A few weeks back, in an Android Authority article, we read an uninspired yet optimistic plan for Nokia Mobile’s future. More than a week later, we saw Juho Sarvikas, then CPO for HMD Global, leaving the Finnish company to pursue a position in Qualcomm North America. Should we call it quits for the Nokia brand for the last time, or should we mark it as an end of a difficult era for the legendary brand?
I’m on the hopeful side — albeit, a little.
The reason for Sarvikas’ exit isn’t exactly clear. However, data suggests that the Nokia brand has been struggling in market share and is in dire need of restructuring. Users quickly suggest that perhaps his departure is part of the said restructuring process.
To be fair, HMD Global under Juho Sarvikas had its moments. The Nokia 9 PureView was superb, and for the first time, it was able to deliver a camera-centric smartphone worthy of the Nokia PureView and ZEISS brand. It was such a shame that it was pestered with problems when it first came out, garnering bad publicity as an unreliable device for time being. But fans loved it for what it was, and it deserves rightfully so. The Nokia 9 PureView showed that the company, young as well over three years, is capable of thinking outside the box, and possibly causing positive disruption.
The new market strategy
During the April 8 #LoveTrustKeep, we saw an improvement over its new market strategy. Unlike the previous naming scheme, Nokia Mobile utilized a new take on Nokia Corporation’s previous naming scheme from back in the day, utilizing a letter and 2 numbers.
The C Series tackles the entry-level Android Go market, the G Series are budget Nokia devices with full-on Android experience, and the X Series are proper Nokia midrange devices and perhaps even more. Unfortunately for Nokia 9 PureView users, seems like we won’t be seeing a flagship Nokia anytime soon.
All the series highlights durability and extended firmware support more than anything else. There is a clear focus on the overall experience and emotional aspect of owning a Nokia, rather than a technical one where Nokia simply can’t compete with many of their Chinese rivals.
It’s a new bold yet risky direction that might actually pay off. As Sebastian Kala, Business manager for HMD global North Europe highlighted in his statement on Linkedin. He wrote “We have been challengers and boldly thinking different [sic] ever since we re-entered the industry,”
That’s a bold statement per se. As far as we know, the last time Nokia Mobile tried to challenge the market and “boldly thinking” differently was when the Nokia 9 PureView was launched. While the rest of the lineup had some differentiating factors, mainly build quality and hardware materials, it was never highlighted enough by their marketing.
And sure, the 9 PureView wasn’t exactly a sales hit, but at least we see that the brand tried. Right now, it might seem like they completely quit trying to do something so ambitious. But is that really the case?
Supposedly, Nokia Corporation itself makes sure that HMD Global only releases devices that are true to Nokia, but as a long-term fan, I expected a lot more.
The brighter side of an otherwise dim launch
On a little brighter side, we saw Nokia Mobile focusing more on things that make a device a “Nokia”. The announcement of the three brand-new series brought back the word “durability” on its list of promises. This is important, a Nokia phone should never compromise durability.
Nokia Mobile is also launching its own independent online store; which means users can directly buy Nokia devices straight from the Nokia website. This allows them to directly market its products, as well as cut additional costs they spend in third-party e-commerce partnerships.
However, probably the most interesting thing we see from its mediocre launch is the fact that the company left the door open for the future of upper mid to flagship Nokia devices. So far, the three new series only tackle the entry-level, and budget market. Perhaps the list doesn’t just end in the Snapdragon 480 running X models? Surely, there should be big plans for the best the industry can offer, device above the X20?
It is also a good thing to see that Nokia Mobile is able to bring features like Nokia OZO Audio, ZEISS optics and Cinema Mode at lower price points. This return to focus on imaging is a welcome change in the right direction. The X20 on paper has a capable camera sensor, and its photo shooting skills could definitely be a selling point elevating it above some other devices in the price range if executed well. Time will tell.
I wasn’t really thrilled how things turned out for Nokia Mobile and its partners in the past few years. Nokia Corporation has licensed OZO Audio to some other brands, Light signed a joint development partnership with Xiaomi (and later announced its exit in the mobile imaging), Nokia loses the ZEISS’ brand exclusivity to Sony Mobile. A few months ago, Vivo then announced an even better “long-term strategic partnership” with ZEISS resulting in a joint imaging R&D, something I wish Nokia Mobile would have done.
Then we got this underwhelming launch event which might have dampened any excitement left. The G and the X Series doesn’t offer the same price to spec ratio like their competitors. Instead, these devices highlight durability and extended support more than anything else. Not that these aren’t great aspects to highlight, but we as fans, want to see more.
It also doesn’t help that none of the specs were highlighted during the event. Most especially the X Series, which according to the slide is the “best the industry can offer.” Leaving us a bit confused.
The C Series though are on the brighter side. It offers good enough support, optimized Android Go firmware, and it belongs at a really good price point. But obviously, the C Series won’t be able to save them should the two higher series fail to gain traction.
But it’s definitely not over for Nokia Mobile. The brand is going through huge changes at the moment and A return to the basics of what made Nokia phones great before. It will be a rough ride, and it will definitely take time, but I remain optimistic that they can pull through. They are trying to create a niche for themselves in an uber-competitive smartphone market, and if they can convince people that there is more to phones than just specs on paper and that the emotional aspect is also important, Love, trust, and keep; it might just work. At least, I really hope it does.
Special thanks to Kerwin Walker (Deadpool) for writing most of the script!