If This Rumor's True, It Would Send Nokia Over the Top

Rumors and mobile computing -- there's no escaping them. You can't escape Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iPhone 5S or iPhone 6 rumors, touting this or that feature, or guesstimating a rollout date. Not to be outdone, Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) started a major buzz with a recent Facebook post showing its Lumia phone with an intriguing little gadget on the back aimed at the sun -- almost as if it were outfitted with solar charging capabilities. And Nokia's post accompanying the picture added to the intrigue.

Basis for the rumors
Investing in any company based solely on gossip is a scary proposition. But some industry rumors carry more weight than others, and Nokia's Facebook picture and associated text of its Lumia phone is one of those instances. Why? For one thing, this isn't the first time Nokia's been linked to a solar-power-charging feature for its smartphones.

The solar-powered Nokia smartphone rumors began last month, with news that privately owned Sunpartner Group was touting an intriguing technology that allows a surface -- like a smartphone's cover, say -- to produce power from sun or artificial light. Then a Microsoft-related site, MonWindowsPhone, learned that Sunpartner had signed a deal with an "unnamed" smartphone manufacturer. Nokia was promptly anointed the unnamed manufacturer, and the solar-powered smartphone scuttlebutt was up and running.

No. 2, and even more telling than earlier rumors, is the Nokia Facebook post itself. In addition to the picture, the post says, "Sun, sun, sun, here we come!" Are the picture and post simply Nokia's ode to summer? Possibly, but a quick scan through the hundreds of comments suggest that a lot of Nokia followers came to the same conclusion I did: Nokia's close to solving the problem of the short-lived batteries that provide smartphone owners' biggest gripe.

It's hard to imagine that Nokia didn't realize the reaction it'd get when it posted a photo of the sun-drenched Lumia. Assuming Nokia knew what Facebook followers would surmise from the post, there's absolutely nothing to gain, and a lot to lose, if it turns out there's nothing in the works to back it up. Maybe Nokia will use Sunpartner Group's solar-charging solution, or possibly an in-house alternative. But it had better have something solar-related up its sleeve, or there will be a lot of disappointed Lumia users. Either that, or CEO Stephen Elop needs to explain to shareholders the solar "misunderstanding," if that's what it turns out to be, in a hurry.

Innovation isn't new
Nokia already has a groundbreaking smartphone camera, wireless charging, top-flight mapping capabilities, and runs what was recently voted the top mobile OS by readers of PC Magazine -- Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows 8. Apple's iOS and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android together control about 90% of the world's smartphone market, thanks in large part to Samsung’s ties to Google, but are second and third, respectively, on PC Magazine OS "best of" list. On a scale of 1 to 10, Windows 8 was the only system to register a 9 in the PC Magazine survey: Apple followed with an 8.6, and Google's Android users rated it 8.1.

To top it off, 88% of Windows 8 users chose their smartphone based on its OS. As Nokia is one of Microsoft's key phone partners, the PC Magazine results are a feather in Nokia's cap, too. Now, add what would be an immediate game-changer -- solar charging capabilities built directly into the phone -- and the momentum Nokia's gained from its 4.4 million Lumia units sold in Q4 would really get a boost.

There's still not enough tangible evidence to pull the investment trigger on Nokia, based solely on this latest speculation. But there's no doubt a smartphone with a solar-powered charging feature would change the playing field, and someone's going to bring it to market. Why not Nokia?

Should a Nokia-inspired, solar-powered smartphone alternative come to pass -- and rumors suggest it could be later this year -- the 4.4 million Lumia's sold in Q4 would pale in comparison. In the world of smartphones, each new device iteration seems little more than an improvement on existing technologies or features. But solar battery charging -- that'll be the first real game-changer in a long while. If Nokia introduces a solar smartphone ahead of its rivals, shareholders are going to enjoy a nice ride.

Nokia's been struggling in a world of Apple and Android smartphone dominance. However, the company has banked its future on its next generation of Windows smartphones. Motley Fool analyst Charly Travers has created a new premium report that digs into both the opportunities and risks facing Nokia to help investors decide if the company is a buy or sell. To get started, simply click here now.


Read/Post Comments (17) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 5:29 PM, vireoman wrote:

    Obviously, as you point out, no one should invest in Nokia solely on the potential of them introducing a solar-powered phone this year. However, I think there are innumerable other reasons to invest in Nokia, and this is just another one that can be added to the list. If the share price keeps going down this week, I'll again be adding more shares.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 5:30 PM, marv08 wrote:

    Hm, that would be quite a reversal... see http://www.phonearena.com/news/Solar-powered-phones-Nokia-sa...

    The problem here is that in most parts of the world there is simply not enough sun to make this useful. There are portable solar panels having roughly the size of a mobile phone, many of them available for little money ($10 - $30), and the user reviews on e.g. Amazon USA are quite telling:

    "I have only been able to charge the device to about 50% even when leaving it on my dashboard for a week with full sun each day."

    "I left this out in the sun for 2 days and it charged the phone from 10% to 20 %."

