updated 02:10 pm EST, Wed December 29, 2010
Nokia N8 shipments may have hit 4m in late 2010
A rare prediction of Nokia's smarphone sales came today from Finland-based equity research group Inderes Oy. Pointing to chip orders, Nokia's recruitment at its Salo factory and even web search traffic, analysts estimated that Nokia would ship about four million units of its N8 smartphone flagship this fall. The demand so far was the highest in both Nokia's Finnish homeland and in countries where Apple and Google didn't have a significant footprint to start with, including India, Malaysia and the UAE.
While web traffic was readily admitted as an imperfect measurement of sales, sharp increases in searches indexed by Google Trends were often uncannily accurate at reflecting how well a given device was selling, Inderes Oy said. It pointed to search volume for the iPhone often correlating to the ratio by which Apple's sales went up. Searches in western countries often reflect an intention to buy.
By these ratios, the N8 would be selling only slightly slower than HTC's most popular phone line, the Desire, but above the Samsung Galaxy S. Samsung would still sell more of its phone as it started shipping earlier, in June versus September, but Nokia might be catching up relatively quickly.
Areas where the N8 led in searches often had distinct problems affording devices like the iPhone. Few Indians buy iPhones because the price is often well beyond their means, the analysts said; the least expensive iPhone costs the equivalent of $745, or enough that buying three could match the price of Tata's Nano car.
The results could show that the N8 wasn't a flop, such as with the N96, N97 and N900. Researchers attributed it to some users buying the 12-megapixel camera phone as an alternative to a dedicated point-and-shoot. The company nonetheless warned that Symbian^3 was still well behind Android and iOS and didn't say how well it expected other Nokia phones to manage, possibly leading to a decline even if the N8 fared well.
Nokia recently delayed the E7 to 2011 and has been mum on plans for the first part of the year beyond catching up on earlier predictions.
Google Trends for HTC, Nokia and Samsung over the four quarters of 2010