quarter they have shipped 12 million smartphones. 2 million Lumias among them. Which means that Symbian sales dropped by 8 or 9 million (about 45%) – in just 3 months.

But that makes the whole thing of monitoring Nokia transition so much easier.

For all intents and purposes, Symbian is dead now. For real. With low-end Android phones finally becoming good enough, nobody is interested in Symbian. And even the price dumping is not helping anymore. The pithy number of devices Nokia was able to push this year, came at  a significant loss. With Symbian gross margins even below the 16% the smartphone unit was able to show, and the main culprit behind the 4% decline from the last quarter.

If Nokia stopped making and selling Symbian phones today – I don’t think it will make any difference on whether Nokia survives, is sold, or goes under. Symbian is an anchor and not a cushion from now on.

And all those market share numbers Nokia had in 2010, or even in 2011 – are nothing more but a fond memories of good times past, with no relevance to the present or future. For all intents and purposes, Nokia started 2012 with 0.4% of global smartphone market share (600K Lumias sold vs a total of 150M smartphones). And the only thing that matters now – is whether they are able to ramp up Windows Phones fast enough to challenge iPhone and Android.

Nokia either makes Windows Phone strategy work, or there will be no Nokia by the end of 2013. And there really is no plan B.

Looked at from this perspective, there was a silver lining to today’s profit warning, in the form of 2 million Lumias shipped. But it is a very thin lining.

Depending on how the final tally of smartphones shipped come in – Nokia has increased it’s share of the market from 0.4 to something like 1.2-1.5%. An impressive 300+% growth in 3 months – but from a ridiculously low base of 600K. And what’s worse – this growth comes at some significant cost. In the conference call Nokia execs said that while Lumia gross margins were higher than the 16% of the overall smartphone unit margin, but they were not significantly higher. Which means that it’s somewhere at 17 or 18%. Wwhen you add all the operating costs – Nokia is selling every new Lumia device at a loss. Which is not sustainable in the long run.

On the other hand – all that growth was achieved with just two models – Lumia 800 and 710 – available in less than half of Nokia markets. And on a still rather limited Windows Phone 7.5 OS. With Nokia 900 as AT&T hero device for the next few months and rolling out worldwide, China and other new Lumia markets coming online, the cheaper Lumia 610 almost ready to ship – the momentum for growth is there.

We’ll just have to wait and see whether it is enough to keep Nokia afloat through the summer and beyond. And whether Microsoft and Nokia were able to make Windows Phone 8/Apollo into a savior OS, they hope it is.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • JD!

    *facepalm* for Nokia!

  • shrek

    How the Lumia 610 performs against low-end Android phones will be a good indicator of Nokia’s prospects for converting the lost Symbian sales to Lumia. iSuppli estimates $217 as parts cost for the 900. The 610’s should be much lower. And Nokia and Microsoft should work together to get the software to run on even cheaper hardware.

  • Phone Companies

    I think it’s time for nokia to use android, lol

  • Fsystem

    i love symbian with all limitations

  • ????
  • Anonymous

    It’s still impressive that they managed to sell 10 million of ancient Symbian phones with no ecosystem, no apps, no support, terrible compared to iOS, Android, even WP.

    Who bought these phones?

    Nokia themselves killed Symbian in February 2011, by literally announcing it dead. They handled that transition incredibly bad! Killing a product without having anything for in it’s place immediately.

    Nokia has been an absolute MESS for years. The touchscreen revolution
    killed Nokia, they just weren’t ready for it.

    They’ve made so many mistakes… idiotic completely unrelated commercials and ads, misleading ads, ripping off loyal customers by overpricing their phones on launch, making half assed products and not supporting them, Maemo? MeeGo?… hell Symbian? Then there was the branding…Nokia, no, no, Ovi, no, no Nokia again.

    Complete mess of a company, I’m honestly surprised how they managed to stay #1 all these recent years.

    The only right move Nokia has made in recent years is making Nokia Maps free, that’s it.

    WP7 is crap too, Metro is a garbage interface that does not attract people and is not efficient or quick to work with either.

