Nokia phones went through a rather rough period in the last six years, ever since the Finnish consumer electronics manufacturer decided to partner with Microsoft and adopt its Windows Phone platform instead of Android in 2011. The brand as a whole has been on the downward spiral in the next half a decade, even after Microsoft purchased it for $7.2 billion in 2013, only to sell its phone division to the Foxconn-owned FIH Mobile and Finnish HMD Global Oy last year. Nokia's new owners are now adamant to return the brand to its former glory by doing what they likely should have done six years ago – adopting the Android operating system. While skeptics may say it's too late for another player to break into the increasingly saturated handset market, Nokia is seemingly unphased by those doubts and is steadily moving towards returning its devices into the public spotlight once again.
The company's post-Microsoft era and its return to the phone scene symbolically started earlier this year at the latest iteration of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. That's where HMD officially announced the Western release of the Nokia 6 and unveiled the Nokia 5, Nokia 3, and a refresh of its cult classic – the 2000 Nokia 3310. While the company's initial product lineup is still lacking a high-end device, the phones that it chose to prioritize all boast many hallmarks of older Nokia devices that were released during the brand's peak in the pre-smartphone world. Despite the fact that the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 are selling for approximately $210 and $260, respectively, both devices boast a much more premium design and feel than their modest price tags would suggest, featuring aluminum cases and impressive camera setups that can comfortably compete with the upper mid-range segment of the market consisting of devices that are priced at twice as much as Nokia's new mid-rangers.
This value-oriented design philosophy is something that once brought the Nokia brand to the very top of the smartphone industry, with many of its devices selling north of 150 million units, and it's what could propel it once again. Yes, the (smart)phone market as a whole changed in a radical manner in the last decade and Nokia is unlikely to ever overtake the likes of Samsung, Apple, and at least several other OEMs, but the sole strength of its brand coupled with its newfound focus on returning to its value-oriented roots could still be more than enough to once again turn the brand into a relevant player in the industry.
While the company chose to return to the smartphone world with the rebooted Nokia 3310 feature phone, two mid-rangers, and one entry-level Android handset in the form of the Nokia 3, HMD is already looking towards the future and reportedly developing a true high-end device that's meant to compete with the best that the handset industry has to offer. Recent reports indicate that the upcoming Nokia flagship will be powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 and 8GB of RAM, meaning it should be more than capable of going head-to-head with all of its contemporaries. Additionally, HMD is currently pursuing an unconventional mobile software strategy as it opted to release its first post-Microsoft handsets with what's essentially stock Android, something that almost no other OEM is currently offering. The company is thus presently shipping devices that provide a relatively unique user experience that's rarely associated with mass-produced smartphones (with several exceptions), and will also be able to ensure that all of its handsets are updated in a timely manner, something that's currently hard to accomplish with phones running heavily modified versions of Android.
Nokia's desire to return to its roots didn't come out of nowhere, with many of HMD's current top executives and regional managers being part of the Finnish phone maker at the height of its power, including the company's Chief Executive Officer Arto Nummela. Naturally, the old leadership that oversaw Nokia's once-booming business doesn't guarantee success — after all, many of these people once decided to opt for Windows Phone at the expense of Android — but the firm's newfound focus on its core values that once led it to dominate the handset industry and its still-powerful brand are reasons enough to understand HMD's optimism. As things stand right now, Nokia is on the right track to offer a wide variety of devices that are simultaneously different and more affordable than most of their competitors and are backed by an instantly recognizable brand. Time will tell whether consumers reward that product strategy but after half a decade in industry limbo, it seems that things are finally looking up for Nokia.