Every smartphone company aspires to launch at least one flagship a year, primarily because of the hype it generates for the brand. But it appears that HMD Global, the company behind Nokia-branded phones, is staying away from this tried and tested formula. Instead, the company wants to be “selective” with its flagship lineup.
“What we have done is a very focused proposition for your fans,” HMD Global’s chief product officer Juho Sarvikas told indianexpress.com over a call from San Diego. “Of course, we know that our fans would very much appreciate our annual flagship and that’s something I’m sure will be a part of our story as we continue to grow.”
So, what’s stopping HMD Global from launching a new flagship every year? Well, Sarvikas says the company is currently focusing on the affordable flagship market, a segment he thinks will be crucial for HMD Global’s growth in the smartphone market.
“Our focus has been on the Nokia 7 and 8 series lineup,” he said. “We have been more focused on our investment in the affordable flagship category, delivering great value to performance, great experience at half the price of the flagship.”
Earlier this year, HMD Global introduced the Nokia 8.3 5G, a premium mid-range smartphone with the Snapdragon 765G, the first Qualcomm processor to integrate a 5G modem. At the moment, the company is staying tight-lipped about the exact launch date but if the phone launches in India it will compete with the OnePlus Nord.
The smartphone maker’s last flagship, Nokia 9 PureView, was announced at MWC 2019. It was the first phone with the five-camera array developed with Zeiss and Light. But the flagship phone didn’t quite meet expectations. The Espoo, Finland-based firm hasn’t released the successor to the Nokia 9 PureView, though some reports suggest the next-generation camera-centric phone might be announced towards the end of the year.
Sarvikas said the company has products at every price point, though it is making extra efforts to tap into first-time smartphone users. He said the new Nokia C3, HMD Global’s new Rs 7,499 entry-level Android smartphone, should help people graduate from feature phones in India.
HMD Global is also deeply committed to the feature phone segment. “A first-time smartphone user is a big thing for us and so is the segment that prefers or can afford only feature phones…we have the right option for everybody in that camp,” he said.
Sarvikas said there’s an immense growth opportunity in the Rs 7,000 to Rs 10,000 price segment in India. The Finnish startup promises its users regular security updates on Android. It’s one of the handfuls of smartphone companies that still focus on Android One, a program that allows phone manufacturers to run pure Android software on their devices.
Sarvikas does not see a point of releasing “smart” feature phones with Google’s Android operating system. “We have partnered with KaiOS and I am actually less concerned with the operating system in question. I’m looking at the usability,” he said.
He further said the team at KaiOS has not only done a good job with the user interface but also integrated Google services like Google Assistant. This has made Nokia 4G feature phones a very “powerful solution” in the feature phone segment.
“What you want to make sure is to provide a great experience and then also deliver modern applications such as Google Maps, Facebook or WhatsApp,” he said. “I’m not sure why, why I would do Android on feature phones.”
Without directly taking a dig at Chinese smartphone manufacturers, Sarvikas said Nokia-branded phones are more relevant than ever. He touted security, trust, and privacy as the reasons for buying Nokia phones. Finland’s HMD Global recently secured $230 million in funding from investors including Google, Qualcomm and Nokia. HMD Global plans to use the cash to expand in markets like Brazil, Africa, India, also the US. Sarvikas will also be taking care of the North American region.
“We’re in no rush, we want to show and offer a great experience to even more and more people. And I feel that’s exactly what we’re doing.” he said.
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