MWC Nokia held its long-anticipated phone comeback in Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Art, but then took us through an archeological virtual tour through Nokia’s own ancient history.
This was a full frontal display by Nokia: the HMD venture which has a 10-year license to use Nokia’s brand on phones isn’t just some remote outpost, staffed by the dimwitted cousins of the family. It received the full backed of Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri today, who explained HMD was just one part of a Nokia return into consumer electronics.
Another part is Withings, the “smart analog” watch and bathroom scales and blood pressure monitor maker who Nokia acquired last year. A Withings watch is an analog watch with only a bit of “smart” in it, and it lasts weeks, not hours. Henceforth, Withings gear will now be branded as Nokia gear.
Rajeev Suri, CEO explained that while today most of Nokia’s revenue comes from B2B and networks, it wants “to be closer to the customer”. And squeeze some life into dormant intangible assets.
Suri says a licensee such as HMD should be “indistinguishable” from an internal Nokia unit. However, this will get put the test if HMD’s Android push runs into trouble. Will HMD’s private equity investors and Foxconn be asked to help out with more capital, or Nokia shareholders? We’ll see.
As expected, HMD offered no surprises. We’d surmised they had been targeting the low end in emerging markets, and that is exactly what it is doing. HMD unveiled three budget Nokia Androids, and one retro classic PR stunt: the Nokia 3310, a surprise announcement which was spoiled when it was leaked a few days ago.
The ‘Droids are the Nokia 3, 5, and 6. The 6 had already been announced, bizarrely, in China on a Sunday morning. They’re priced at €139, €189, and a piano black version of the 6, for Europe, at €299. This is where WileyFox has pitched its tent. Anyone hoping against hope for a surprise, or some of that old magic, will be disappointed.
And don’t get too excited about the 3310 though, which is best thought of as an homage to a old favourite. Really, it’s the same 2G cheapie that Nokia’s featurephone division has never stopped knocking out, as owners came and went. This team deserves some kind of medal for endurance. It team survived the Elop era at Nokia, the Ballmer acquisition, and the Nadella bloodbath. But people never stopped buying feature phones that last a month and survive heat and dust. Of course it runs Snake… and of course it’s a PR gimmick.
So Nokia is back, but not in a way to set pulses racing. The brand carries a lot of good will, but it’s also possible to burn through a lot of money in the cut throat Android market, selling a lot of phones for very little margin. Huawei told us today that it was leaving the £100 market to others - it doesn’t need the hassle. So who knows?