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Ex-employees now at HMD revive 3310 classic handset, along with latest smartphones

Nokia brand goes back to basics with phone relaunch at MWC

The Nokia ringtone, a snippet of a Francisco Tárrega waltz, was once so ubiquitous that academics calculated it was heard almost 2bn times a day around the world.

That ditty is set to catch the ear again, with a reborn Nokia phone range launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Sunday. It is the first time that a smartphone bearing the famous Finnish brand has been released since 2015, and the company behind the new phones is confident it can challenge the dominance of Apple and Samsung.

The phones are designed by HMD, a start-up that bought Nokia’s feature phone (basic non-smartphone) business from Microsoft last year. HMD could be dubbed ‘Newkia’, as more than half of its workers are former employees. Its base is in Espoo, Finland, directly opposite Nokia’s headquarters, and the telecoms equipment company, which shed its mobile phone arm in 2014, has a seat on its board, despite not owning a share of HMD.

The phones are made by Foxconn, the company that assembles iPhones for Apple, in Vietnam. They are based on the Android software developed by Google, as opposed to the Microsoft system that was used last time Nokia phones were on the shelves.

HMD will launch three smartphones at the show, priced between €139 and €299, as it looks to carve out a niche in a market dominated by the iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy. It will also relaunch the Nokia 3310, arguably the world’s most famous phone model, which sold 126m after it hit the market at the turn of the century.

While the 3310 will not match the performance of today’s smartphones, it will come with Snake, the much-loved basic phone game, and the Nokia ringtone. The newer model is smaller and lighter than its predecessors, but retains the distinctive ‘smile’ design under the screen that made the 3310 famous. It also has 22 hours of battery life when used and one-month standby time.

Pekka Rantala, chief marketing officer of HMD and former chief executive of Angry Birds maker Rovio, said the €49 phone can act as the “workhorse” for people in emerging markets, but could also appeal to people in mature markets that want a “digital detox” or a phone that just works for a holiday or at a music festival.

The 3310 may provoke feelings of nostalgia among older consumers, but HMD believes it can also carve out a strong presence among younger users. It has already launched the N6 smartphone in China, where Nokia used be a dominant player, and found that 74 per cent of the people that bought the new phone were youngsters.

Mr Rantala said that other revived products, such as Adidas ‘original’ shoes and the relaunched Mini car, have also proved popular with the young.

BlackBerry failed to breathe new life into its phone business when it relaunched its most popular models of yesteryear, but HMD is confident that its residual feature phone business can act as a base for a revival in the smartphone market.

Nokia remains the second largest feature phone business in the world, according to Strategy Analytics, the research company, with a 9 per cent market share. It sold 35m of these basic phones in 2016. “Feature phones today still account for 1 in 5 of all mobile phones bought worldwide and the category is surprisingly larger than many think,” said Ken Hyers, a Strategy Analytics analyst.

Arto Nummela, chief executive of HMD, believes Nokia can once again become a force in the smartphone sector by producing high-quality products at lower prices than its rivals. The company has signed up 500 partners in the retail and mobile network sector in 120 countries to sell its new products.

“We’ve put the Nokia soul into these devices. We want to be one of the biggest players in the industry globally in a few years,” he said.

Source- Financial Times 

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