HMD Global, the maker of Nokia phones, celebrates its 5th birthday

Five years ago, a Finnish startup started the journey of bringing back the Nokia brand to the mobile phone market. HMD Global, the licensee of the Nokia brand for phones and tablets, started officially doing business on 1st December 2016.

The Finns started first selling already available Nokia feature phones, as the feature phone business was acquired from Microsoft. A month later, the first new Nokia smartphone on Android was announced – the Nokia 6.

HMD was initially very well received by the market, with the most notable achievement being the 3rd place in UK smartphone market in Q4 2017. With solid build quality and Pure Android approach, the first generation of Nokia phones did create a buzz during the first year of HMD’s business, with the reborn Nokia 3310 playing a great role in promoting the company. The positive atmosphere did continue in the first half of 2018, when Nokia 7 plus was released. The 7 plus quickly won the hearts of many fans – featuring the new Snapdragon 660 SoC and a great design, the phone was regarded as one of the best midrangers on the market. After the 7 plus, in my opinion, things started slowing down and maybe even going downfalls for the Finns.

For some reason, HMD bought all Snapdragon 660 SoCs Qualcomm had and continued releasing phones using the then outdated SoC. Not to mention jumping on bandwagon of market trends like glass back, notch, etc., that didn’t help the company to stand out. The software game didn’t help either, as Android One started falling behind with features compared to other UIs. I mean, this is really subjective and for some Android One is great, others don’t like it, but in general – in a market where hardware is getting more similar, software is becoming an area where companies try to differentiate.

At MWC 2019, Nokia Mobile announced their last flagship – the Nokia 9 PureView. The 9 PureView is the first (and the last device at the time of writing of this article) that used a penta-camera setup with Light’s technology that used all five cameras together when taking images. The device was prematurely released on the market with a broken fingerprint sensor and buggy camera app, that was mostly fixed with software updates weeks or months later. An innovative device that had potential died quickly. Interestingly, the phone was initially announced as a “limited edition”, but it was never really communicated what that meant. Years later, Light, the company that co-developed the camera setup with HMD, doesn’t do smartphone imaging anymore. I was deeply disappointed yesterday learning HMD abandoned plans to update the 9 PureView to Android 11, breaking its promise of Android upgrades.

That brings us to 2020 and 2021. Years that are mostly known for the Covid pandemic, and where phones didn’t really matter as much as health and liveable conditions did. During the pandemic years, HMD did focus more on accessories, especially headphones. The company also released the James Bond phone – Nokia 8.3 5G, and we also saw the Nokia T20 tablet and Nokia XR20, that are probably the most exciting things (at least to me) from HMD since Nokia 9 PureView.

In this short overview of the last five years of the Nokia brand on the market I didn’t mention a lot of solid devices and developments around HMD, as that would be more suitable for a book than an article. Early on in the journey, the company did announce they plan to be in top 3 or top 5 phone makers globally in the next 3 or 5 years. The license for the use of Nokia brand is valid till 2026, so HMD is halfway there – till expiry or renewal of the license that Nokia provided.

I still feel like more could’ve been done in these five years, and I naively still hope that we will see more devices worthy of the brand they carry.

Happy Birthday 🥳