Date
23 September 2017
Analysts hailed the 3310 launch as a smart retro gambit, but one which could overshadow Nokia's re-entry into the global smartphone market. Photo: Reuters
Analysts hailed the 3310 launch as a smart retro gambit, but one which could overshadow Nokia's re-entry into the global smartphone market. Photo: Reuters

Nokia goes back to future with US$52 phone

Nokia re-introduced a brightly colored version of the classic 3310 talk and text phone, the world’s most popular device in the year 2000.

The new model has bigger screens and is priced at just 49 euros (US$52), Reuters reports.

Its 22 hours of talk time and up to one month of standby time potentially heighten the phone’s appeal as a backup for smartphone users.

Analysts hailed the 3310 launch as a smart retro gambit, but one which could overshadow the Finnish company’s re-entry into the global smartphone market, the news agency said.

Nokia also launched four moderately priced smartphones ranging from 139 to 299 euros.

“The love for the brand is immense. It gets a lot of affection from millions and millions of people,” Nokia chief executive Rajeev Suri told a news conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the telecom industry’s largest annual trade fair.

Once the world’s dominant phonemaker, Nokia in 2014 sold its by-then ailing handset operations to Microsoft for US$7 billion, leaving it with its network equipment business and a large patent portfolio.

But last year, it gave the Nokia brand a fresh start by licensing its devices brand to HMD Global, a new company led by ex-Nokia executives and backed by Chinese electronics giant Foxconn.

Industry analysts say the revived Nokia 3310 has the makings of one of the hit devices of 2017, appealing to older Nokia fans in developed markets looking for an antidote to smartphone overload, while also appealing to younger crowds in emerging markets.

“HMD owns a retro hit and is surfing on the ‘vintage’ hype to re-create buzz around the Nokia brand,” said Thomas Husson, consumer devices analyst at Forrester Research.

The original 3310 sold 126 million phones, the 12th best-selling phone model in history. Nine of the top 12 selling models were produced by Nokia.

It also revives the one-time hit time waster game Snake featured on the original phone, the “Angry Birds” of its day.

In a modern twist, fans can now play Snake on Facebook Messenger.

HMD also announced three smartphones that run on Google’s Android platform: The Nokia 6 smartphone with a 5.5-inch screen, the Nokia 5 with a 5.2-inch screen and the Nokia 3 with a 5.0-inch screen.

It also offered a limited edition of the Nokia 6 with added features retailing for around 299 euros.

HMD appears to be in two minds as to how to market the 3310, believing on the one hand it has a blockbuster product revival, while possibly drowning out Nokia’s future-focused smartphone strategy.

“Our focus and future is in Android smartphones,” HMD chief executive Arto Nummela said, while refusing to rule out dipping into Nokia’s back catalog of popular feature phones.

Under its licensing deal, HMD has sole use of the Nokia brand on all phones and tablets for the next decade. It will pay Nokia royalties for the brand and patents, but Nokia has no direct investment in HMD.

While for many consumers in developed economies Nokia has disappeared as a phone brand in recent years, it remains popular in many emerging markets.

There, Nokia has a reputation for delivering user-friendly feature phones at competitive prices, said Neil Mawston, an analyst with industry research firm Strategy Analytics.

Feature phones accounted for a one in five of the 1.88 billion mobile phones shipped in 2016. Samsung Electronics captured a 13 percent share of the feature phone business and Nokia, No. 2 in feature phones, shipped 9 percent, according to the market research firm’s data.

Phonemakers are seeking to fill a gap in the market left by Samsung following a costly recall of its flagship Note 7 and with no key device of its own to launch at the Barcelona fair.

China’s Huawei, the most likely contender to fill the hole in the premium end of the market, took the wraps off a new phone in its quest to displace Samsung as the world’s no. 2 smartphone maker after Apple.

Its new high-end P10 phone will go on sale from March at 649 euros (US$685) in Europe, its key target market, likely ahead of the expected Samsung S8 launch.

Chinese challengers Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Gionee are in hot pursuit, while BlackBerry, along with Nokia, announced models exploiting their retro appeal.

Samsung itself presented two new tablets pending the launch of its next flagship device, the Galaxy S8, expected now at the end of March rather than at Mobile World Congress, its usual showcase.

The company withdrew the Galaxy Note 7 last October after faulty batteries led some devices to catch fire, leading to a loss of consumer trust, wiping out more than US$5 billion of operating profit, and allowing the iPhone to overtake it in sales.

Samsung’s smartphone market share dropped to 17.7 percent in the fourth quarter, while Apple’s rose to 17.8 percent, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.

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CG

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