Nokia is Making a Comeback

feature phones 1

Nokia smartphones are back – and more successful than the competition from HTC, Sony or Google.  In fact, although the market for smartphones shrank for the first time last year, Nokia’s business has seen some major growth. Florian Seiche can hardly restrain his joy. “We have experienced extraordinary growth,” says the German CEO. He is at the helm of HMD Global, the “Home of Nokia Phones,” as the Finnish company describes it.

At the opening of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ​​Seiche boasted of Nokia’s resurgence as a major player in the mobile phone industry. “Nokia phones are available in more than 80 markets and have already been activated in over 170 countries,” he said.

Growth? 170 countries? Nokia? The company has proven wrong its critics for the time being, which had long since written off the Finnish giant. That seems to have been premature. In fact, Nokia made an astounding comeback last year, albeit at a low level.

 According to the market researchers from Counterpoint Research, the manufacturer HMD Global has managed to sell from just about 100,000 devices in the first three months of the year to 4.4 million smartphones in the Christmas quarter. That would be a global market share of about one percent.
HMD Global would have sold more smartphones than its competitors HTC, Sony, Google or OnePlus. Observers speak of a respectful success. Accordingly, Nokia would move up to eleventh place of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer.
But smartphones are just part of the Nokia’s business. The number of feature phones sold is significantly higher. According to Counterpoint, the company sold 20.7 million devices in the last quarter. IDC counted nearly 60 million feature phones sold by Nokia last year. In the previous year there were only 35 million.
In contrast to smartphones, feature phones are simple mobile phones that are particularly suitable for making and receiving short messages. Applications from the Playstore can not be installed on it. They sell mainly in countries with low purchasing power, because the devices are significantly cheaper than smartphones.
After Samsung, Nokia ranked second last year for the largest manufacturer of feature phones according to IDC. Counterpoint even sees Nokia as the market leader in this field. Last year, HMD Global attracted a great deal of attention with its Nokia 3310 nostalgia mobile phone appearance at the Barcelona Mobile Congress.

This weekend, HMD Global again presented a mobile phone in the old Nokia design – and wants to repeat its success from last year. With the new edition of the Nokia 8110, the slider phone is indeed making a comeback. Users pick up are able to pick up calls by sliding down a plastic cover over the keyboard and end them by pushing it up.

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With the Feature Phones, HMD is benefiting from the still strong Nokia brand in many countries. In many places, Nokia was used as a synonym for mobile phones. Whether this image can be transferred to smartphones is questionable. Nokia relies on design, durability and reliability of its devices.

” Smartphones are a volume business,” says Smolak. Only those who produce large quantities can earn money. In fact, only two manufacturers make money with their devices: Apple and Samsung, with Apple earning most of the industry’s profits. Nokia is with its approximately 70 million devices not among the manufacturers who can use a size advantage for themselves.

Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann also assesses the prospects of success rather cautiously. The telecommunications expert does not believe in a need for a simple second hand phone in the west. For simple phones, the price of Nokia devices is still too high. “I doubt that they can effectively demand such a surcharge for the brand,” says Zimmermann. In order to be able to win market shares aggressively, the devices are too expensive.

Nokia has a colorful past. Just ten years ago, the Finns had a world market share of 40 percent. But the group made some gross mistakes. It overslept the flip phone trend and ignored the threat posed by Apple’s iPhone . In the end, Nokia’s smartphone business took refuge in the arms of Microsoft. But not even the Redmond giant could save Nokia, or itself for that matter. In 2016, HMD Global acquired the patents and Nokia trademark rights from Microsoft. Other parts, including Nokia factories and research and development, went to a Foxconn subsidiary with which HMD Global is now working closely.

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In this way, the company, which still employs many former Nokia employees, hopes to be able to offset the disadvantages of its still small market share. Foxconn also produces a large number of iPhones for Apple.

In the meantime, only Google’s mobile operating system Android run on Nokia smartphones . Unlike other manufacturers, HMD Global leaves the software in its original state and does not make any changes. “Our commitment to a clean, safe and up-to-date Android has helped us achieve many of our innovation goals, such as better battery life and regular security updates,” said HMD Product Manager Juno Sarvikas in Barcelona. For the users of Android smartphones, update delays are often a nuisance.

Nokia’s ambitions are great. “Our goal is to be one of the top 3 smartphone manufacturers within the next three to five years,” said HMD Global CEO Seiche last year to German media. “There are Samsung, Apple and Huawei today. That is our claim. Together with Foxconn and our brand, we can do it.”

Nokia’s strength is still a broad selection of devices. From the cheap Nokia 105 to the Nokia 8 Sirocco presented at the Mobile World Congress, Nokia has phones in all price categories.

In Barcelona, ​​HMD presented five new mobile phones that are recognizable as Nokia phones despite the latest technology. The manufacturer also showed the Nokia 1 with the latest Android version Oreo in the stripped-down Go edition, which requires less hardware resources than other Android versions. In this way, HMD Global can offer the Nokia 1 for under 100 dollars.

If you know Nokia from the past, you will recognize one or the other design feature. The Nokia 1 brings back the Xpress-on-Cover. This allows users to replace the case of the device in a matter of seconds and adjust it to their liking. Nokia used to have great success with its replaceable cases.

Carl Frantz

Polyglot, humanitarian, Carl was born in Germany but raised in the USA. He writes mostly on tech, science and culture.