HMD Announces Its First Nokia Smartphone

Posted on January 8, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Hardware, Mobile with 17 Comments

HMD Announces Its First Nokia Smartphone

Good news, Nokia fans: HMD is set to launch its first Nokia-branded smartphone, the Nokia 6. But it will be available only in China and isn’t exactly a flagship handset.

“After securing the exclusive Nokia brand licensing rights in mobile phones in late 2016, HMD is proud to announce the launch of its Nokia 6 smartphone in China,” an HMD announcement explains. “The Nokia 6 marks the first step in HMD’s ambition to set a new standard in design, material quality and manufacturing innovation across every tier of its products by building on the hallmarks of a true Nokia phone experience.”

That last bit should provide a bit of hope to those who believe that the Nokia brand is strong enough to drive a new generation of devices. But for those of us scarred by years of non-flagship Nokia smartphones from both Nokia and Microsoft, this first device is more whisper than bang.

But let’s focus on the interesting bits from the announcement:

Premium smartphone experience. Building on what I always thought was one of Nokia’s key strengths, the Nokia 6 is a premium device, from a fit and finish and materials perspective, with “built-in durability,” “superior craftsmanship,” and “design quality.” (The firm notes that it takes 55 minutes to make just one of these phones. I’m not sure that’s a huge accomplishment, but whatever.) It features an aluminum unibody for “structural quality,” much like an HP laptop. Or an iPhone.

It’s a phablet. The Nokia 6 features a 5.5-inch Full HD display wrapped in Gorilla Glass 2.5D. Which led to my initial (joking) reaction: “We call it the Nokia 6 because it has a 5.5-inch screen,” I imagined someone explaining the name to me.

Mid-level specs. While Full HD is an iffy resolution for a 5.5-inch screen, there’s no debate that the Nokia 6’s internals are decidedly mid-level: It houses a Snapdragon 430 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage, placing it neatly in the middle of the spec wars circa 2017.

Interesting additional hardware features. Dual amplifiers with Dolby Atmos sound is absolutely a differentiator, and of course many will be paying close attention to the camera, which is a 16 MP unit with phase detection auto focus, f/2.0 aperture lenses, and a Nokia-only camera app which the company says provides “automatic scene detection make it easy to take great shots every time.” We shall see.

Android Nougat. It’s not clear which exact Android version will be on the device (7.0, 7.1, etc.) but it is Nougat, so unlike with most other Android smartphones, it will be quite up-to-date with new features at launch.

Why China? While Nokia’s massive fan base in Europe in particular will be feeling left out from the China-only launch, HMD argues that this is a good sign. [This is] “a reflection of the desire to meet the real world needs of consumers in different markets around the world,” HMD argues. “With over 552 million smartphone users in China in 2016, a figure that is predicted to grow to more than 593 million users by 20171, it is a strategically important market where premium design and quality is highly valued by consumers.” Does the Nokia brand resonate at all with the Chinese? I don’t believe so, but this is a defendable strategy.

Pricing and availability. The Nokia 6 will ship in “early 2017” in China and will cost about $246. That’s a very low price point in a world in which flagships cost $700-$1000 and most mid-range models are in the $400 to $600 price range.

There’s more coming. The HMD announcement continually notes that the Nokia 6 is but the “first” step for the revival of this brand in smartphones and that more models—with more global availability—are coming.

I don’t see Nokia making a comeback in this market. But it’s hard not to root for this thing, given our history.


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Comments (17)

17 responses to “HMD Announces Its First Nokia Smartphone”

  1. 3272

    I still think there are a few million Windows Phone users who currently have no lower price option that would jump all over a Nokia made Windows Mobile 10 phone. I know of nearly 10 people myself who have 640's, 640 XL's and even still using 920's that refuse to pay for a high end premium device and want to stay with windows Phone but currently have no upgrade path. So they are holding out and hoping someone releases a 200-300 dollar mid range Windows device they can upgrade to. These are the people, the average non tech people who don't spend a ton of money and don't do a ton with their phones, that MS really screwed over by going back on the whole 6 devices a year plan they announced in 2015.

  2. 954

    "[..] 593 million users by 20171 [..]"

    That is quite a prediction :)

  3. 5027

    Well first off it is an Android devices, so it is not interesting .. it is not really a Nokia phone..but it is under powered so it does reflect some Nokia heritage :)  

    (I'm actually a huge Nokia phone fan, but this is just a joke.. they use the name ..that is all that is Nokia about it essentially. One of the big problems Nokia suffered from their last years making phones . They constantly made phones that did not have the power to deliver what was promised .. they always had great vision, design, camera tech, even great software in Symbian, but it got let down by sub par hardware internals that made the phone useless (disclaimer: I worked for their support for  4.5 years.. I know ..we even had access to prototypes .  Ever new phone it was like... hmm if they just doubled the RAM this would be great..maybe next model... nope .. and they kept doing this over and over through Symbian Anna and Belle ..and they ran it to the ground way be for Microsoft got involved)   )

  4. 2428

    My guess is that it is being manufactured in China and it is the only market where the device is certified. This is a lengthy and complicated process for western regions. Also, this company has never shipped a phone and has zero carrier contacts or contracts or distribution reach, focusing on a single large market makes sense from a risks and rewards perspective for testing the water and launching yourself.

