It’s been over two and a half years since we first covered the news that the Nokia brand was being brought back to mobile, and with Android devices just like many had hoped would happen. While the nostalgia for Nokia was strong it seemed like a tall order to come back from the near total collapse of the brand after Microsoft essentially buried them right next to Windows Phone. And as we pointed out at the time, this wasn’t Nokia proper that was going to be building the new devices, HMD Global had merely bought the rights to brand their devices as Nokia. It seemed like a question of when, not if, we were going to have to bury the Nokia brand for a second time.
Fast forward to today and while the Nokia brand may not be poised to retake the crown as ruler of the mobile landscape, they are doing considerably better than I think all but the most ardent of Nokia fans would have predicted. HMD Global recently reported that they have sold over 70 million devices in slightly less than 2 years, now this does also include feature phones (“classic phones” as they refer to them on the Nokia site), but regardless, it’s an impressive figure and the smartphone sales have been sufficient to return Nokia to the top 10 smartphone brands by sales in 2018.
But the numbers aren’t all sunshine and roses for Nokia. The demographic breakdown for their device sales show that over 80% of their phones are going to men over the age of 35, that reflects a dependence on nostalgia that has to be worrisome for the company looking ahead.
The way the company has achieved its initial gains is by following the blueprint that many Nokia fans had hoped to see from the company back before Microsoft purchased them in 2013 — producing solid hardware with essentially a pure Android experience. To date, we’ve only been able to see them stick the landing on this one with low to mid-end hardware, which to be sure is a critical part of the market. We’ve seen they are finding success there, but it’s safe to assume that at least some Nokia fans would like to see the company produce a great flagship device. To be clear, the Nokia 8 and Nokia 8 Sirroco weren’t terrible by any means, but both failed to meet the high bar set by the likes of Samsung and even Google. Nokia fans that remember such highlights as the Nokia Lumia 1020 have to be hoping for a device that leapfrogs the competition in some regard.
But can the new Nokia deliver such a device?
Hope exists in the form of the long-rumored Nokia 9. The rumors have morphed a few times but seem to have settled now as a true flagship device that we expect in Q1 of 2019, likely at Mobile World Congress. Recent leaks have suggested that the phone will have 5 cameras on the back and that the full name will be the “Nokia 9 PureView” the name of the high-end camera system used in the Nokia 808 and 1020 that blew the competition out of the water at the time with a significantly larger sensor and a 40+ MP count. This could be exactly the kind of halo product that Nokia needs in order to garner the attention of younger buyers and expand beyond the old Nokia faithful.
On the flipside, this could prove to be a critical moment for at least the high-end aspirations of the new Nokia, whether this device can live up to the name of its PureView predecessors or if it amounts to little more than a gimmick. For a brand that at least at the moment is highly dependent on nostalgia, this could burn that bridge once and for all with high-end customers if it misses the mark.