In September 2010, Nokia announced it had hired Stephen Elop, formerly of Microsoft. In a surprise move, he became the new CEO for the Finland-based mobile phone company. Then in February 2011, Elop announced that Nokia had signed a partnership with Microsoft to make Windows Phone its primary smartphone operating system, ahead of Nokia’s own Symbian OS.
At the time, Nokia was still the biggest maker of mobile phones, but with the launch of the iPhone and the Android OS a few years earlier, the company knew that it needed to make some changes to stay competitive. Unfortunately, it hooked its saddle onto the wrong horse in this race with Windows Phone. Indeed, many people at the time questioned why Elop and Nokia didn’t start creating Android phones instead.
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Whole books will likely be written about Nokia’s fall from the mobile phone market in the future. In short, the gamble with Windows Phone ultimately didn’t work, and in September of 2013, it was announced that the company’s Devices and Services division was being sold to Microsoft, which was then being run by CEO Steve Ballmer. That deal was completed in 2014, but Microsoft failed to use the resources it bought from Nokia to make a dent against the iPhone and Android phones in the smartphone market. Under its current CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has since laid off nearly every former Nokia employee it brought in with the company in 2014 and shut down all of its phone manufacturing facilities. As part of its deal with Microsoft, Nokia could not launch any new smartphones until at least the fourth quarter of 2016.
Whole books will likely be written about Nokia’s fall from the mobile phone market in the future
Just a few months before the deal for Microsoft to buy Nokia’s phone division closed, Nokia did in fact launch three Android-based phones as its swan song in the phone business in early 2014: the Nokia X, X+ and XL. However, after the deal closed, Microsoft quickly shut down the Android phone lineup. In 2015, the company launched the Android-based N1 tablet, as its agreement with Microsoft did not cover tablet products.
The Nokia brand name continues to be one of the most well known properties in mobile phones worldwide, and the company clearly wants to go back and compete with Apple, Samsung and others in the industry. Earlier this year, the company announced that it is offering its brand name and IP to a new company called HMD Global. This new company is based in Nokia’s home country of Finland, and has a number of former Nokia team members on board. It will design new smartphones and tablets, and yes, they will use Android as the OS. Nokia will not be a direct investor in HMD, but it will be setting “mandatory brand requirements and performance related provisions” for the company to follow as it creates its new mobile devices. There are already some rumors about what those first phones will be like in terms of hardware, but at the moment nothing is confirmed yet, so take any of those reports with a big grain of salt.
The name 'Nokia' continues to be one of the most well known properties in mobile phones worldwide
Android-powered Nokia phones are coming in 2017
A few days ago, Nokia confirmed that smartphones with its branding will launch sometime in 2017. It’s possible that the official announcement will come at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain in February. While the name is still well known, it will take a lot of effort, and ultimately time, to take market share away from the companies that have been working on Android phones for the past few years. However, it is not impossible. Here are five things that I personally think HMD will need to do to have a successful smartphone launch in 2017.
Don’t be afraid to innovate
Even though Nokia saddled itself with Windows Phone as its OS for a few years, it still made big strides in smartphone hardware and software. The Lumia 1020, with its 41MP rear camera, launched in 2013, and has yet to be surpassed in terms of megapixels for smartphones. The company also released a number of apps that were ahead of its time, including AR apps before it became a trend, and more. In short, HMD needs to offer things that no other smartphone company has yet to release, yet still make those features attractive to consumers as well. That won’t be easy, but if Nokia could do it with Windows Phone, then HMD can with Android.
Release smartphones for every audience
Nokia launched Windows Phone devices that reached large audiences, ranging from the 6-inch Lumia 1520 for high-end users, to the budget-priced 4-inch Lumia 520. HMD must also offer a range of devices that will be embraced by people who just need a cheap phone all the way to customers who want to get all of the latest in hardware and software.
Ignore the tablet industry for now
In its announcement, HMD said it would also be designing tablets as well as phones. However, it might be a mistake to begin a launch of products with a tablet device. Frankly, the tablet industry itself is in a bit of a slowdown, as more people are embracing 2-in-1 devices like the Surface lineup from Microsoft. While we think HMD could make a great 2-in-1 tablet or notebook in the future, it’s perhaps best if they hold off and concentrate on the smartphone market for its product launches in 2017.
The tablet industry is in a bit of a slowdown
Keep the nostalgia factor of the Nokia brand
Many people have fond memories of using a Nokia mobile phone, including listening to its classic ringtone. HMD needs to use that song and other items from the history of its partner company in new and clever ways to help promote and market its new smartphones. It will certainly help to break the Nokia name away from its Windows Phone days.
Don’t even mention Microsoft or Windows Phone
There’s likely still a lot of bad blood at the current incarnation of Nokia about the decision to partner with Microsoft and go all in with Windows Phone. There might be a temptation for HMD to take a few pot shots at Elop and Windows Phone when they launch their smartphone products with the Nokia brand. However, we think that would be in poor taste. It’s best not to mention that part of Nokia’s past at all, except to perhaps highlight some of the company’s smartphone innovations that it had with its Lumia family. The names “Microsoft”, “Windows Phone” and Elop should be ignored completely in the relaunch.
Conclusions: High hopes and expectations
The return of the Nokia name to the smartphone market will likely be one of the most anticipated in 2017, and there will likely be some high expectations from HMD to delivery. We think that it can do just that, if it can combine innovative features and a wide range of devices with the Android OS backing it up.
What do you think of the Nokia name returning to smartphones next year? Can HMD launch a series of devices that can compete with the major companies? What do you think it should do to ensure a successful rebirth of the company brand in the smartphone market? Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comments!