Selling out on the N96?

Selling out on the N96?

One of the dilemmas of last year’s Mobile Industry Awards judging was whether the new Nokia N95 should be in with a shout for the Phone of the Year award. The defining moment came when the sales directors of the operators were sat around the table and each one confessed that they had sent theirs back or otherwise given up on it because of software problems. The conclusion was that outstanding promise was not the same as outstanding performance and the discussion moved on to other candidates.

The thing is, the N95 managed to overcome its imperfect start and richly fulfilled its promise. It sold in the hundreds of thousands and became the strongest rival to the iPhone.  Now Nokia is bringing out its successor, the N96. It is poised to be another massive seller, but O2 has decided to pass on the opportunity of stocking it, telling its staff it is expensive and likely to suffer similar technical flaws.

This is just a fig leaf, of course, to cover its real reasons. O2 has thrown in its lot with Apple and has big numbers to hit. It has gambled that the iPhone (now in 3G guise and falling in price) will play stronger with the public than the N96. These are two hero handsets fighting in the same space. It would be easier to push water uphill than to make a major success out of both of them at once. Arguably, there isn’t enough room in the TV schedules, nor enough pennies in the marketing pot.

But many O2 customers will still want a chance to own an N96, so why deprive them of it altogether? It seems clarity in the advertising messages has won out over consumer choice.


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