First Nokia-branded Android smartphone targets Chinese market

The Finnish technology company that was a frontrunner in the early days of mobile phone development unveiled its first new smartphone in years, announcing more to come in early 2017.

A new Nokia 6 smartphone is seen in this handout image.

HMD Global (HMD), the Finnish technology company formed in May of 2016 to develop phones under the Nokia platform, announced via press release on the company’s website the launch of its new smartphone, the Nokia 6.

The phone, which will be available only in the Chinese market, is the first Nokia-branded smartphone running on Google's Android platform.

While Nokia was once the most popular mobile phone producer, it has struggled in recent years and was subsequently purchased by Microsoft in a costly $7.2-billion deal. That deal, geared towards revamping the company's mobile department in an attempt to close the gap between itself and Apple and Android in the highly competitive smartphone market, turned out to be an expensive gamble as 18 months later Microsoft laid-off 7,800 employees in the mobile department with losses of approximately $7.6 billion.

As Microsoft struggled with its own mobile platform, its outward goal was to buy into the mobile market. But the company ended up selling off its feature phone business in May 2016. Much of it went to the new HMD Global, established near Helsinki and staffed largely by former Nokia employees.

Shortly after the sale was finalized, HMD Global announced its intention to produce and sell a line of smartphones and tablets with the Nokia name, this time on the Android platform.

While previously expected to launch in time for the Chinese New Year in February, HMD Global instead published its press release on Sunday, introducing the new Nokia 6 to the Chinese Market. The phone will be sold exclusively through the e-commerce giant,

“China is the largest and most competitive smartphone market in the world. It is no coincidence that we have chosen to bring our first Android device to China with a long-term partner,” said Nestor Xu, Vice President Greater China for HMD Global in the release. “Launching our first smartphone device, in such a strategically important market, with a trusted online retailer marks a signal of intent.”

in 2016 there were 552 million smartphone users in China alone, the press release details, a figure expected to grow to more than 593 million users by 2017. HMD Global says that makes releasing a mid-range smartphone in the Chinese market a strategically strong decision. 

“Just a short while ago we announced the launch of HMD Global. From the outset we have stated that we intend to move with speed to establish a position as a player in the smartphone category and create products that truly meet consumer needs…. [T]he Nokia 6 marks the first step on our journey, with more to come in 2017.”

The Nokia 6 is a mid-priced device, costing 1,699 yuan, or about $245.

The swift movement on HMD’s part is evidenced by the rapidity with which they introduced and then launched their first new device. On Dec. 1, Nokia debuted a new phones section on its website and announced that its first Android-supported device would be available within the first half of 2017. Then  the company surprised by launching its new first new cellphone barely into January, adding that more is to come early this year.

The company is expected to offer details of other launches as soon as the Barcelona's Mobile World Congress in February, reports the BBC.

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