Nokia branded Android phones and HMD Global


Earlier this week we learned that the CEO of HMD Global, the company responsible for the new Nokia branded phones, resigned in mutual understanding - got sacked. I take this opportunity to briefly comment the HMD Nokia smartphone story so far.

I am not going to go through the whole background story, since you already know it, presuming that you are interested in the Nokia name. In short, a new company called HMD Global was formed and they licensed the once glorious Nokia smartphone brand in order to sell new products and take to take care of the feature phone business.

In no time they hired a lot of people, mostly with middle management and sales background from Nokia-Microsoft mobile device business. They seem to have no in-house RnD, or even design, and in practice the new phones are made and developed by the manufacturing behemoth Foxconn (who also manufactures Apple iPhones). The 2017 is their first year on the market with products (Nokia 3, 5 and 6) and they just booted their CEO before the rumored launch of a flagship model Nokia 8. Let’s have a look at their achievements so far.

  • The devices (Nokia 3,5,6) were launched in Mobile World Congress, in February 2017. Now almost six months later the products are not fully available in the retail channel. The media has reported that they have difficulties in delivering, which suggests that they have made insufficient component orders up front. This was very typical for Nokia and Microsoft - the time from product launch to sales start is way too long. Certain Lumia models also suffered badly from component shortage when there was actual consumer demand.
  • They try to make their comeback with mediocre lower mid-range products. The logic here is to get the volumes up, but apparently they are not able to deliver. Also, you can only make the first impression once. Nokia made the same mistake when switching from Symbian to Windows - the first devices were mid-tier and less than stellar in terms of features and functionality. I repeat - you can only make the first impression once.
  • Worst of all, the Nokia’s new offering is not competitive. While they have a decent design and solid construction, in terms of specs and performance they are behind the similarly priced competition. Compare this approach to OnePlus, which entered the market with super aggressively priced flagship grade phones, covering the limited availability (risk of component purchases) to an invitation scheme.
  • I have to mention their website, While the brand focus is on Nokia (and not HMD), I still have to wonder what are they doing. They run a freaking WordPress site with a bootstrap theme. Their website has next to nothing about the products and features a picture of one of their feature phones. They put zero effort in reaching out for the people and building a community around the comeback of Nokia. Yes, the brand still has a lot of fans, especially in the developing countries. Looking at this, I mean, are they even trying?

So the story so far is less than average products, for over the average price, delivered late and not being able to meet the demand. No matter how big fan of Nokia you are, this is not the time to jump on their bandwagon. Wait 2-3 years to see if they get this scheme working, are they able to deliver the software updates and whether HMD even exists in a few years. Only thing they have so far been good at is repeating all the mistakes that the Nokia-Microsoft did back in the day. Even Android can’t save them now if they keep this up.

The whole HMD/Foxconn scheme seems quite dubious and reminds me of Philips’ televisions (brand licensed to Funai). I really don’t see how are they going to differentiate their offering in the super competitive market, making bulk Androids on standard Qualcomm and MediaTek SoCs. Based on media releases they got plenty of initial funding, but apparently chose not to use it for delivering aggressively priced yet desirable products, like OnePlus did (a subsidiary of Oppo / BBK Electronics). One might even think that the whole HMD thing is just a scheme developed by some of the veteran Nokia-Microsoft mobile phone executives to squeeze a little more juice from Microsoft, as they exited the smartphone market after their colossal failure.

I just put this picture here as it is the only damn product photo on their website.