Nokia: The rise and fall of a global empire

If you grew up in or lived through the 90s you must have heard the name “Nokia”. It is a universal name when you think about cell phones. And essentially for mobile telephony, the first name that came to anyone’s mind was Nokia. With the Microsoft launch of the Lumia phones, Essentially, the end of Nokia as a smartphone company, as a Mobile manufacturer has officially come about.

Nokia was not always an electronic manufacturer. Back in the year, 1865 Nokia started as a small paper mill. They grew in business and started the second mill around the town of Nokia. The name “Nokia” comes from the river: NokianVirta, which is in Finland. So, a paper was not essentially Nokia’s style. Therefore, they started working with rubber, electricity, and cables and they got large government orders. In 1960 the company decided to get into electronics.

Like any other corporation in the world (like Garmin) Nokia started working with the military in the year from 1969- 1979. And it manufactured and developed a lot of electronics for military use, for use by govt. Which is what made the company bigger and stronger to reach what it could do in the future. In 1979 Nokia took its first steps in telephony by creating MOBIRAOY  a joint venture with Finnish television maker “SALORA”. They also created Nordic mobile telephone services, which was later called NMT. It was the first telephony company service which was going to be wireless.

In the 1970-80 Nokia launched a device called the Sanomalaitejarjestelma. Message based communication device was its use. It was for sending messages. The Finnish military used this to send encrypted text messages between one and other. This later on transferred into something that we use on a day to day basis called the short messaging service or SMS.

Nokia also launched the first car phone called the MOBIRA SENATOR. It was the first wireless communication device ever installed on a vehicle. The MOBIRA CITY MAN became the first portable cell phone from Nokia which could be carried around on the person in 1987. It was lightweight roughly 800gms for the time and it was relatively cheap (sarcasm). Costing about 6000 USD at the time for a device that could make calls while on the go was an innovation, was a revolution and this device was one of the first to do that.

For all those who really read into politics in that day, Mikhail Gorbachev was found using this device and the phone was nicknamed the GORBA in Finland. Because basically the person who disassembled the USSR was found using it. From mobility, in the 80s Nokia decided to get into personal computing and they designed their first device called the MikroMikko. They were designed to be personal computers. Nokia sold this division later to Fujitsu who converted it into their laptop version. Which you still can buy in certain markets. Nokia tried to make laptops again with the Nokia Booklet 3G in 2009 and this attempt was as futile as the first and they dropped making laptops after this one.

In-fact the first device used to make a satellite call in 1984 was a Nokia device. The world’s first GSM call was made in 1991 in Helsinki over a Nokia supplied network by the prime minister of Finland. who can forget the classic Nokia tune which was made to become the brand image for the company? First introduced in the 1990s in Nokia 2100 phones. Nokia also popularized mobile phone photography. At one point of time, Nokia was the largest camera supplier to the world. Accordingly, the camera in its mobile phones. They were used by everyone.

So, at one point of time, Nokia was the largest vendor of cameras. Nokia has also been a trend setter so to speak. The Nokia 1100 was the highest selling mobile phone ever. Nokia sold over 250 million units globally. It set a benchmark for many devices to come. At the peak of its existence in 2008, Nokia sold over 475 million handsets which are a record yet undefeated. Launched on September 12, 2000,  The Nokia 3310 was an iconic phone. In addition, 3310 is one of the most durable phones in the history. This phone would fall and break apart into pieces, but you could basically put it back together and start using it again.

In fact, even today after the invent of several smartphones. The Nokia 3310 is one of the most robust phones in the market. It is essentially a cult center and has become a cult favorite where people make internet memes. As lots of jokes around the Nokia 3310 that it would survive a tsunami etc but, the Nokia 3310 has become an icon and will remain an icon for the generation who has seen it.

The Nokia 1011 was the first phone to be mass produced phone for general markets after its army and military appliances. Nokia came into the market with its first consumer friendly device phone it was 1011. The memory could hold 99 phone number at the time and it sold for a whopping 1600 USD. The design of the device was really iconic and a lot of manufacturers I’m guessing from China copied the design and made pencil boxes for kids that looked like the phone.

In 2002 the Nokia 3510 was the first phone that could process data over GPRS. It basically led to the use of data over mobile networks. The revolution that we have today with 3G and 4G networks. 3510 was one of the first devices to do GPRS over a wireless network. In 2007 Nokia acquired a Chicago based mapping company Navteq. They were the largest manufacturers for navigation data for the automobile industry. Nokia acquired this and later made this into what we know today as HERE maps.

It is one of the largest mapping technologies that are available in the market today. As a result, they sell their data to a lot of companies including Garmin,, BMW for their navigation equipment. Despite its sale to Microsoft as a smartphone company. Nokia retains its Here maps business and will continue working on it and supplying several independent apps for ios, Android, as well as Microsoft phones or Windows based phones. Here maps is an independent application. And it is famous and loved by users. However, the interface was not appreciable on ios and android and Nokia is working on redesigning their eco-systems.

Nokia networks which are a wholly owned subsidiary of the company will also stay back with the company. It’s a multinational data network and telecommunications equipment company. They provide customer care support, fixed mobile convergence, hosting, IPTV, mobile TV WCDMA frequencies. And a lot more to governments, railways, and other big institutions. Anyone and everyone who follows Nokia is also aware of the MeeGo operating system. When Nokia announced that Microsoft will be acquiring Nokia the whole MeeGo division quit and formed “Jolla”. Which recently launched Jolla phones in India as a starting stage this OS is supposed to be the next promising OS that is going to change around the about the market strength from Android, iOS and Windows Phone.


Let’s see what the future holds. But Jolla is an independent company. Another company that’s a lot of people are with is Vertu. Vertu is a luxury, sort of, a division of Nokia where they would manufacture luxury phones based on Symbian. Recently the company shifted its focus from making Symbian phones to Android Smartphones continuing what they used to do with luxury devices. Furthermore, this division also remains independent.


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