    Windows Phone 8 is Nokia’s and Microsoft’s last chance… this time it’s for real, even WP advocates have to admit… no more excuses, no more “No, no, Nodo will save Windows Phone, nah, Mango will do it! Wait till Nokia comes out! WP7 will skyrocket. Just a little bit, wait for Tango, that’s the one!”

    They better deliver if they want to survive.

  • Dk

    Elop made a bad move to kill of Symbian so early on. No matter how cheap the 610 is, the wm ecosystem is no where near as developed and mature as android, which has devices at a price point lower than nokia 610.

    Only hope for Nokia is for WM8, but then again, the marriage between MS and Nokia is non exclusive, if WM8 sells, samsung and HTC will hope on to the bandwagon and start churning out more innovative devices at breakneck speed. Do not forget that nokia time to market for devices are extremely slow compared to it’s Asian competitors.

    Goodbye Nokia, and it keep me wondering how could the board of directors allow Elop to screw up the company so badly…

  • Staska

    “Killing off Symbian” – I presume you mean with Feb. 11th/ burning platforms memo – has nothing to do with the troubles Nokia is facing today. That was more than a year ago, and whatever damage Feb. 11th announcement did to Symbian sales, was over by Q3 2011 – when Nokia stopped Symbian decline and even increased sales in Q4.

    The problem is that Symbian was never competitive with Android and iPhone devices sold at the same price points. In 2010 Nokia lost high end ($500-700) market – that’s when Nokia profitability troubles started. In 2011, as quality Android devices moved to  medium price/volume $300-500 market, Nokia lost it too. This accounts for Symbian volumes declines last year. This year good quality Android devices got down to a high volume $150-300 level – and they are kiling Symbian there too. Hence a huge accelartion of Symbian decline in the first quarter. 
    And I don’t think that things would have been much better if Nokia still pretended to be 100% behind Symbian while dabbling with Windows Phone. 

    As for WP marriage being non-exclusive – that’s true. But Nokia does have the deal terms on WP better then any other OEM. Where manufacturing is concerned – Nokia was always very good at it and could stand up to any Asian handset maker, and was kicking their arses all through 2000s. And, most likely – they can still do it when they are not distracted making themselves into a software/online services company. 

    Time from 0 to a shipping device for Lumia 800 – was 9 months. And that’s for a completely new platform, with unfamiliar chipsets and all. Android ICS became available  for OEMs in Oct/Nov 2010. Time to market for first ICS device for HTC – 6 months (One X), for Samsung – 7 or 8 months (who knows when Galaxy S3 ships), Huawei – who knows? Despite announcements at CES and MWC – not a single Huawei ICS phone is shipping yet. 

    Nokia’s bet on Windows phone was a very risky one. And we have no idea yet whether it will pay off or not. Maybe Nokia would be better off today if it went with Android.  Who knows? And it was an Elop’s bet, so if Nokia can’t make WP work it will be on him. But we’ll have to wait and let that strategy play out. We’ll know one way or another late this/early next year

  • Dk

    Yes, was referring to the burning platform anouncement. To a consumer perspective, I will not want to spend money to buy a device running on an OS that was been considered to EOL, I agree the nokia prob is not solely due to is announcement, but it help accelerated the fall of Symbian at a very high rate. From my country perspective, nokia subsequently when on a local PR campaign to clarity and re enforce Symbian will be here to stay till 2013, and more development are coming in the form of Symbian Anna and belle, which by they way is fantastic.

    It’s the contradiction in execution which makes Elop is very poor leader, the announcement of killing Symbian could be part of the term to reemphasize support for microsoft, but it came at a great price to nokia.

    9 months to market is not an impressive GTM lead-time and added with MS limitation on marketplace, launching worldwide in all countries is difficult and a slow process. It shows in the number of countries lumia is available currently.

    I personally own a lumia device, love the responsiveness and stability, but the apps available are appalling, some apps are with the standard of java apps design back in 2007 are available in market place. Poor interface and limited functionality.

