You can't
tell what's

snot from
what's not
-- A.R. Ammons, "Cold Rheum"

Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia (NYSE:NOK) usually looks like a man among boys. In 2008, Nokia collected $70.9 billion in worldwide sales -- more than Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU), Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), and QUALCOMM (NASDAQ:QCOM) put together.

But this week's first-quarter report makes Nokia look positively mortal. Sales plummeted 27% year over year, to $16.5 billion, adjusted to current exchange rates. Mobile device unit sales were down 19%, so average selling prices appear to have swooned as well. 

Last quarter, Nokia's world-beating global market share dropped a couple of percentage points, to 37%, but the company managed to stop the bleeding in the first quarter; its market share stood firm at that figure. Under International Financial Reporting Standards, earnings per share landed with a dull thud at $0.04 per American depositary receipt (ADR) -- a heart-stopping 91% below last year's total.

Nokia's unique market strengths -- massive economies of scale and heavy focus on emerging markets and the tech-hungry pan-Asian arena -- clearly aren't doing the company any favors these days.

That's the sad part of Nokia's story. Let me give you the good news too.

Nokia has shifted 3 million units of its first touchscreen phone, the 5800 XpressMusic model, in only four months of existence. That's comparable to the early success of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 3G, and much better than the first version of the iPhone. The XpressMusic might be the ticket to higher-margin upscale markets for this traditionally no-frills phone designer.

CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo (don't you just love Finnish names?) also noted that retailers and distributors have been ordering fewer phones so they could clear out existing inventories -- and that the clearance process should be over and done with now. That put a hurting on Nokia's first quarter, but should bode well for coming quarters. If nothing else, "it has also resulted in the demand picture becoming more predictable," Olli-Pekka said.

So Nokia bleeds if you cut it, just like Apple or Motorola (NYSE:MOT) or any other phone maker. But this is still the world's biggest, baddest mobility expert, with markets (like the U.S.) left to conquer and fresh ideas in handset design. And in hard times like these, any profit at all is pretty impressive, no matter how small.

Nokia’s forecasts that dwindling inventories could lead to future smartphone demand sent its ADRs surging more than 11% during trading yesterday. The momentum swung through the smartphone industry, propping up fellow smartphone makers Research In Motion, Palm (NASDAQ:PALM), and Apple.

I don't own Nokia shares, but would be pretty comfortable with my position if I did. Here's your chance to buy an established market leader with a good shot at bouncing back strongly -- at very reasonable prices.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund doesn't own shares in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a short bio if you like. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.