The return of the Nokia name in the smartphone world when the Nokia 6 was announced by HMD Global wasn't really a surprise. In December 2016, HMD Global announced that they would be releasing multiple Android products under the Nokia brand starting in early 2017. It appears that HMD Global, a company that includes several ex-Nokia/Microsoft execs, was created to produce these new Nokia phones. The actual manufacturing will be handled by Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile — which also acquired Microsoft's feature phone division in early 2016 — but the design and software come from HMD using the Nokia brand.
It's a little confusing. But in the end, we had ex-Nokia people who wanted to keep the name alive after the Microsoft acquisition and sale. That would be pretty cool because Nokia made some incredible phones. An N9 or Lumia 1020 running Android would be really interesting, and inside I think that's about what most people looking forward to an Android-powered Nokia phone were expecting. And these aren't even the first Nokia phones to run Android. Those had a little of that Nokia mojo in the design and construction.
You can see some of that Old Time Nokia in there, but the N6 also looks a lot like almost any other phone running Android. The big curves and substantial body are toned down, and seeing it in black makes me wish it also came in green or orange like a "proper" Nokia phone. But mostly I'm excited to see what they can do with a thin black slab of aluminum to make me like it enough to remember who made it. That's the goal of every design team. I'll dismiss all the comments from people who have never seen or held it when they tell me it's boring. I'll decide after I take it out of the box. I've been waiting for this.
The Nokia 6 is a phone made specifically for the Chinese market. Dual-SIM, low price, no Google applications or the Play Store. We can't automatically say that anything they might release in the west will be similar. The specifications will certainly be higher (so will the price) and the interface and application suite will be different once it's fine-tuned for the western audience. But I'm pretty sure the design of these unannounced phones will be similar to the Nokia 6.
The new Nokia is going to be judged at every turn by people who loved the old Nokia.
And look for Nokia/HMD to be modest and not try to compete with the mega-priced flagship phones of 2017. The phone(s) we see in Europe and the Americas will be positioned as the best phone you can buy under $600. That's a market slot that has huge potential, and companies like OnePlus and ZTE have set a high bar here. I can't wait to see how Nokia plans to compete. A $245 phone shipping with Android 7 is a great start.
One thing that's for sure is that Nokia has a huge fanbase around the world who will look twice at anything the company releases. When HMD Global announced that they would be building Nokia phones exclusively in December 2016, CEO Arto Nummela had this to say:
Today marks a happy and important day for HMD. Nokia has been one of the most iconic and recognisable phone brands globally for decades. The excitement of re-introducing this much-loved, well-known and trusted brand to smartphone consumers is a responsibility and an ambition that everyone at HMD shares.
We see this as a brilliant opportunity to solve real life consumer problems and to deliver on the quality and designs that the Nokia brand has been always known for. Our talented and passionate team is uniquely placed in this modern setup to deliver our promise of reliable, beautifully crafted and fun Nokia phones for consumers across the globe.
Nummela has been a part of Nokia since 1994 and was appointed as VP of Microsoft Mobile Devices Sales when the company was bought out by Microsoft. He understands that there are people who are waiting to buy a new Nokia phone, and why that matters to the company. Those people are also going to be expecting something that was worth the wait, and you only get to make the first impression that one time. Starting in China — where the market for a good cheap smartphone grows every year — will bring in a few dollars and serve as a test bed for a more expensive product in other regions. There's just more risk and higher stakes in the western market right now, especially when you have fans with high hopes and strong opinions.
Knowing how to be successful — deliver a consistent experience that's fun to use and support your products — isn't difficult. The execution is a lot harder. I've got high hopes for Nokia in the Android space and hope to see something that lives up to the Nokia name. Even if it won't be another N9.