  5. 5234

    I wouldn't call the Snapdragon 430 "mid-level".  More like "lower mid-level".  I'd expect from a company like Nokia to include at least a 600-series chip in there for their first phone.

  6. 5510

    Ya know...everytime Paul talks about design and craftmanship like when wrote this "Premium smartphone experience. Building on what I always thought was one of Nokia’s key strengths, the Nokia 6 is a premium device, from a fit and finish and materials perspective, with “built-in durability,” “superior craftsmanship,” and “design quality,”  I start to laugh a little, because let's face it....he knows nothing about it. Paul's the guy who thought Windows Phone was "a special phone."  SO here's the deal, everytime Paul talks about "design," I am going to start nicknaming him "Jean-Paul Thurrott," like a designer from Paris.

    Anyway, no one cares about "design" and "craftmanship" that Jean-Paul Thurrott keeps harking about often when comments about phones. What people care about are features and price. The fact is people often their upgrade their phones and they just want a decent one without paying a lot. Let's face it, when it comes to Android there are several top-quality flagship phones.  From Samsung to Sony to Motorola to Huaweii to Xiaomi to LG....there is just so many.  The reason why Samsung is so popular because of the features and the marketing. People are willing to spend nearly $800 for their smartphones and smartphone company knows that. 

    As for Nokia, the brand is powerful. It's what tricked Microsoft into thinking that there was a market for Windows Phone. Think about it, all those people thought they were buying a Nokia phone, but they weren't. They were buying a Microsoft Windows Phone, with a Nokia brand on it. Once Microsoft got rid of the Nokia brand, nobody bought Lumia phones anymore. This proves, NO ONE CARES about "craftmanship and design." Yeah, those two points are important, but the average consumer doesn't pay attention to that. 

  7. 7102

    HMD Global is based in Finland and Nokia got a board member in that company. It are of course a more slimmed organisation than the "old Nokia" that doing all in the house so to speak. (Foxconn bought the Microsoft Lumia factory located in Vietnam also) Now HMD Global are in a partnership with Foxconn for the manufacturing. Anyway expect to see some more Nokia devices aimed for the western markets in the Mobile World Congress 2017. HMD Global have booked up a lot of space in that event, so I guess we might see atleast 2 or 3 new Nokia devices there with more high end specs.

  8. 5531

    Well mid level specs are fine with me. I don't need a super powerful phone. A well designed mid level phone built with good materials would be a good phone for me

  9. 5485

    I find hilarious and sad this MS fanbase grudge over Nokia. A brand most Americans probably did not knew before it was bought by MS. 

    Why do people like Thurrot want so desperately it to fail? Why they always try to make fun out of any Nokia move? I know why, but its really hard to believe that such an emotion would be possible, its just sick.

    Maybe MS should have bought Blackberry. You know, send a Trojan horse and all. Yes, than Windows Phone would have been definitely successful. 

    What history? There was no Nokia, just Windows Phone software late and buggy. Get over it!!!!

  10. 5530

    Everything was good up till when it said "Snapdragon 430". That's a seriously uncompetitive processor even at the price they're going for. It also doesn't help that they're launching it in China. OEMs like Xiaomi rose to fame by making phones with good specs at low(er) prices. That's the market HMD is taking on. The Chinese market looks at specs. Even Asus's well-reviewed Zenfone 3 with more performant Snapdragon 625 is struggling to compete because Huawei is killing it with their own SOCs at the price points Asus was targeting at.

    I would say Nokia's design would be a differentiator that sets them apart, but these days, it's harder to find a bad phone than it is to find a good one, even design-wise.

  11. 1032

    Still looking for a replacement for my note 7, with nothing else on the market really appealing to me..... Maybe a nice new flagship Nokia phablet? I can dream right?

  12. 9201

    In reply to Bart:

    Nokia Branding, NOT Nokia engineering. Albeit Nokia future is now firmly in 5G networking now.

    But Nokia will need to be careful who they release their brand to, especially in Europe where we look for high engineering standards.

    As to Mid Tier specs, that is where the future is, smart consumers have come to realise that "premium" phones offer very low value, and the market has moved beyond the spec fest, to the mid Tier.

  13. 127

    I can't help, but be interested to see what Nokia bring to the markt. Am hoping for a custom fork of Android allowing any user to customize as they see fit. Ie MS services as default (too soon?)

  14. sheejaalb

    Yes The phone you have mentioned here now hits the market. I recently purchased Nokia 6 with 3 Gb Ram and 32 Gb ROM. It is pretty good phone.