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Can Nokia get its mojo back?

Nokia N8
Can the Nokia N8 turn Nokia's fortunes around?
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The bigger they are, the harder they fall - and it looks like Nokia's falling very hard indeed.

The phone giant's market share is in decline, with Apple, RIM and Android biting great big chunks out of its smartphone business and Samsung overtaking it in the European market for no-frills mobiles.

To make matters worse, a new survey by YouGov found that the firm is losing friends, fast. Only 34% of respondents would consider Nokia for their next smartphone, a drop of 12% since December.

So what's gone wrong? According to the YouGov survey, people are moving away from the firm because they fancy a change, because they feel that other platforms have a better range of apps, and because they perceive Nokia phones to have poor operating systems.

We've come a long way from the days when the Matrix phone, the Nokia 8110, was the must-have handset. The problem is partly marketing - anyone who finds themselves going head to head with Apple's unicorn-powered dream machines is unlikely to come off best - but there's more to it than that.

Its operating system looks ancient, its phones haven't been as sexy as rivals' products and it hasn't been as appealing to developers as Apple and Google have been: Nokia won't tell anybody how many apps are in its Ovi Store and it has just slashed its developer fees and approval times, major hints that there aren't as many good Ovi apps as Nokia would like.

The good news is that Nokia has some cool technology up its sleeve. The N8 will be Nokia's flagship when it goes on sale in a few weeks' time, and it should be a bit cheaper than its smartphone rivals. There's a new operating system, Symbian^3, there's support for Bluetooth 3, HDMI and 10.2Mbps HSDPA internet access, and it's all very impressive.

The bad news is that the N8 isn't shipping yet, but new iPhones and Androids are - and that means some of the N8's specs already look a bit me-too. HD video recording? Apple does that. Just three home screens for your apps and widgets? We can hear a bunch of HTCs chuckling. OLED display? Old news. 20% less battery life than its rivals? A sub-par internet experience?. There are already eight better phones on the market, and more will surely follow.

We've loved many Nokias in our time, and as we said in our hands-on N8 review we hope that Nokia makes the N8 perfect before it goes on sale. However, and it's a very big however, "if it gets it wrong it's a long old wait until Symbian^4 or MeeGo show up to hopefully save the day."

By the time Symbian^4 ships in 2011, Android will be in its fourth generation and Apple will be gearing up for iPhone 5. Nokia can't afford to let its rivals' lead get any longer.


Liked this? Then check out 15 gadgets the smartphone killed

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Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Carrie Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," she says. "And there's a lot of crap."