It’s All In The Name
I was discussing mobile phones with my wife today, mostly because I got the quote back from the Nokia repair facility for my wife’s broken Nokia 6102: $115 flat rate to fix the phone. Considering I can buy a replacement phone on eBay cheaper than that, we’re going to pass on that. Shortly after I broke my wife the bad news, I got on eBay and ordered a Nokia 6101–basically the same as the Nokia 6102 with T-Mobile branding and a better keypad. My wife wanted me to wait until the weekend, but I couldn’t resist.
Later, after my wife got home and I told her I ordered her a new phone already, she said “since this is the same phone, won’t this phone have the same problem?” I told her it probably wouldn’t: it’s a different model and will have different software on it. Cingular’s software is notoriously buggy, I told her. That and the fact it’s basically the same phone with a better keypad was good enough for her.
Then she asked me “doesn’t Nokia have a phone like the Motorola RAZR?” “Yes they do,” I told her, “they just released the Nokia N76 which is about the same form factor.” “What kind of name is the N76?” she asks. I then attempted to explain the rationale behind how Nokia names phones, at least as I understand it. “Those kind of names don’t work for real people,” she says. She does have a point–short of us geeks, real people don’t remember the model number of their phone unless it has a descriptive name like the RAZR or the Chocolate.
But as I think about this problem more, I realize that as a company that sells products globally, coming up with a descriptive name that doesn’t offend some people in some part of the world is probably not easy. Also, when you consider that Nokia produces on the order of 50 different model phones in a year, the act of coming up with 50 different unique names is probably not easy. They certainly do for the internal code names, but these are internal and generally don’t see the light of day, so there’s no need to worry about offending the public.
Of course, Nokia isn’t the only company that names their phones with “numbers.” Every major phone manufacturer does the same thing with at least some segments of their product line. But it still raises the question why Nokia hasn’t given any of their phones a cutesy name like RAZR or Chocolate.