Do you miss the sturdy-as-a-brick heyday of the Nokia feature phone? Well, those days are back. Kinda. Nokia-branded feature phones are back on sale, starting with the new Nokia 216, but they’re not being made by Nokia. Well, they kinda are. It’s a long story.
Try to stay with us on this. Microsoft purchased Nokia’s handset division in 2013, folding it into the Windows Mobile division to keep making Lumia phones for the Windows Phone platform. Nokia survived as a networking equipment company, acquiring rival Alcatel-Lucent for $16.6 billion last year before signaling renewed interest in consumer tech by acquiring Withings for $191 million earlier this year. Last year, Nokia even suggested they could start licensing the Nokia name out once they got back the handset naming rights from Microsoft.
Back at Microsoft, the Nokia deal proved to be a disaster, and Microsoft ended up writing off billions of dollars in losses, with many former Nokia employees losing their jobs in the process. In the process, Microsoft sold off Nokia’s feature phone assets to Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn and a new company called HMD (a deal that closed last week), which also acquired license to use the Nokia brand name. What’s HMD’s deal? As it turns out, it was founded in Nokia’s native Finland by a group of ex-Nokia employees who left Microsoft! We’ve come full circle.
HMD is now handling sales of the new 216 feature phone, which has a 2.4″ display and a good old early ’00s-style numeric keypad, along with four other feature phones being sold in emerging markets worldwide. The phones will be manufactured and assembled by Foxconn, with the Nokia name slapped on — Nokia will get royalties, while HMD gets to use the much more famous name for at least a decade. Microsoft originally announced the 216 in September, but now that the deal with HMD and Foxconn has closed, it has come off their site and onto Nokia/HMD’s.
The Nokia phone site, which is operated by HMD, is also teasing an Android phone for next year. Rumors are already starting to circulate about something called a D1C, which could be a 5.5″ Android 7.0 Nougat phone with an emphasis on delivering a pure Android experience. That wouldn’t be unique to Nokia (see: Google Pixel), but if it’s an affordable play, the strength of the Nokia name might just be enough to carve out a niche in what has become a brutal Android smartphone market.