Fallen smartphone brand Nokia challenges Apple, Samsung again

Thu Dec 1, 2016 9:38am EST
 
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By Eric Auchard and Jussi Rosendahl

FRANKFURT/HELSINKI (Reuters) - Nokia smartphones are poised for a comeback after former managers at the Finnish company licensed the handset brand from Microsoft and struck up partnerships with Google and phone manufacturer Foxconn.

Nokia was once the world's dominant cellphone maker but missed the shift to smartphones and then chose Microsoft's unpopular Windows operating system for its "Lumia" range.

Nokia quit smartphones in 2014 by selling its handset activities to Microsoft to focus on mobile network equipment. Microsoft continued selling Lumia smartphones under its own name but this year largely abandoned that business, too.

HMD Global, led by Nokia veteran Arto Nummela, wants to launch its first Nokia smartphone in the early part of next year using Google's (GOOGL.O: Quote) Android operating system.

Success will require a dash for scale by stealing business from Apple (AAPL.O: Quote), Samsung (005930.KS: Quote) and dozens of other players in a cut-throat industry.

"Consumers may be carrying different smartphones now, but are they really in love and loyal to those brands?" said Nummela in an interview.

The Nokia consumer brand lives on as the badge on cheaper, entry-level "feature phones" sold mainly in Asia, India and Eastern Europe, though Microsoft invested little to market the name in recent years. Smartphones typically cost anywhere from ten to 30 times as much as these basic phones, which sell for as little as $20.

"For a new entrant, having an established brand provides it with an instant on-ramp," said mobile phone analyst Ben Wood of CCS Insight, who suggested that phone vendors with weaker brands should not take the new challenge lightly.   Continued...

 
A pedestrian looks at his mobile phone as he passes an advert board on Regent Street in London, Britain. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth