Ever since relaunching the Nokia smartphone brand globally some 18 months ago, HMD Global has been evasive when asked about its stateside ambitions. The company remains careful in its approach to the United States, a market that it sees as highly competitive, as one of its officials recently explained to AndroidHeadlines. Still, this year marked the return of Nokia smartphones to the U.S. and two of those stand out in particular – the Nokia 6.1 and Nokia 7.1. Starting at $229 and $349, respectively, these devices not only offer amazing value for money but serve as proof that you don't need to spend top dollar to get a handset that feels like a truly premium product.
While HMD remains adamant it's still going slowly with the U.S. and isn't planning to start firing on all cylinders anytime soon, the Nokia 6.1 and Nokia 7.1 already do a great job at reintroducing the brand to American consumers as they're the perfect epitome of what the new brand is all about – delivering a pure, contemporary Android experience powered by above-average hardware contained within a body that looks much more expensive than it actually is. In other words, the new Nokia devices are an excellent choice for both budget-conscious consumers and enthusiasts interested in running stock Android on their daily driver but without fiddling with custom ROMs or paying a premium to do so. As it turns out, both the Nokia 6.1 and Nokia 7.1 do a fantastic job at communicating that fact.
What's more, HMD managed to get these devices picked up by both B&H and Best Buy, one of the largest electronics retailers in the country. Naturally, it's also selling them via Amazon (or will, in the Nokia 7.1's case), with all available variants being unlocked and offering GSM support, meaning you can use them on AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as all MVNOs leveraging their network infrastructure. While the lack of CDMA compatibility is a big miss, not a lot of great mid-rangers you can buy unlocked in the country offer it so while certainly a shortcoming, it's not one we can be too critical about.
On the other hand, what not a lot of phones in general offer are firm pledges of software support, yet that's precisely where the new Nokia mid-rangers excel; being part of Google's Android One program, the devices come with a promise of two major operating system upgrades and at least three years' worth of monthly security patches. In other words, that's more than everyone bar Apple and Samsung are offering, and the latter only attaches that guarantee to its more expensive smartphones and has issues with delivering on it. Not HMD though; despite having limited resources relative to some of its rivals, the Finnish firm remains on top of all new firmware revisions Google pushes out and is always among the first — if not the first — to deploy them to its handsets such as the Nokia 6.1. And anyone who cares about security and staying up to date with the latest software will certainly be impressed with the fact that both of those are achievable without spending close to a $1,000 on a new handset every year.
Between the launch of the Nokia 7.1 and the new Nokia True Wireless Earbuds, it appears HMD is also moving to diversify its stateside brand, so coupled with increased exposure thanks to additional marketing investments and the fact that most major retailers in the country will be carrying its phones, the company appears to be on course to mark a rather successful U.S. return. Not bad for a "quiet" approach in its first year on the (American) market, right? The only thing that this stateside return of the Nokia brand is now missing is a carrier partnership that would truly push those devices to the average consumer. If you're skeptical about how much a carrier deal means to manufacturers in the U.S., just watch OnePlus explode after T-Mobile starts selling the OnePlus 6T this fall.
All things considered, HMD did almost everything right with Nokia's its return to the American smartphone market and while we're still waiting for a flagship such as the Nokia 8 Sirocco to launch stateside (Nokia 9 has been rumored as coming soon for some time now), the company says that's by design and it's hard to blame it for being careful; the U.S. remains the world's largest market for high-end smartphones where the level of saturation and competition is nothing short of intimidating to new players. Still, HMD is doing amazingly so far, gradually introducing new devices that offer fantastic value for money, are built like they cost twice as much, and deliver a pure Android experience with a guarantee of years of software updates. The market will hopefully recognize and reward this consumer-friendly approach to doing business because whatever happens, we definitely want to see more from HMD moving forward.