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As torrents of drool continue to drench Apple's iPhone, Finnish cellphone giant Nokia has taken
a decidedly non-slick approach to earning respect—and product love—from cellphone users.
Under the leadership of design chief Alastair Curtis, the brand has applied both a macro and
micro focus to its design strategy across a spectrum of demographics, concentrating much of its
effort on developing markets. Curtis, a 15-year Nokia vet, stepped up to the head of design post
in 2006, and under his watch Nokia design centers have popped up around the globe in emerging
markets like India, China and Indonesia. There, the company's designers and researchers
delve into the local communities with an "observe and plan" M.O., yielding a diverse product line
meant to address the needs and desires of specific demos—like rural mobile users, for example.
Based on ethnographic field studies the Nokia team conducted in countries like Indonesia and
Uganda, the brand went on to develop the Nokia 1200 and 1250 models, which can be shared
among multiple users and feature extra grippability in humidity, a dust-repellant keyboard, and
even a one-touch flashlight in case of power outages. Although Nokia has been slower in its U.S.
growth, it has beefed up its Stateside presence with the E-Series, which targets corporate e-mailers,
and the multimedia capable N Series, including the N95.With more than 5.5 million sold
since March of last year, the latter has yet to be beat by the iPhone, which has sold about 4 million
units. The culturally and locally tailored moves have certainly helped the mobile leader boost
its worldwide dominance in the handset biz. In January, the brand announced that its global
market share grew to 40% by fourth quarter of 2007.