Nokia is back! Today the brand’s new owners, HMD Global Oy and Nokia, announced the finalization of a 10-year licensing deal that was announced six months ago. HMD Global has also launched a new website introducing itself to the world, and—if we can be uncharacteristically optimistic for a minute—so far things look pretty good.
The new Nokia seems to have more potential than your usual licensed “zombie brand” setup. Typically, when a brand dies (in Noka’s case, just the phone division died), it gets snapped up by some no-name company, which proceeds to slap the brand name on everything under the sun. This lovely line of Polaroid Android tablets from brand buyer “PLR IP Holdings, LLC.” is a great example.
The new Nokia seems to share a lot of lineage with the old Nokia, though. HMD Global was created six months ago explicitly for the purpose of creating Nokia phones. HMD is still a Finnish company, and 16 of the 17 executives on HMD’s “Team” page are former Nokia employees. The plan, according to HMD CEO (and former Nokia vice president) Arto Nummela, is to “deliver on the quality and designs that the Nokia brand has been always known for.” The surviving part of Nokia, Nokia Technologies, has a seat on the board of directors of HMD. It’s seems like a genuine resurrection attempt, rather than a brand exploitation scheme.
Nokia’s original phone division was a major player in the market, but it struggled to adapt to the smartphone revolution. Nokia’s former head of smartphones, Anssi Vanjoki, famously compared adopting Android to “peeing in your pants” for warmth during the winter. Nokia stuck with Nokia’s Symbian OS until 2011, when new Nokia CEO and former Microsoft employee Stephen Elop signed a deal to exclusively use Microsoft’s Windows Phone in future products. After this move nearly bankrupted Nokia, Microsoft bought Nokia’s phone division outright in 2013. Even the Microsoft/Nokia combo couldn’t stand up to iOS and Android, though, and the last vestiges of Nokia at Microsoft closed up shop in 2016.
As Nokia phones rise again with HMD Global Oy, some changes are inevitable. Nokia under HMD doesn’t have a manufacturing arm anymore, so for that it’s partnering with FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn. FIH offers “a comprehensive array of services… from product development and design, to manufacturing and assembly, to after-sales services and repairs.” Nokia is also finally teaming up with Google and adopting Android as its main operating system. The website says the software will focus “not on hundreds of irrelevant features, but on true core user experiences and with a dedication to quality.”
For now the new “phone” section on Nokia.com shows a bunch of feature phones, but the new company promises that it “will enter the global smartphone market with the next generation of Nokia phones running Android” in 2017.