2017 may be the year of Nokia, or depending on what your views are – the year of HMD Global.
You’d be excused for not knowing who HMD Global is. They popped up at the MWC 2017 (Mobile World Congress) and rocked the boat with the launch of four new Android Nokia phones.
These are the first Android Nokia phones ever made.
This may come as a surprise to you.
About a decade ago, Nokia were making indestructible, reliable phones – the Bear Grylls of mobile devices. I still have the old Nokia 3310 in a drawer somewhere, and it works. 7 of the 10 top selling mobile phones in the world are Nokia, with the 1100 model leading the line since 2003.
If you were a terrible person in your previous life, you’re now part of the 0.001% of the population who’s stuck with an ineffective waste of time called the Lumia Windows Store. You’re a die-hard Nokia fan, and you’ve been trying to support them – but they haven’t made this easy.
There’s a reason why Nokia Lumia’s came with a free protective case. Because they get thrown a lot.
Where Did Nokia Go?
The great Nokia phones of old, ran on Symbian – an operating system doomed from the moment iPhone and Android smartphones entered the market.
Giants like Nokia just couldn’t keep up.
Back then, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop wrote a now-infamous letter. In it, he likened Symbian to a burning oil platform and stating that Nokia would need to leap off in order to survive.
The first iPhone shipped ten years ago, in 2007, and Nokia had no products to compete with the Apple experience.
In the letter, Elop wrote;
‘The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we’re going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.’
And then they signed a deal with Microsoft.
The Windows Phone
The first Nokia Windows Phone came out in 2011, the Lumia 800. The phone had sound quality problems, an onscreen keyboard which disappeared while you were typing, camera focus problems, a finicky charging system, an unresponsive or a flickering screen and the ability to give users a massive hernia.
The last Symbian Nokia came limping out a year later – the forgettable Nokia 808.
Elop stated that he wanted Nokia to use the Windows Phone platform instead of Android to differentiate the company from competitors. Poor Lumia sales led the company to the brink of bankruptcy mid-2012.
So, that worked out well.
A few feature phones and a couple of Lumia’s later – Nokia had done little to enhance profits. In the final quarter of 2013, they announced they would sell their mobile devices division to Microsoft. As part of the deal, Elop would return to Microsoft and Nokia were not permitted to sell smartphones under their own brand until 2016.
In 2016, Microsoft lost faith in its own product and sold Nokia’s feature phone business to Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile and a Finnish firm called HMD Global, operated by Nokia veterans.
HMD Global, in partnership with Nokia, would become the sole licensee of the Nokia brand and the only manufacturer of Nokia feature phones and smartphones.
BlackBerry, another star gone dark and which refuses to just stay that way, has made a similar deal with TCL Communications. They just launched the KEYone and will manufacture all future BlackBerry devices.
The first HMD Nokia device to roll out was the under-the-radar Nokia 150.
In January 2017, the android based Nokia 3, Nokia 5, Nokia 6 and a revamped, retro-style Nokia 3310 were all revealed at the MWC.
The New Line
In the Nokia 3, they have the potential to disrupt the budget smartphone game entirely. The phone is retailing at just over R2000 per device. It’s a decent entry-level smartphone, but for just a grand or two more respectively, you can pick up the infinitely better mid-tier Nokia 5 or Nokia 6.
The aluminium-clad Nokia 5 and 6 both punch way above their price tags. They come standard with the latest Android Nougat software, fingerprint scanner security and front and rear cameras.
The Nokia 6 launched exclusively in China back in January and sold out in 23 seconds flat with over a million pre-registrations, smashing brand records.
Similarly, the 3310’s retro revival has been a bit of a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ case. By that I mean, it sells out FAST. The 2G handset has done what Nokia has failed to do in the last decade, create extraordinary demand. They say it has a 30 day battery life – and yes, a new colour screen.
People must really love Snake.
Furthermore, the rumoured flagship phone – the Nokia 8 – is nearing the horizon. They’re in no hurry, though. Their aim is to focus on core user experience and not flood the market with too many phones at the same time.
All of the above mentioned handsets are available in South Africa, but you may need to get on a waiting list.