Updated from 11 a.m. Nokia ( NOK) rolled out three new phones and forecast continued growth in the red hot handset market. Nokia chief Jorma Ollila said the Helsinki-based handset giant expects global handset sale volume to rise more than 10% in 2006, off this year's record unit shipment total of 780 million. The company also told investors that it expects its mobile subscription count to pass 3 billion in 2008, rather than in 2010 as stated in February. The comments sent Nokia shares up 3% in midday trading. Ollila's remarks came as Nokia said it expects new handsets and better carrier relationships to bolster its position in the key North America market in years to come. At its annual Capital Market Days event in midtown Manhattan, Nokia handset chief Kai Oistamo said the Finnish handset giant has learned from past missteps and will use the knowledge to rebuild its faltering North American business. After Oistamo's comments, Ollila took the stage to offer financial guidance that was generally better than Wall Street had expected. "Last year we committed to increasing the competitiveness of our product portfolio and focusing more on our customers. Today, I'm pleased to say that we've made excellent progress in both of these key areas," said Ollila. "I'm particularly happy with advancements in our product portfolio. The competitive features, design, usability and quality of our products mean Nokia will continue to be recognized as a globally-leading brand and the top industry driver." Nokia remains the No. 1 handset maker globally, but it has been laid low stateside in recent quarters by a series of fashion faux pas and aggressive marketing moves by rivals led by Motorola ( MOT). While Motorola has been rolling out red-hot models like the Razr,
Nokia has grown increasingly reliant on low-margin cheaper phones sold in poorer nations. "North America is not going to change overnight," Oistamo, Nokia's executive vice president and general manager for mobile phones, told analysts and investors Thursday. "It will take some time to get where we want to be."
Oistamo said Nokia believes its newest third-generation offerings will include the most successful Internet-enabled phone in the market next year. A company press release bills the 6233 phone as "a classically designed model tailored for business and entertainment," with "a wide array of features and applications which take advantage of WCDMA services." The 6233 is expected to cost around $380 and will be rolled out in Europe in the second quarter of 2006. It replaces the Nokia 6230i, a popular second-generation phone. Oistamo said the rollout of the 6233 and two other models, the 6234 for Vodafone ( VOD) customers overseas and the 6282 for the Americas, comes as Nokia confronts challenges in the market for phones that use the most popular technological standard, called code division multiple access. In the past, Oistamo acknowledged, Nokia hasn't been flexible enough in working with big North American wireless operators like Cingular and Verizon Wireless. He said that has changed and that the company is now "executing on a plan to be more flexible." On Thursday, Nokia rose 57 cents to $17.65.