For an entire generation, the name Nokia will stir up a lot of emotion. From the iconic 3210 to the symbolic N95, the pre-smartphone years were Nokia’s heyday and a large majority of current smartphone users will be able to recall using a Nokia handset in their past.
For me personally, I almost exclusively used Nokia handsets until the late noughties and when the iPhone came along, Nokia’s decline was total (albeit, it took a few years to completely fail). Since February 2011, the infamous burning memo and the decision to adopt Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, Nokia enthusiasts and most of the tech world have asked why the Finnish company didn’t adopt Android.
Moving swiftly past the Windows Phone years and ever since Microsoft bought Nokia’s devices and services division last year, we’ve heard rumours that Nokia would introduce mobile devices running Android sooner rather than later. And that’s exactly what happened with the company introducing the Android-powered Nokia N1 tablet in November 2014. However, the N1 isn’t quite the Nokia we know, as it’s a tablet that Nokia has licensed their name to, rather than made themselves.
Last week, the Nokia Android rumour reared again with a new report suggesting we’d see Nokia release a new Android-powered smartphone at the beginning of 2016, when the clause in the Microsoft deal preventing it from making devices expires. However, shortly after, the company issued a statement denying any move to enter the market but conceding that it would consider brand licensing like it has done with the N1.
Android as a platform is everything that Nokia’s Symbian platform once hoped to be and the brand licensing deal has endless possibilities for the Finnish manufacturer. Developing a smartphone takes years of R&D, testing and QA – not to mention, significant capital – and hence, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a Nokia-made Android smartphone very soon. That being said, Android is definitely the kickstart that Nokia needs if they’re going to re-enter the smartphone business.
Look back at Nokia smartphones in the latter stages of Symbian and the Windows Phone era and one thing is clear; Nokia’s problem was always its software: Symbian’s inability to develop into an iPhone-challenger and the failure of Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS to capture the market. Yet Android can solve all of these issues.
Related: Nokia N1 Tablet Review
Far from running an OS that requires significant investment to develop, Nokia would gain a mature platform and a partner in Google, who would probably love to count Nokia amongst the Android OEMs. Back when they announced the decision to move to Windows Phone, then-CEO Stephen Elop said they ruled out Android as its hard to differentiate, but Nokia Z Launcher has done just this: it’s made a complex smartphone platform simple to operate while remaining as powerful as Google intended.
At the same time, the Nokia name is arguably the Finnish company’s biggest asset. As indicated by the 20,000 N1 sales in just four minutes when the tablet went on sale in China, people still want to buy Nokia products. Nokia had a large part to play in the market share Windows Phone has today and the brand is powerful enough to likely make Nokia’s return to mobile successful.
Let’s be clear on something; Nokia has sold its smartphone and R&D divisions but still owns its IP, so making a smartphone wouldn’t be out of the question but would require significant investment in people, platforms and products. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see a Nokia-made Android smartphone in the next year or two but the N1 taught us that company could still put their name on devices made by others.
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The N1 is a tablet that’s made by Foxconn – who incidentally make a large chunk of Apple’s iPad and iPhones – and shows that we’re now in an era where Nokia doesn’t need to own its entire supply chain. In the past, the company’s own plants made its devices but maybe for the Finnish manufacturer, the best move is to follow Apple and produce the devices elsewhere. This would help reduce their costs and ensure a return to own-brand devices sooner rather than later.
A Nokia-made Android smartphone? For many people, that’s still the Holy Grail. From Nokia’s pedigree in outstanding smartphone cameras – the Lumia 1020 with its 41MP camera being the highlight of them all – to fabulous build, exciting design and excellent battery life, Nokia will always be considered one of the architects of the mobile industry. For me personally – and most people no doubt – a Nokia-powered Android smartphone would excite as much as the latest from Samsung or HTC.
Nokia will always be considered one of the architects of the mobile industry
Will we see a Nokia-made Android smartphone? I for one certainly hope so and I think it would be great for the market to gain another Android OEM to offer something really different. Would you buy a Nokia smartphone running Android? Let us know your views guys!