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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