Nokia Labs today revealed a new user interface motif called “Bubbles.” It’s one the many odd little research projects Nokia pops out. Some of them become real products, while many others do not. But I often see lots of creativity and invention in what these Nokia researchers dream up.
Nokia Bubbles is just that — bubbles that move around the handset’s display. They’re essentially shortcuts to other functions, such as unlocking the phone, viewing missed calls, accessing e-mail or viewing text messages.
Nokia Labs is one of the handset manufacturer’s best resources, not just for research and development but marketing. The Nokia Labs website and Nokia Conversations YouTube channel are approachable, informative and fun, and c`mon these developers are so stereotypical they could be cast in any movie calling for geeks.
Their announcements tend to be quite personal. For example, Pauli Asikainen explains about Nokia Bubbles: “When I invented the bubbles concept (with my friend Sami) the idea was to have a fun way to unlock the phone.” I love it: “my friend Sami.” He continues: “After some thinking it was obvious that bubbles can be used for many other purposes and at the same time have some fun things on your screen. Throwing the bubbles around was one of the first things we did with them. And when you have some event you want to respond to it is very easy and fast to do so.”
While US bloggers and journalists overly obsess about iPhone and proclaim Nokia’s demise, the reality is something else. Nokia still ships more handsets than any other company — 123.7 million in fourth quarter 2010, according to IDC, or nearly 8 times more units than Apple. Nokia’s culture is refreshingly open compared to Apple. There is no open Apple beta labs operation; development is kept secret, either completely or safeguarded by developer and manufacturing partner non-disclosure agreements. Nokia may be ailing and lost an enthusiast like me as customer, but its Labs operation and clever marketing show there’s plenty of life in the body yet.