    After using the lumia, i only realize and appretiate the functionality and build in features of the Symbian os, multitasking, USB OTG and many more..

  • Staska

    A consumer – does not remember “burning platforms” memo today. Especially when Nokia went on a worldwide campaign to assure that Symbian will be there and updated till 2016. Whatever damage Feb. 11th did was limited to Nokia’s Q2 2011. After that they stopped the crash/bleeding of Symbian sales for Q3and Q4. In Q4 they actually increased them. 

    So, the new and much bigger Symbian crash in Q1 2012 has nothing to do with Feb 11th. It’s simply the manifestation pf facts Nokia board saw a year ago – and allowed Elop to do Feb 11th

    And, while Belle may be fantastic for a Symbian fan, the crash in sales over the last 3 months proves otherwise where normob is concerned – they much rather choose Samsun Galaxy Y or M, and not Nokia 701

    And I would really love to see evidence of “contradiction in execution which makes Elop a very poor leader”

    As for 9 mnths to market – I was referring to the fact that Nokia grunts did not even suspect that they’ll have to do Windows Phone before Feb 11th. There would have been way much more leaks if they would have been. So it was from absulute 0 to shipping device in 9 mnths. Show me who did it better like this, and we can talk.

    As I said before – Elop’s choice to go total WP, instead of Android or both – a huge risky bet – and he bet his head on it. So we’ll see

  • Wayne

    He already made his millions. He is betting future of his entire Nokia staff and investors on that strategy. It is stupidity on his part to burn bridges by condemning symbian & meego. think Nokia is going to be another Kodak

  • Mitchell Luke Sheehan

    Symbian is no match for Windows Phone, the sales for Nokia obviously wont skyrocket in No time!. It will gradually increase. Nokia is No Way Dead or even close to dying with its Pure View and Win 8 just round the corner.  Things will surely turn tables, but in its own time. They just need one BIG Shot. Then ‘Every’ other company can sit back on their rocking chairs and sip their Coffee to retirement.

  • Anonymous

    Quite incredible to see the lack of business understanding around here. A picture of the titanic Nokia going down and a caption saying “Good job Stephen Elop” and comments saying now it’s time to do this and that.

    Turning a big company around takes time. Elop took the position of CEO at Nokia in late 2010 and announced the partnership with MS half a year later. Had he NOT done that (or possibly gone for Android), there would be no future for Nokia at this time. If anything, Elop took action to get people off a sinking ship, and that WAS actually a good job. Not that I think that was what the picture intends to purport.

    The decision to go for WP is a decision that can only be judged after the strategy has been employed, which will not show actual results for a couple of years. Until then it’s all about restructuring, re-focusing and building market awareness and share, which means financial losses and layoffs of employees etc.
    That’s what it takes to turn a big company around.

  • Anonymous

    This graph completely disagrees with you. It has _everything_ to do with the Feb 9th leak/ Feb 11th speech. Symbian sales increasing up until that day when everyone had been badmouthing it for five years already. And look at the stock price graph. It has the exact same breaking point. 

    Even as a dying milk cow, Nokia should have had significant end of lifecycle profits on Symbian. But on that very day, everybody from end users, store chains to U.S. carriers dropped Symbian like it was a hot potato from a plague farm. 

  • Staska

    Yep. Nice graph and I saw it before. Unfortunately – unit volume is never the whole story. Especially if you are replacing one $600 phone with 2 $200 phones to keep up the volume. And even that is not helping you from your marketshare crashing – in Q3 and Q4 2010. Way before elop could do any damage. And when a Nokia cheerleader like Tomi Ahonen is saying that your phones are undesirable at any price, and admits  that he has no idea where that crash will stop. Well, all that TA’s stuff was before he found a convenient scapegoat in Elop to justify his own analysis  failings. 

