Nokia fans hankering to get their hands on a new smartphone with their beloved brand name — and without Microsoft’s unloved mobile OS — will need to go to China if they want to buy the first Android-powered from the Finnish phone maker that’s now licensing Nokia’s IP for phones.
The new device maker, HMD, was founded last year by a group of senior ex-Nokians, with the explicit aim of (exclusively) licensing Nokia’s brand name for new mobile hardware — having acquired the relevant rights from former owner, Microsoft back in May.
HMD’s first two mobiles, outted last month, were both features phones. But it’s now announced its debut smartphone: a “premium” handset it’s calling the Nokia 6, which is billed to launch in China in “early 2017”. The device will be distributed exclusively via local electronics ecommerce giant, JD.com, with a price-tag of 1699 CNY ($245).
So what kind of Nokia-branded Android smartphone will $245 buy you? A highly polished aluminum unibody handset, packing a 5.5 inch Gorilla Glass HD screen, which, at a quick glance, could pass for an iPhone.
Inside there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage and the latest flavor of Google’s Android OS (Nougat). Also on board: dual speakers, Dolby Atmos audio, a 16MP rear camera and 8MP front facing lens (both f/2.0).
Commenting in a statement, CEO Arto Nummela, flagged factors such as the Nokia 6’s design, durability, entertainment and display features. “The Nokia 6 is a result of listening to our consumers who desire a beautifully crafted handset with exceptional durability, entertainment and display features,” he said.
Why is HMD focusing on China? It points to the size of the smartphone market — 552M+ users last year, with projected growth to 593M+ in 2017 — calling it “strategically important”. So this is absolutely about seeking to drive volume sales in a market that still has some growth potential, which, given what can even be size zero Android OEM margins these days, is as you’d expect.
Nummela goes on to suggest HMD will be expanding its portfolio quickly with additional handsets in the coming months — so again, it looks to be gearing up to push for volume sales.
“Our ambition is to deliver a premium product, which meets consumer needs at every price point, in every market,” he said. “We start today, with our premium, high quality Nokia 6; built to deliver a fantastic core user experience for Chinese consumers. We look forward to unveiling further products in the first half of this year.”
The fiercely competitive phone making space has not been kind to many a seasoned hardware firm in recent years. So it remains to be seen whether a Finnish Nokia IP licensing vehicle will find fairer business fortunes here or be forced to watch a veteran brand being drowned out amid all the noise.
According to Strategy Analytics’ 2016 Q3 smartphone market report, three of the top five device makers hailed from China — with fast-growing local challenger OEMs such as OPPO, Vivo and LeEco taking share from larger firm Huawei, for example.
The analyst dubbed competition in the Chinese market as “intense”, noting that Huawei’s growth more than halved in the quarter owing to this clutch of domestic rivals. HMD will clearly be hoping to add its name to the list of rising challenges in future years.