    Nokia would have to change the laws of physics to make this truly useful.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 5:33 PM, timrichardson wrote:

    I had a look at PC Magazine via google "pc magazine phone os" which accesses their latest reviews of operating systems (as opposed to what readers voted). Android and iOS both get 4.5 stars and Editor's Choice. Windows Phone 8 is 3.5 stars. So it's nice the paid campaign to get forum feedback and votes in open polls is working for Windows 8, but the 5% market share is probably a better indication of what customers think. As for solar charging ... a phone turned on needs about 350ma for a trickle charge (and 1 amp for a normal charge) so if Nokia can do this from office lighting, they are going to revolutionise much more than phone charging.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 5:46 PM, jeffreber44 wrote:

    Nokia has the most potential to capture market share than anyone else. Lumias are selling much faster due to the increased popularity of Windows Phone OS. Nokia earnings are April 18th. Get ready for takeoff.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 5:58 PM, ctyank99 wrote:

    I believe Nokia's stock is a great buy right now. They've had all bad news of late and seem to be turning that around I do truly believe they will thrive. The have an awesome line of phones with the Lumia line, with a phone priced for just about everyone! They have the power and money of Microsoft behind them and should do very well with the business folks, it’s such a great fit. They have re-orged and in transition and sales and stock price will climb as a result. I'm finally hearing some positive chatter about the Nokia Lumia's too! It's just beginning... to all the stockholders... keep your chins up :)

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 7:05 PM, Matt8265 wrote:

    The value of this is in third world nations.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 7:51 PM, BuddyGC wrote:

    I guess the world's largest solar manufacturer cosed it's doors to early..... said in jest

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 8:27 PM, ctyank99 wrote:

    First to launch compact, affordable smartphone in North America

    TORONTO , Feb. 22, 2013 /CNW/ - Nokia and TELUS today announced that the Nokia Lumia 620 is now available to TELUS customers. TELUS is the first North American carrier to offer this Windows Phone 8 smartphone. The Nokia Lumia 620 offers a fun, youthful appeal and compact design. With seven different exchangeable shells to choose from, Canadians can adapt the look of their Nokia Lumia 620 to their personal taste and style. At TELUS, the smartphone will come in black with a bonus white exchangeable shell.

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 8:34 PM, ctyank99 wrote:

    I believe most people have the concept wrong. I don't believe the solar charger will be intented to fully replace a charger that requires a power source. I believe it will supplement the charger and provide much longer battery life. It'll also be great in a pinch, where a corded changer is not avialable... out in the forest or on a small boat, for example... They are onto something!!!! Go Nokia!

  • Report this Comment On March 23, 2013, at 8:54 PM, techy46 wrote:
  • Report this Comment On March 24, 2013, at 2:20 AM, thinkingblade wrote:

    People are missing the point. A solar charger doesn't care whether the light is coming from the sun, or from a lamp. Sure, having the ability to recharge your phone while you are having that casual summer lunch outdoors is great, but where you are going to notice it is in those back, to back, to back meetings where you don't have the chance to put your phone on a charger to top it up for the evening and you find out that the flourescents in your conference room have done it for you. The IP is out there, in fact, there are at least some versions where it will work as a display protector as well. With more an more phones being able to be trickle charged through USB or other sources, this has the potential, if they can get it to work, to have some real legs. The question is whether they've sewed up the IP to prevent other people from doing it as well once they've shown people how to make it work.

  • Report this Comment On March 24, 2013, at 8:48 AM, PhillipDeCooch wrote:

    Nokia has the same potential problem it did a few years ago. They have all their eggs in one basket. I would feel much better about their future if they had an android fall back. They held on to Symbian with a death grip and it almost destroyed their company. All it would take is one company to sell a better WP8 line of phones or for MS to offer its own line of WP8 phones to undercut Nokia on the 3-5% of the market that WP8 may grab.

  • Report this Comment On March 24, 2013, at 11:37 AM, CharlieTX wrote:

    Most of us have our phone put away where the sun doesn't shine almost all the time. And most have covers over everything except the display too. Solar charging a smart phone is a solution looking for an application, and this isn't it.

  • Report this Comment On March 24, 2013, at 12:22 PM, ReadandInvest wrote:

    This article makes it even sound more plausible:

    http://doykainvestments.com/innovative-nokia/

    Go Nokia!

  • Report this Comment On March 24, 2013, at 1:26 PM, ReadandInvest wrote:
  • Report this Comment On March 24, 2013, at 10:57 PM, observerbob2013 wrote:

    IU agree with the author that if this was to happen it would make a substantial change in the company value.

    It is true that many phones stay in pockets, etc. but it is also true that many people leave their phones under artificial light on desks or in meetings for a large part of the day. As for the laws of physics the last few decades have shown us that the impossible is already done. Most of us remember computers where memory was measured in Kb's, others, like me, even remember a day when the only user of a mobile phone was Dick Tracy.

    However before we get too carried away I seem to remember Nokia touting the fact that their phones were easier to read in the sunlight than other phones. This post may had no more earth-shattering meaning than that

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2013, at 10:34 AM, StockPikr0 wrote:

    Sigh. I don't want Betamax! I want what everyone else has. If only Nokia sold their wonderful hardware running Android, I'd be very interested. And, the solar thing as a game changer? Sure, it might improve battery life a bit, but that does not change the more important aspects of a phone, like the O/S.

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