For you youngsters out there, Nokia was kinda a big deal in smartphones. Nokia, Palm, and BlackBerry could easily be the grandparents of all modern smartphone manufacturers. Without BlackBerry OS, Symbian, and Palm OS, features found in Android and iOS would possibly not even exist. Unfortunately, Nokia has become somewhat of a footnote in the recent market due to not being able to sell phones under their branding. This restriction was a contractual agreement between selling their Windows line to Microsoft a few years back and it has taken Nokia a far cry from the 40% market share they once had with Symbian.
Thankfully, the past year has seen a return of Nokia with a new parent company named HMD Global. HMD has breathed new life into Nokia with Android and a heritage that is very much Nokia. The global headquarters is literally across the street from the old Nokia campus in Finland and the company has leveraged that heritage by building their team with primarily former Nokia executives, designers, and engineers. The new Nokia is pretty much the old Nokia with a new roadmap around Android phones.
Now, we’ve sort of seen this move before. The latest moves by Nokia are fairly similar to what we saw with Motorola once it became a brand of Google. Moto had struggled after the initial Droid launches with Android and had a reputation for slow updates with a horrible UI skin atop base Android. Once they came aboard at Google the whole dynamic shifted with the Moto X. The X brought a really slim, stock Android experience with well-designed phones which didn’t break the bank.
Even after being shipped off in another sale to Lenovo, Moto has stayed relatively true to most of those values. They make solid budget smartphones with little tweaking to the software experience. They seem to be having decent success with this model in the unlocked world, away from buying phones directly from carrier stores. But one place they have faltered to those of us Moto fans is with updates. Since being under the Lenovo umbrella, software updates have become sporadic and less timely.
This brings me back to Nokia. They couldn’t sell a smartphone at all for 5 years and that left them plenty of time to reflect. They were able to watch the market trends and also study their past mistakes. With their return, the parallels in approach with that of Moto is quite comparable.
Nokia started with the Nokia 3 and 5 at MWC last year. These phones line up in the same budget segment as the Moto E and G series, both in features and pricing. Add this to the fact that Nokia has chosen to leverage an almost completely stock Android build, and you have a new Nokia that stands in direct competition with Moto.
It’s a smart approach that they’ve continued this year at MWC 2018. With the launch of their new phones: Nokia 8 Sirocco, Nokia 7 Plus, and the Nokia 6, Nokia again has increased the hardware quality and furthered their investment with stock Android. They’ve even pushed it further with certified Android One builds directly from Google.
The Android One certification could be a key differentiator between Nokia and others in their price range. With One, they are giving customers the reassurance of 2 years of Android OS updates and 3 years of security updates. It will also continue to cement Nokia’s awesome track record of fast updates in general, as the company has been one of the market leaders since their return last year.
Will this translate to Nokia returning to dominating the mobile market? Probably not. That’s increasingly becoming a 3 horse race with Google, Apple, and Samsung. But Nokia could continue to follow — and perhaps surpass — Moto with a huge presence in the unlocked midrange market. More and more people are simply going online to Amazon to make their phone purchases. Nokia has a good initial result in their first year back with this model and its new Android One certification can only add to the curb appeal amongst the Android phones available.