    I covered some of that here: 

    And here: 

    Btw, if that Q1 2011 Symbian sales crash was not a coincidence, but a result of “everybody from end users, store chains to U.S. carriers dropped Symbian like it was a hot potato from a plague farm.” – how the heck Nokia was able to stabilze Symbian sales at 16.8 million in Q3 2011, and even increase them to 18 million or more in Q4. And Where the heck this drop from Q4 to Q1 this year  – way bigger then what we’ve seen last year – came from? 

    My early explanation – have to do a bit of research to be sure – is that acceptable quality Android phones got to another – $150-250  price level and easily replaced Symbian there. Just as they did at $250-400 level a year before, and at $400 and up level a year before that. 

  • Jessiccarobertt

    Nokia announced in the past that it was emphasizing on the Windows Phone 7 platform on its future handsets. The reality all hit us when the Finnish smartphone manufacturer transitioned its Symbian division to the American outsourcing firm Accenture. With this latest development, we all thought the Symbian platform came to an end with handsets such as the N8 and E7. However, the Finland-based company announced the E6 that is scheduled to hit stores on this year’s second quarter.
    The Symbian operating system on mobile phones dominated the smartphone market in the past. Just last year, it dominated the Western European smartphone market capturing 40.6 percent. Sadly, this figure dropped to 19.6 percent due to the rise in popularity of Apple’s iPhone 4 and Samsung’s Galaxy S2. With this decline, we thought the decrease in market shares marked the end for the platform. Apparently, this is not so. The announcement of the new smartphone by Nokia is great news for the platform’s enthusiasts.

  • DesDizzy

    Hi Staska
    Only a stupid person kills their business on a promise of a future business, this is not rocket science. The smart strategy would have been to keep running with Symbian until you have traction in the market with Windows (and an alternative if Windows fails). You don’t bet your company on vapourware and you ALWAYS have a B plan. I’m a risk consultant and this is first year MBA stuff…..

  • Anonymous

    It amazes me how people are now blaming Nokia’s troubles on Microsoft and Windows Phone. Did you people forget that Nokia was bleeding money and market share for at least two years before Windows Phone ever came into the picture. Elop and Windows Phones are not the cause of Nokia’s problems, they are the result.

    Don’t even get me started on the infamous N97 and Nokia wasting billions of dollars and years on Meego, with nothing to show for it. It took them 3 years to get one Meego phone on the market. Not to mention if you combine the developer support for Meego and Symbian, it wouldn’t equal one-fourth of the developer support for Windows Phone.

  • Anonymous

    Nokia, feeling the pain of their then-current course, could have chosen a less painful course.  Instead they chose a more painful course.  And so swifter to their end, as cancer patients sometimes do to opt for a briefer, more intense pain than a long and suffering illness that affects not just them but their family.

  • Anonymous

    There is no way, case or condition in the annals of business practice to condone the deprecation of your current product without a ready replacement that Stephen Elop did.  That is a motion that has never once been successful, and the one time it was previously tried survives in infamy as an example of what not to do.  This will forever be the “Elop Maneuver”.  And it will be indicative of deliberate corporate suicide.

  • Anonymous

    That’s OK. Microsoft was bragging how Windows Phones were outselling the iPhone in China which is a major victory for Nokia. Apple is as good as dead. Boo-yah!
    I’d hate to see Nokia go out of business because too many employees will be out of jobs in a miserable economy. That’s no darn good for anyone. I hope they can hang in there and slowly gain traction, somehow. I honestly thought Windows Phones would offer some competition to Android smartphones but I guess things are too far gone at this point, meaning Nokia has already lost too much market share.

  • Anonymous

    I really don’t like symbian.Authentic cheap Cell Phone Accessories at

  • jai

    nokia sucks i will going to dismnadle my nokia701 and buy new andriod phone

  • Johnny Chin

    Stupid Nokia, actually you can split the team into Windows Phone and Android because you have the capability to manufacture more than 20 model per year. Why not just run the plan A and B together? Selling Android phone, you can survive and slowly have your sweet time to growing your windows phone market. Better hire me as your company strategic planner. 🙂

  • Beertje

    I have an iPad and the nokia 701 with the latest Belle. Yes this updated symbian has a lot more to offer, easy in use, good appstore, yes in contrary to the overhyped apple store! A simple arrowkey that lacks in the apple makes you laughing doensnt it.
    Let us hope Elop gets fired and nokia starts marketing the best OS of this moment.

