Nokia 5800 Sauna Edition Preview

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After a successful launch of the 5800 XpressMusic, All About Symbian can exclusively reveal Nokia's future plans for the big-selling handset.

Nokia 5800 Sauna Edition

The Nokia 5800 Sauna Edition in a specially-constructed test room (Lapin Kulta is a Finnish beer often drunk after sauna)


Nokia 5800 Sauna Edition Preview

All About Symbian has had exclusive access to an upcoming new refresh of a familiar model, and we now bring you our initial thoughts based on spending a few hours using it at Nokia's Consumer Innovations research facility in Finland.

The Nokia 5800 Sauna Edition is the first variant of the popular 5800 XpressMusic, and uses the same basic hardware but with a new anti-humidity case coating and a built-in thermometer/hygrometer application known as Nokia Löyly.

The initial development of the 5800 SE was led by Dr. Huhtikuun Ensimmäinen of Nokia's Consumer Innovations Unit in the Finnish university town of Hölmölä. Here's an excerpt from what Dr. Ensimmäinen had to say to us (the full audio version will be available in our next podcast):

"Well, you know, we like to be not just competing with rivals but being the first to find new market segments and device classes. If you look at the history of mobile device development, every decade we have seen the market change completely: during the 1980s carphones were used mainly by company executives and emergency services, in the 1990s phones became pocket devices bought by a more mainstream audience, and in the 2000s we've seen multimedia and computing become important factors in mobile device usage."

"But we anticipate that during the 2010s the mobile world will move towards a more consumer-oriented approach, where phones are interacting with everyday devices like fridges, microwaves, television sets, washing machines and so forth. If you are in the supermarket and forget what you need to buy, you should be able to phone your fridge to ask it if you need some milk. That's just one example, and many other companies have had similar ideas. What we want to do with the Nokia 5800 Sauna Edition is to do something in this area which is truly new, something which absolutely no one has done before, and that's a phone built for use in a sauna."

"Some might think this is too specialised for a global audience. But (the) sauna is of course popular not just in Finland, but also across the Nordic region, central Europe and other key areas such as the fast-growing Russian market too. And anyone who's seen the Blues Brothers film knows that there's a sauna market even in the United States (incidentally, that scene inspired our Gaming Unit's famous Sauna Talk videos)."

"So, here we have the 5800 Sauna Edition, heat resistant up to 120 degrees celsius and able to work without problems in a typical sauna humidity. We have included a thermometer/hygrometer application so you can follow the progress of your sauna, but the real innovation here is our work on the casing. The Sauna Edition's casing is coated with a special organically-derived plastic which allows radio signals to move unimpeded but blocks 99.99% of all humidity from entering. This coating took us a very long time to develop, and it was only when Nokia France sent us a sample of flexible plastic based on fish oil that we made the real breakthrough. The oil comes from a particular French fish can only be caught in early spring, so it was often overlooked by companies looking to develop organic-derived specialist plastics. We've managed to synthesise an artificial version so supply is no longer a problem."

"And no, your phone will not smell of fish!" jokes Dr. Ensimmäinen.


Blues Brothers in a sauna

Even the Americans appreciate a good sauna


All About Symbian's thoughts on the 5800 SE

No decisions on a release date for the 5800 SE have been made yet, but the plan is for the sales package to come with cross-promotional vouchers for various sauna-related consumer products such as aromatherapy oils and local brands of lager. An "Apres Sauna" recipe book is also apparently in development and will be included in the box. In another innovative move, this device may be sold through unusual sales channels such as health spas.

As the mobile device market is predicted to commoditise over the next 10 to 20 years there will be an imperative to expand into new territory to maintain growth prospects. Ovi indicated a move into internet services, and the Sauna Edition may be the first part of a more Consumer Electronics oriented pillar added to this diversification strategy.

Using the 5800 SE is no different to using the 5800 XpressMusic, though of course if you use the SE in a sauna you will have to regularly wipe away the screen humidity. One concern we have is the heat of the device, as even if it's working correctly it tends to absorb so much heat that it becomes uncomfortable to hold, but Dr. Ensimmäinen assures us that this will be solved in time for release through a separate phone holder accesory included in the sales package.

The 5800's coating doesn't feel much different to the normal 5800, just a little more slippery. We took some photos of an SE alongside a normal 5800 for comparison. The coating is JUST visible if you put your eyes very very close to the monitor:


Nokia 5800 Sauna Edition with special coatingNokia 5800 without coating

Thin but effective: The picture on the left shows the coated 5800, while on the right is the uncoated 5800

Nokia Löyly (the thermometer and hygrometer app) worked without a hitch in our tests, correctly matching the readings on the conventional meters attached to the wall. In the real world most saunas do not have good lighting inside, so a backlit phone-based meter app clearly offer a potential advantage over traditional sauna meters.

There have apparently been talks with sauna manufacturers (Finland is of course a major player in the field) and there are tentative proposals to make a Bluetooth-compatible sauna stove which will adjust its temperature automatically according to your personalised settings on the 5800 SE. There may even be a follow-up stove which can be activated through a home Wi-Fi internet connection, so for example you could switch on the sauna through your 5800 SE while away from home, and have it heated up and ready to be used as soon as you get home.

To finish this preview, here is another excerpt from our upcoming podcast interview with Dr. Huhtikuun Ensimmäinen:

"You know, Finland is a small country, not everyone knows we exist! But our word "Sauna" has somehow made it into languages around the world, and now so has "Nokia". So we thought it was time to combine those two words. Of all the successful Finnish concepts over the years, the sauna is the one that has lasted longest. We feel that it would be stupid not to try and capitalise on that."

"This is a golden opportunity. What would we be if we DIDN'T try to make a sauna phone? We would be fools!" says Dr. Ensimmäinen with a wry smile.

(Author's note added on 2nd of April 2009: You're a fool too if you believed any of the above article! This was written for April Fool's day 2009, hope to catch you again next year... :-) By the way, "Huhtikuun Ensimmäinen" means "April the first" in Finnish, and "Hölmölä" is a fictional town full of fools. There is no Nokia 5800 Sauna Edition, it's just a normal 5800 XpressMusic propped up against a lager bottle with a picture of a thermometer and hygrometer displayed through the Gallery application. And there's no coating on either of the pictures above, they are of course the same picture displayed twice.)


Nokia 5800 Sauna Edition close up

This prototype Sauna Edition unit still has the XpressMusic branding, but the retail versions will feature a special Sauna Edition logo and colour scheme.