HELSINKI (Reuters) - Nokia unveiled on Tuesday two new smartphone models running on improved Symbian software, a stop-gap measure aimed at stemming customer defections to rivals like Apple.
Nokia has lost its lead in the high end of the cellphone market after Apple unveiled the iPhone in 2007.
In February, Nokia’s new chief executive Stephen Elop dumped Nokia’s Symbian software, saying the company would instead use Microsoft Corp’s unproven software.
Elop compared Symbian to a burning platform in a widely leaked internal memo, saying it was not good enough for the future of the world’s largest phone maker by volume.
On Tuesday Nokia unveiled a new version of Symbian software, with new icons, improved text input, faster Internet browsing and a refreshed Ovi Maps application.
“It’s just a bit too late to put Humpty Dumpty back together. Developers are bailing out in droves,” said Tero Kuittinen, analyst at MKM Partners.
Nokia has for years struggled to attract developers’ attention, due in part to Symbian’s cumbersome tools compared to those for the iPhone or Google’s Android platform. It has been hoping its larger scale would compensate for additional investment demanded from developers.
Nokia’s services chief Tero Ojanpera stuck to the target of selling some 150 million Symbian phones in coming years, and said daily downloads at Nokia’s Ovi Store have grown to 5 million.
In comparison, Apple is expected to sell a total of 150 million iPhones in 2011-2012.
The new Nokia models, the E6 and the X7, will go on sale for 340 euros ($491.6) and 380 euros respectively excluding subsidies and taxes, later this quarter.
Its weakening position in the high end of the market is expected to drag Nokia’s underlying first-quarter earnings per share 29 percent below last year‘s, a Reuters poll of 31 analysts showed on Tuesday.
Underlying operating profit at its key phone unit -- an important metric for the company -- is expected to drop to 8.6 percent from 12.1 percent a year earlier.
Nokia is scheduled to report January-March earnings on April 21, and it has also said it would unveil large job cuts stemming from its Microsoft deal in late-April.
Shares in Nokia were 1.3 percent weaker at 6.21 euros by 1145 GMT.
Editing by Mark Potter