Microsoft launches a new Nokia feature phone

Even though it has announced plans to sell its feature-phone business, Microsoft has just launched the Nokia 216, a new feature phone.

In mid-May, Microsoft announced it would sell its feature phone business to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn. Yet on September 20, Microsoft launched yet another Nokia-branded feature phone.

microsoftlaunchesnokia216.jpg
Credit: Microsoft

What gives?

When Microsoft announced it would sell its feature phone business for $350 million, company officials noted that the deal would be subject to regulatory approvals and closing conditions. As far as I know, that deal has not yet officially closed; the expected date, last we heard was the second half of calendar 2016. The same way that LinkedIn bought PointDrive after Microsoft announced its intentions to purchase LinkedIn -- but before the deal has been finalized and approved -- it's business as usual.

I asked Microsoft officials just to be sure this is what's going on. No word back yet.

Update: My guess was right. Here's the official statement from a Microsoft spokesperson:

"In May 2016, we announced Microsoft reached an agreement to sell the company's entry-level feature phone assets to FIH Mobile Ltd., a subsidiary of Hon Hai/Foxconn Technology Group, and HMD Global Oy. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2016, subject to regulatory approvals and other closing conditions. Until the closing of the transaction, Microsoft continues to run the feature phone business."

The newest Microsoft handset, the Nokia 216 (which I found thanks to a post by Tom Warren from The Verge) offers front and rear facing cameras; the ability to store up to 2,000 contacts and a 2.4-inch QVGA screen. It ships with the Opera Mini Browser and allows users to download apps and games through the Opera Mobile Store.

When it announced the sale of its feature phone business to FIH Mobile, Microsoft said that as part of the deal, FIH Mobile will also acquire Microsoft Mobile Vietnam, the company's manufacturing facility in Hanoi, Vietnam. As part of the deal, Microsoft said it would transfer "substantially all" of its feature phone assets, including brands, software and services, care network and other assets, customer contracts, and critical supply agreements.

Microsoft's mobile phone strategy, at this point, seems to be to continue to sell its Lumia 950 and 950 XL handsets to anyone who still wants the year-old phones. The company is continuing to develop and enhance the Windows 10 Mobile phone operating system and offer it to OEM partners.

Microsoft is still rumored to be considering launching a new Surface-branded phone some time in 2017, though my sources recently said that the company could even opt to wait until 2018 to do so.

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