  • K

    Nokia should have stood for a single OS, not for 2 or 3. Symbian is great, they should have put money on devs so they made apps for it, that was all they needed to do. And yes, the Ovi-Nokia thing is ridiculous. Ovi sounds like shit, Nokia sounds cool… Ovi is nothing, Nokia is well known… keep it Nokia. But whatever, it’s arleady too late.

    How can a company with such a trajectory make such stupid decisions? Like being bought by Microsoft or merged or whatever. I like Windows Phone, I have nothing against Android but I sure don’t like it, but killing their OS in favour of an infamously branded one isn’t a good shot, anybody could tell that.

    Besides, after being number 1 and selling SO MANY SYMBIAN DEVICES THE LAST YEAR, WHAT KIND OF DECISION IS IT???

  • Bala

    Sometimes, we need simple non touch screen phones that work well, and looks good; as phones; not some swiss knief that does everything.
    Had Nokia had such focus, and not look over their shoulders, they would have held their ground better than they are doing now.
    Yes. Killing their own OS, instead of making it dance, and borrowing some one else’s is what the path Palm took. Unfortunately, Nokia is heading there. Stephen Elop is the worst thing to happen to Nokia. It is looking itself under him, and becoming a slave to Windows.
    This is when Windows itself is loosing itself!

  • Anonymous

    Of course the average consumer won’t remember the burning platform memo. What they do remember, and the message they bring home is “symbian is dead”, and that’s all that matters to them when buying phones. Of course, symbian isn’t technically dead yet, but when the news is out, the damage has been done. Good job for scaring off consumers.

  • drew

    yay! symbian could not be worse, my n95 is now so slow you turn it on and wait 30 mins for it to start responding, and even then you have to wait everytime you press a key, no idea why nokia used symbian in the first place, otherwise was not a bad phone

  • Maa

    Oh c’mon, at least Symbian has more features than BlackBerry. You didn’t even mention blackberry and ios and what about the touchwhiz?

  • adminis

    Yah, very helpful news, with 1% market share is death

  • Dafuq!

    What you just said only shows what a noob you are!
    you have no sense of what you are talking about.
    WP8 will kill android fans and iOS fans.

  • pulak1996

    Nokia is hiding some secrets… they dont want to reveal their secrets….. its an Asian Company… where chinese technologies and japanese technologies were used…. the only thing nokia cannot do a new thing is only the ovi store… in performance symbian is much better than android….. nokia is facing financially,, since no one is buying their phone… since financially facing, if u buy nokia phones,,,, i m damm sure they r going to beat the android very easily,,,,,,, i can understand the problem for that person who cant play temple run on his nokia,,,, becoz nokia cannot make a contract with the other companies becoz they dont have market…. in nokia people can enjoy the new os updates…. the only thing in nokia in where no one can challange,,, i.e. The Nokia Maps and Navigations, when symbian anna came it was an ass, but wen belle came it was average,, till carla, donna … has to come,,,,, in android 1.4 quadcore processor is good… but in nokia 1.33 Single core processor is best…. never lags,,, even Ram is also reserved for nokia… if u r playing Asphalt 7 in nokia( which will never launch) in 1.33Ghz 701 512 MB Ram it vl run very smoothly….. becoz only of the nokia ovi market is not developing there is no interests,,, and saying a 5000INR android phone is better than 25k nokia symbian phone,,,,, its the quality s3 will break if fall from the waist like height,,, Nokia has Carl Zeiss optics,, gives photography better than apple iPhone 5. gr8 video stabilazation…. people wants app and for free samsung and google android got the people’s thinking,,, that what they want…. but people dont understand they think that i want big screen, free apps, blutooth, wifi, and a music player thats it…… if people hate nokia, they cannot go further…

  • waseem faizi

    you are right! I think also nokia now use android.