Recently I came across an article shared by Nokiapurist, which states that HMD has shifted its marketing strategy, by omitting the flagship segment all together. Before I proceed further, this article is based solely on my opinion as an end user who have been following up closely with Nokia’s development for the past 15 years. The news wasn’t really surprising to me and to many Nokia fans out there as this was a pattern that we have observed for some time. Many Nokia fans have slowly shifted their preference to a more sustainable brand as the device that they have been waiting for failed to show up year after year. Except for their first flagship, the Nokia 8, HMD was late with their subsequent premium offerings, the Nokia 8 Scirocco and the Nokia 9 Pureview. HMD’s last flagship, the ill-fated Nokia 9 Pureview was launched a good 3 years ago.
So, what happened to HMD Global? And what does this mean to us?
HMD Global officially started licensing the Nokia brand on 1st December 2016. Their first CEO, Arto Nummela, stepped down in July 2017 and it’s safe to say that the Nokia 8 conception was under his supervision. With Florian Seiche taking over the reign shortly after, HMD seem to be on spree launching many entry and mid-range devices thereafter. With his dynamic duo partner, Juho Sarvikas, the ethos, Pure, Secure and Up to Date was repeated in almost all their official event. For some time, this seem to hit the right note as many companies were struggling to provide updates to their device. But this soon reveal deep cracks within this new theme HMD was banking on. Other manufacturer sped up their update’s delivery and suddenly, HMD could no longer rely on their Pure, Secure, and Up To Date to generate interest. Not only they were lagging behind their own schedule to deliver updates, but some updates also crippled the device further. While this might be common in the mobile world where no software is perfect, it is hard to comprehend the lack of quality in delivering updates to devices running on Android One even when they had deep collaboration with Qualcomm and Google.
The initial transition period from Symbian to Windows was a painful one for many. To the loyal fans, it seemed like the ultimate betrayal at that time. While many may disagree with me, CEO Stephen Elop brought Nokia to greater heights. Innovation and quality product that complements the ecosystem and ahead of time made Windows phone both futuristic and a joy to use. Who knew plastics can feel premium? Or what it was like to have fast refresh rate on a mobile device? What about Zirconium? Each windows device flagship launched brought new and improved hardware and software. Windows on mobile, itself ,buttery smooth even in budget hardware.
Fans had something to brag about during this era. Pureview, Puredisplay, Nokia Rich Recording were all class leading technology that was ahead of the competitors. Cortana was fun, and helpful, which at that time sound more human than many of the assistants out there. The Nokia wireless car charger, Tressure Tag, Nokia Purity Pro headphones were accessories that made Nokia feel complete, the only caveat to this otherwise glorious collaboration was Microsoft financially bleeding away and it was hard to get developers onboard to create apps for them.
So, what did Microsoft do to have positive and strong earnings? It restructured the way Microsoft operates. From a more consumer-oriented device, Microsoft shifted their focus to be an enterprise company. And this restructuring has helped Microsoft to achieve a trillion-dollar status company.
Perhaps HMD is aiming for the same. Restructuring their portfolios, shifting attention to a different market segment. This is quite apparent since the Nokia 8.3 5G debacle. The new naming scheme came over which added to more confusion then ever before,the X series and the G series. This lower mid-range device was targeted more for western market and only very few of it is officially available for the Asian market. The way I see it, HMD realizes that it does not have the capacity to compete with other manufactures ill all price segments in the ultra-competitive Asian market. For the Asian market, its all about raw power and low price which isn’t what HMD could offer for now. Instead, they have shifted focus to the western market where there isn’t much competition in these segments. Slowly but surely, HMD seems to be migrating completely away from the Asian market where they have a large fan base.
The final nail to the coffin seems to be the neglect of certain devices namely the Nokia 9 Pureview which failed to secure an Android 11 update despite the earlier promises to do so. In fact, the roadmap for the update was available a good 6 months at least before the news was broken to the faithful users. To add salt to the wound, the half-hearted compensation scheme was messy at best with many people failing to redeem the offer and although the offer was initially valid till end of March 2022, the link is no longer available.
So, what now?
For now, Nokia users especially those in Asian countries should realize that HMD Global is bleeding cash at the moment though not reflected in their earnings, which means that the restructuring is paying off. The only way for it to cut their losses is to concentrate on entry level devices for certain markets. It has 4 more years to use the Nokia branding, and if continues to have red ink in their ledger, Nokia parent company might license their mobile phone branding to other company. This might create an interesting scenario as companies like Huawei might benefit from it, to have Nokia branding for their devices to conquer the western markets.
Having abandoned many of their promises and a shift in their priority markets, I could only hope that Nokia one day returns back to what it is known for. Quality and reliability. With no flagship in the near future, we might be lucky if we could have at least a good midrange device, something to replace the 8 series. Perhaps HMD Global should priorities quality rather than quantity as there are many very similar devices with different names that only confuses the customers at best.
An overhaul is needed for HMD Global to focus on long term sustainability instead of short-term success.
To those of you still using a Nokia device, the best is yet to come.
In the meantime, if you are curious with how a 2019 flagship competes with the latest and greatest by Vivo do check the photo comparisons here
And this is how the Nokia 9 fares against Lumia 1020..