Monday, August 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm.

Nokia’s new phone naming convention: Not a confidence-builder

Nokia will name its phones using a three-digit number system, starting now.

Here’s Nokia’s Phil Schwarzmann:

So the new system is like this:

The first number is the relative price/feature point. So a Nokia 900* would be top dog and a Nokia 100* is the most accessible option. The second two numbers gives each device a unique identifier within that point. So we can release 99 phones at the 500 point before we have to recycle any names, for example.

Even if he’s joking about releasing 99 phones in a series before reusing the name, it suggests that Nokia hasn’t learned enough from its downfall.

Perhaps this system would be useful if someone were comparing five or six different Nokia smartphone models against each other. But why should anyone ever need to do that? You’re either buying a cheap phone or an expensive phone. There shouldn’t need to be more than a couple of options for each.

Frankly, we like numbers. Because we aren’t afraid of experimenting, we tried something different. But at the end of the day, we learned that ‘numbers work’.

Numbers may work for engineers and salespeople with spreadsheets. And in Nokia’s case, they’re probably easier to keep track of globally, where words might be trickier. But from a consumer’s point of view, numbers are among the most sterile, least sexy gadget-naming conventions imaginable. (Though perhaps slightly better than random letters and numbers, which Nokia was using previously.)

Apple, meanwhile, has built a tremendous brand around iPhone, Verizon Wireless has around Droid, and even Samsung’s Galaxy brand is building a reputation. Words are much more memorable and marketable than numbers.

Bigger picture, Nokia is a company that badly needs creative leadership and simple product vision. It doesn’t seem to have found it yet.

Related: Apple shoots past Nokia in smartphone shipments