24 April 2019
Nokia was the fastest growing smartphone brand in the third quarter, posting a 71 percent year-on-year growth. Photo: Reuters
Nokia was the fastest growing smartphone brand in the third quarter, posting a 71 percent year-on-year growth. Photo: Reuters

Can Nokia recover lost glory in smartphone market?

While Apple and Samsung Electronics are battling for the top position in the global smartphone market, Nokia, one of the oldest players in the business, is making a relatively low-key comeback with a series of Android models targeting the mid-range and low-end segments. 

But after Nokia 6 and Nokia 7 Plus, the Finnish brand is now preparing to launch a new flagship for the high-tier market from next year.

Market research firm Counterpoint Insight said Nokia was the fastest growing smartphone brand in the third quarter, posting a 71 percent year-on-year growth.

It shipped 4.8 million units in the last quarter, up from 2.8 million in the same period last year, and this can be attributed to the brand’s popularity in India and Southeast Asia markets.

That allowed Nokia to keep its No. 9 spot with a global market share of 1 percent.

For the nine months to September, it shipped a total of 13.3 million units. While small compared with the shipments of leading rivals, Nokia has demonstrated that it has a huge potential to grow.

According to Counterpoint, Nokia offers good-quality models, makes frequent launches and provides pure Android experience. 

But while the company is rapidly expanding its portfolio, with a presence in almost all price segments, it lacks a flagship series that can compete with the leading brands. 

It launched Nokia 8 two years ago and Nokia 8 Sirocco last year, but these models do not have the design and specifications that would enable them to compete with the flagships of leading brands.

Fans are said to be eagerly waiting for the brand’s real flagship to hit the streets next year. The company is set to launch a “semi-flagship”, the Nokia 8.1, in Hong Kong on Thursday, which could at least meet the fans’ clamor for a flagship phone experience at a cheaper price.

The new Nokia 8.1 is the first smartphone in the market using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 710 mobile platform, which boasts stronger computing power based on artificial intelligence and faster processing speed than the lower-end 600 series mobile platform.

Though good enough, it is still a far cry from the power of the 845 mobile platform.

The phone comes with a 6.18-inch Full HD+ edge-to-edge display with an 18.7:9 aspect ratio and 420ppi. It has HDR10-compliant display and a contrast ratio of 1500:1.

Nokia is hoping that the new product, particularly its camera, will be able to entice users to shift from other more popular smartphone brands.

As a result of its collaboration with ZEISS Optics, the company has made the camera the main selling point of its Nokia 8.1.

The model has a 12-megapixel primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture and 1.4 micron pixel size combined with a 13-megapixel depth sensor with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS).

The ZEISS optics are combined with the camera’s AI features such as an automatic scene detection and professional portrait shots. 

The camera also comes with Nokia’s Pro Camera as well as Dual-Sight mode that allows users to simultaneously shoot and stream from both cameras. The phone also has a 20-megapixel adaptive selfie camera with pixel binning technology that helps to take better shots in dim conditions. 

Many critics who were able to test Nokia 8.1 left with a positive impression of the model. Besides, many people would love the product for its quite affordable price point – HK$3,398. 

However, demanding customers may complain that it doesn’t have an extra edge that would enable it to challenge the iPhone and Galaxy series in the luxury segment.

The market has long been speculating that Nokia would launch a new Nokia 9 PureView smartphone. And last week, a Nokia executive for the first time admitted that it indeed exists.

The phone is said to have a 5-camera system at the back, which promises to be a breakthrough in mobile camera experience. However, the final design of the product is still be done as the planned camera system has turned out to be a bit too complicated.

Britta Gerbracht, head of HMD Global Marketing for Germany, said there will be no Nokia 9 PureView this year as it is still under development.

The company wants to focus on the camera of the flagship model, but efforts in this regard have reportedly failed to produce the desired results. Hence, the delay.

Weak shipment figures of major global smartphone brands suggest that customers are feeling bored with the design and specifications of the latest models.

That is why it is good to hear that Nokia is working on some innovative features for its upcoming offerings. Such efforts could also drive other smartphone makers to improve their products as well.

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EJ Insight writer

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