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Nokia makes a cool comeback

One of the most loved phone brands has returned, but its success remains to be seen

brunch Updated: Jun 24, 2017 22:02 IST
Rajiv Makhni
The reincarnated Nokia is back.
The reincarnated Nokia is back.

Reincarnation is an interesting concept. But the reincarnation of an entire brand is even more divisive. Especially when it’s still one of the most recognised names in the entire world. The reincarnated Nokia is back now, but will it succeed?

Nokia finally launched its smartphone portfolio in India and I’ve spent the entire week being bombarded with questions, listening to people’s opinions, getting an earful from extremely confident tech pundits, reading in-depth analysis from tech experts. And that has made one thing very clear − there seems to be very little knowledge and information out there. This is my effort to set aside some of the horrible misinformation being doled out and make a few predictions of my own.

The Nokia 5 is a hidden gem with good specs and is aggressively priced

Is this the real Nokia that’s come back?

Well, yes and no. This is HMD with a licence from Nokia. But what sets it apart is that almost everyone who works here is originally from Nokia. When you talk to anyone from within the company, you get that same old feeling. Real passion, almost ridiculous levels of energy and a determination to succeed that overpowers all else.

Was the 3310 feature phone a good way to start for Nokia?

Absolutely. It was perfection. The original 3310 was one of the most iconic phones ever, setting a record in sales by clocking in 126 million units sold and truly exemplified Nokia. The new 3310 is a play on nostalgia, legacy, brand loyalty and also fun. The fact that it’s sold out worldwide is a testament to that. Nokia is back.

The new Nokia 3310 is a play on nostalgia and legacy, besides being fun

Are the three new smartphones any good?

Yes. It’s a good start. The Nokia 6 is great looking, crafted out of a single slab of aluminium, with excellent specs, Corning Gorilla Glass, fingerprint sensor, solidly built, great camera, aggressively-priced at about 14K and is available only on Amazon. The Nokia 5 is a hidden gem, once again nicely built, Gorilla Glass screen, fingerprint sensor, nicely specced out, nice optics and an aggressive price offline of about 12K. The Nokia 3 isn’t upto the same standards though. It’s got all the goodies, has the specs, all that’s needed, but nothing special for the 9K price it demands.

But aren’t these just Android phones and aren’t there a thousand other Android phones?

There are. And this is the biggest question Nokia faces. How are they different? They base it on three pillars of differentiation. The pure Android experience where they have stock Android, no bloatware and each update immediately comes on your phone. The second is craftsmanship and design with all metal, good looks and solid build. The third is how these phones behave in real life, where they deliver on each promise by exceeding just specs and hardware.

The Nokia 3 will sell mainly to Nokia loyalists

But can they take on the aggressive competition?

The Nokia that went away and the Nokia that’s come back, its returned to a dramatically different world. The market, the retailers, the customers, the features, the online sales model, the technology, how a phone is sold, how its bought – it doesn’t get more different than this. It’s all very well for Nokia to play on brand loyalty and nostalgia, but eventually its the products that have to stand on their own and also take the competition head-on.

So which phones compare?

The Nokia 6 is online only and thus competes against many excellent phones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. Bundled with some of the offers like ₹ 1,000 off for Amazon Prime members and free data from Vodafone, it easily stands out as a great buy. The Nokia 5 is an offline retail-shop-only model and will take on Moto G5 and the Samsung J7. The retail store business doesn’t have too much in this price point once you use all the bundled offers. The Nokia 3 will sell mainly to Nokia loyalists and those who walk into a store and want a brand they identify with.

The Moto G5 will offer direct competition to the Nokia 5.

There it is. The first chapter of Nokia’s comeback. I’m predicting a great start and huge sales, but that’s just the beginning. How this story reads after that is anybody’s guess. This is a reincarnation tale, it can be a horror story or have a very happy ending!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, June 25, 2017

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