Last year, Nokia saw some signs of hope as its sales touched the level of its pre-Windows Phone glory days. Nokia’s budget phones series, Asha, accounted for a large part of these sales. Asha, which can be described as a cross between a smartphone and feature phone, is favored in emerging markets where people are just warming up to the idea of smartphones and may not want to spend a huge sum of money on them. Asha plus the Lumia and other devices meant an overall satisfactory year for Nokia, and a hopeful 2013. However, Samsung may have just dismissed those hopes.
Samsung, a worldwide leader in high-end and mid-range smartphones, has decided to enter the low-end market with a new phone series dubbed Rex. Rex will be between 2.3 and 3.5 inches, and will come with a camera up to 3.2 megapixels. Not much else is known about the phone, except that it will target the same consumers as the Asha does and will belong in the same price range. Of course, no mobile company can expect to not see competition get aggressive when a series is successful. However, Samsung is the worst nightmare among all competition for Nokia, so this move is bound to make the Finnish tech giant squirm a little.
Nokia, on its part, has some advantages over Samsung. It has a much better relationship with distributors and mobile phone operators in BRIC regions. It is also more popular, or at least was in its older Symbian days. On the other hand, Samsung’s Rex is going to be powered by its signature TouchWiz user interface, which is a lot more impressive and convenient than Asha’s current platform.
Down the road, the Samsung-Nokia story could be the same in budget phones as the Samsung-Apple story in the premium range. A lot of Samsung’s products like the Galaxy Tab and the SIII arrived after Apple’s devices. There were several comments about how Samsung’s phones and tablets were ripped off from Apple’s, but Samsung derided them unabashedly. Copied or not, the South Korean telecomm giant’s portfolio made it to the top of the smartphone market, leaving Apple behind. The way Samsung is progressing with Rex, it could have plans to do the same with Nokia’s Asha.
Nokia is relying strongly on 2013 to be the year that makes its come back story, and could be critically hurt by the Samsung Rex.