​Nokia's smartphone future shapes up: New website, Android phone due first half 2017

Nokia fans can expect a new Nokia-branded smartphone by the first half of 2017, according to HMD, the company now behind the handsets.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The Nokia smartphone brand will be welcoming back users next year, but running Android rather than Windows.

Image: Adrian Hancu, Getty Images

Nokia, Microsoft, Foxconn, and HMD have finalized a key piece of the puzzle that opens the way to the launch of new Nokia-branded Android handsets in the first half of 2017.

Nokia says the licensing agreement it struck with Finnish firm HMD Global Oy in May is now in force, clearing HMD to relaunch Nokia-branded Android handsets in 2017.

The return of Nokia smartphones marks a new phase in the brand's 30-plus-year history following a brief detour as part of Microsoft Mobile.

Under former CEO Steve Ballmer, Microsoft acquired Nokia devices in 2014 for $5.4bn. Current CEO Satya Nadella last year announced a $7.6bn write-down on the deal and scaled back Microsoft phone hardware ambitions.

Nokia's intellectual property unit, Nokia Technologies, in May granted HMD a 10-year license over the Nokia handset brand, which HMD will use to develop, market, and sell Android-powered Nokia devices that are manufactured by Foxconn subsidiary, FIH Mobile.

The deal also covers Nokia-branded feature phones sold by Microsoft for the past three years. The very last Nokia feature phone released by Microsoft was the Nokia 216 in September. As part of the May agreement, Microsoft would sell the feature phone business to FIH Mobile and HMD, pending regulatory approval, which has now cleared.

According to Nokia, HMD will continue to market Nokia feature phones alongside a new line of smartphones. Nokia will receive royalty payments from every Nokia-branded phone and tablet sold by HMD. Nokia said it is not a shareholder in HMD.

HMD Global also announced its official launch today, starting by selling Nokia-branded feature phones on a new page at nokia.com/phones, which is hosted on Nokia's main website but operated by HMD.

"We're busy working on Nokia smartphones running Android," the new site reads.

HMD says it has "developed a unique strategic partnership model that will see it working with some of the world's leading technology companies including Nokia, FIH Mobile Limited (FIH), and Google".

HMD doesn't offer any details about the smartphones it will be launching but says it will be a consumer-focused range that stands out from the pack. Recent reports suggest it will release three smartphones.

"We believe that the time is right for renewal in the mobile industry. The market is fatigued and flooded with undifferentiated products," HMD Global president Florian Seiche said.

HMD has also revealed its leadership team, which consists mostly of Nokia veterans from Microsoft Mobile, though some have served in senior roles with HTC and Motorola.

HMD's chairman is former Foxconn chairman Samuel Chin, who's also a co-founder of HMD. HMD's new chief marketing officer is Nokia devices veteran Pekka Rantala, who briefly served as CEO of Finnish Angry Birds maker Rovio.

HMD says has committed $500m over three years to market and sell the new line of Nokia devices.

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