While it will come as no surprise that Nokia-branded smartphones will be available in H1, 2017, it might be a little surprising to hear that Google has had significant input into them. HMD Global Oy, the Finnish ‘startup’ founded by industry veterans to bring Nokia feature phones and smartphones to market in 2017, has officially entered the market today.
While feature phones are the only Nokia-branded phones currently available on Nokia’s site, the switch to Android in 2017 will see Nokia phones exposed to a vast new audience. But HMD hopes to expand that audience even further by convincing loyal Nokia feature phone owners to finally upgrade to a new Nokia smartphone when they become available.
HMD hopes to convince loyal Nokia feature phone owners to finally make the leap to a smartphone: a Nokia smartphone.
According to its press release, “HMD has a significant global foothold including Americas, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa, India and China from day one.”
If the company manages to not only tap into the strong nostalgia for the Nokia brand held by current smartphone owners but also to encourage Nokia loyalists to take the plunge into the smartphone world, they could have a winning strategy on their hands.
But HMD isn’t relying simply on goodwill and the Nokia feature phone business, which it also acquired in its 10-year exclusive licensing arrangement with Nokia Oyj, as its key ingredients for success. HMD Global CEO Arto Nummela told Reuters that its first forays into the Android smartphone world have been conducted in close partnership with Google.
The details of that partnership are not public, but it would be easy to guess the kinds of advice Google would have for a new player in the Android space, especially one that casts as long a shadow as Nokia. For instance, if we see a Moto-esque “stock Android+” on the new Nokias, with a few custom tweaks on top, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
We will be extremely true to the Nokia brand. The Nokia brand is known for simplicity, ease of use, reliability and quality.
As Nummela told Bloomberg, “we will be extremely true to the Nokia brand. The Nokia brand is known for simplicity, ease of use, reliability and quality. These are the elements that we will deliver together with amazing industrial design.”
The new Nokia need only focus on three much-loved Nokia characteristics to get back in the game and stand out: best-in-class battery life, outstanding durability and user friendliness. Extensive customizations to stock Android will only make things more complicated and slow down the update process.
No one wants to see a Nokia phone cast in the same mold as the ill-fated BlackBerry Priv.
The era of pointless software gimmicks is gone (or should be) and no one wants to see a Nokia phone cast in the same mold as the ill-fated BlackBerry Priv. As great as that phone was, it tried too hard to do too much and ended up falling short.
Fortunately, Nokia doesn’t have as much legacy software baggage to bring to the Android platform with it as BlackBerry did. As much as Nokia needs a firm break from Microsoft, some aspects of that period in the company’s long life should absolutely remain, like the Nokia Lumia’s excellent camera reputation.
But will it work?
HMD, in my opinion, need simply focus on bringing what Nokia has always done well to the Android platform. That alone will garner it a significant following and reduce the risk of expensive and possibly poorly-thought-out “innovations” that might derail Nokia’s successful return to the smartphone market. (Of course, some folks think Nokia should innovate rather than play it safe.)
Whatever HMD decides to focus on, manufacturing shouldn’t be a problem, with iPhone assembler Foxconn handling the manufacturing of the new Nokia phones. HMD Global will focus purely on design, distribution and marketing. With 40 offices globally already, HMD is clearly not taking things slowly and the company has committed $500 million to marketing the new devices over the next three years.
HMD Global may just be able to pull off the resurrection of the decade.
With pre-existing relationships to retailers and carriers, a highly experienced management team, one of the strongest brands in the telecommunications industry, strategic partnerships with the likes of Google, Foxconn and Nokia itself, and an aggressive global approach supported by a still significant, if steadily declining, feature phone business, HMD Global may just be able to pull off the resurrection of the decade.
What would it take to make you buy a Nokia Android phone?