While Nokia's dominance wanes in developed countries, it could be products like the Play 360 speaker that might keep them muddling through what is clearly a major company-wide reinvention. It's not perfect, but this small, portable and omni-directional speaker demonstrates that Nokia is finally thinking seriously about the joys and challenges of the common smartphone addict.
The engine of the 360 is an upward facing speaker that Nokia says distributes sound evenly around your space, using either NFC (near-field chip) technology, Bluetooth or a traditional miniplug cable to pull sound from your devices. If your phone is NFC-enabled like Nokia's new N9 device, you can tap the two gizmos together to establish an audio connection.
Despite giving the 360 the awkward physical profile of a pineapple, Nokia claims the speaker is built for portability, and has endowed it with a built-in rechargeable battery that gets 20 hours of play to a charge. But perhaps the most thoughtful (and surprising) touch is the ability to pair your phone with two 360 devices to create a wireless stereo effect.
Like the new N9 phones, the 360 comes in three colors, although the N9's distinctive salmon hue isn't one of them: just silver, black, and blue. It will ship in Q3 of this year for an MSRP of $214 per unit, along with a wireless dongle (called the MD-310) that adds NFC connectivity to your home stereo.
Perhaps on the other side of this clever little blob, the Finnish giant will rediscover the design DNA that catapulted it to dominance with the candybar-style phone over a decade ago.