The Nokia 5140: A Deep Dive into the Journey of ‘Debra’


The Nokia 5140: A Deep Dive into the Journey of ‘Debra’

In the bustling world of mobile phones, where innovation was paramount, Nokia rose with a distinctive model in 2003, the Nokia 5140. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Debra’ (or RM-104 for those in the know), this unique phone stood apart from the rest.


The story commenced at the ISPO event, where Nokia and Polar Electro, two giants of their respective fields, came together. Graced by the presence of Mr. Kai Öistämö, they unveiled the Nokia 5140 with a Push-to-talk (PoC) demonstration. The unveiling was impressive, leading to remarkable sales figures of 7 million, and even a variant, the 5140i, shepherded by Mr. Tero Kuittinen.

The Team Behind the Screen

At the helm of the project was Mr. Pekka Väyrynen, with Mr. Heikki Kangasmaa, a budding designer, giving shape to his first ever design for Nokia. Mr. Petteri Kolinen played the role of the supportive senior, ensuring that the design was functional yet captivating. The compass feature was quite the challenge, needing numerous layout adjustments. Mr. Vesa Koivuaho dedicated himself, tuning the compass to perfection.

From Paper to Production

Manufactured in the Komarom factory, the 5140 had roots in traditional SP projects. Interestingly, it required three ‘E1’ decisions and saw a change in the project team with every decision. Only Janne Jämsä & Pekka Väyrynen stuck through all the phases. The essence of the phone emanated from previous projects by Mr. Pekka Lonka in Salo and Ismo’s ‘Foxy’. The heart and soul of ‘Debra’ were its durability and ruggedness, tailored for those with an active lifestyle. An around-the-head special headset was also crafted, epitomizing the innovative spirit of the phone.

Naming Wonders

Every GSM phone needed the letter “R,” and traditionally SP phones had female monikers. ‘Debra’ seemed an apt choice. The name reminded many of Debra Winger, but the real story surfaced when Mr. Kenneth Björklund curiously enquired about the name’s origin. The tongue-in-cheek reply hinted at his Coastal Swedish roots, with a play on the words “Det är Bra” (‘De-e-bra’), which translates to “It’s Good”.

Challenges and Triumphs

The initial design faced criticism for its transparency, making it hard to discern numbers in daylight. A pivot led to the creation of a black keypad, which received an overwhelming nod in internal reviews. However, production wasn’t without hitches. A cover design flaw made them too tight, nearly irremovable. It was Martti Valtokari’s intervention, with some fine-tuning, that resolved the issue.

A grand marketing event in Zell am See, featuring Markku Vimpari’s duck server, added to the phone’s allure.

Changing Directions

Push-to-talk was initially earmarked for AWS (AT&T Wireless). However, when AWS was taken over by Cingular, the project faced a sudden halt. Undeterred, Nokia rerouted its marketing strategy, introducing the service and concept to Australian Telstra, ensuring ‘Debra’ made her mark globally.

In conclusion, the Nokia 5140, or ‘Debra’, is a testament to innovation, adaptability, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. From its conception to the challenges it overcame, it stands as an iconic model in the history of mobile phones.

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