Based on materials Android Authority
Nostalgia is a feeling that many people and companies successfully exploit, relying on emotions, a sense of security and fond memories. And it would be strange if in the mobile market someone did not try to play this card in relation to the iconic Nokia brand. After this Finnish monster lost all markets, failed to release a single actual device and was sold to Microsoft, there were still armies of fans ready to follow him. And even the business closure and the actual death of Nokia phones in 2016 weren’t the end yet.
At the end of the same year, when Microsoft announced that it was abandoning any current plans to develop its smartphone business and shutting down production of Nokia phones, Chinese businessmen and former Nokia employees formed HMD Global. She popped out like a devil out of a snuff box, and on December 1, 2016 announced plans to restore Nokia in the mobile phone market. Five years later, it’s time to take a look at the promise of “reliable, expertly crafted and fun Nokia phones.”
On a cold rainy morning at MWC 2017 in Barcelona, HMD Global showed off its first four creations. These were the Nokia 3310, Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, with which the company hoped to regain its slice in the market for both simple dialers and smartphones, right up to the upper mid-range price range. The devices showed a fusion of typical Finnish minimalism in design, bare Android and a promise not to be late with updates. Of course, the fans of the brand were delighted.
It is worth recalling that not so long ago, in 2017, with software updates on Android smartphones, there was a complete leapfrog, when even large manufacturers could not provide software updates quickly and on all models. Yes, even to withstand their own terms and time of changing the OS version, few could. And HMD promised fast updates and a clean user experience, which was well received not only by fans of the brand, but in general by anyone who followed the market for new products.
Five years passed, and almost all of these promises remained empty words or complete disappointments. HMD Global is just another company that promises a lot but does very little. Instead of returning the name to shining heights, we have received a continuous stream of recycled iron, a constant reduction in software support, and a complete lack of competitive products. The path is not upward, but deeper and deeper into the abyss of hell.
Clean, protected and completely out of date
One of the key factors that initially drew attention to Nokia’s resurgent HMD Global was its involvement in a campaign to promote the Android One project. It guaranteed a non-overloaded OS without lagging add-ons and with the fastest possible update release. Not to lie, at first HMD even managed to provide monthly security updates and even new software releases. But such happiness did not last long.
According to Android Authority estimates, HMD was the first to provide its users with access to the version Android 9 Pie… But already with the release of the update to Android 10, the first place was replaced by the fourth. And by the release of Android 11, the company was not at all among the leaders, closing the top ten. It would seem that not a bad indicator, only now HMD is still busy updating its phones to Android 11, while the time for official updates to Android 12 is already coming.
And it’s not that we’re talking about a company promising some incredible support times for their devices. No, we are talking about a regular update of Android versions within two years and support for security updates for three years from the date of the device’s release. Tellingly, HMD’s problems with updating software began exactly at the moment when the number of its devices sold on the market began to grow. Which directly indicates a significant shortage of developers.
And if the problems with updating smartphones were exhausted by the disrupted deadlines. All models suffer from buggy software updates. And seriously, in Nokia 8.3, a software update led to the fact that the camera application stopped working, and some users also faced with the fact that all wireless connections stopped working. In Nokia 5.3, users constantly complain that with the installation of Android, the screen no longer works adequately with scrolling, and the keyboard has lost sensitivity. This, of course, cannot be obtained with the “brick” update, but such manufacturers do not inspire confidence.
And trust can be restored only if we start making normal and reliable software. There is not the slightest hint of that from HMD. On the contrary, the situation is getting worse. The attitude towards users is clearly demonstrated by the offer to buy a new device, received by the owners of Nokia 9 PureView in response to a question about the timing of the update.
Where are Nokia’s flagships, Billy HMD?
The company may earn its bread and butter by selling mid-range devices, but its image is created by the flagships. This is especially important if you play on the nostalgia for the old Nokia, which over the years has accustomed users to models that set certain standards. Innovative, desirable smartphones are what makes you look towards the brand’s windows in general. But until 2018, HMD did not have such a device at all. And it would have been better not to continue, because such a game of references to the past, such as happened with the Nokia 8 Sirocco, was the worst choice of all possible options.
In 2006, the Finnish company Nokia presented the model Nokia 8800 Sirocco, which became a reference device of the “luxury” class. The Nokia 8 Sirocco was anything but a role model. To be sure, the model was well made and offered a strange but eye-catching display due to its unusual proportions. But a smartphone is more than design and build quality. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and LG V30 set standards for flagships with Amdroid OS at the time. Camera lag, uncalibrated screens, lack of a stereo speaker and headphone jack, coupled with a raised price tag, guaranteed a market failure. And Nokia 9 PureView was the solution to a problem that never existed.
Building a flagship smartphone is a tricky project, so it comes as no surprise that the Nokia 8 Sirocco was full of rookie bugs (which add to the debate over where the Nokia natives played in HMD smartphone development). But maybe HMD would have succeeded on the second try? Not at all. The second run to release the flagship turned out to be a failure and a demonstration of the complete discrepancy between the desires and capabilities of the company.
Presumably, the Nokia 9 PureView was designed to showcase the maximum potential of mobile photography. The company invested in Lytro Illum technologies and tried to implement them in smartphones. The flagship received five different cameras for the sake of one single advantage – to change focus after the picture was taken. A feature that no one needed, that no one asked for. But it wouldn’t be a failure in and of itself, if the phone lived up to what the company had promised – delivering great, ordinary shots. And with this, the Nokia 9 PureView was not very good.
And then the HMD company made another trick, changing the positioning of the device to a limited edition model, a smartphone not for everyone. But he could not compete with the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Huawei P30. Moreover, five lenses clearly demonstrated that he had the opportunity to get a wide-angle and telephoto module, but wasted space on unnecessary nonsense. Finally, he was finished off by a design based on a deliberately outdated chipset and an absolutely monstrous quality of software optimization. So if he attracted someone’s attention, then he certainly did not popularize Nokia smartphones.
Playing nostalgia won’t save the company
It’s been two years since the launch of the Nokia 9 Pureview, but HMD Global has never shown another flagship. Instead, the company has focused on trying to resurrect the popularity of conventional phones, both by reviving old and launching new models. Releasing the Nokia 3310 to celebrate the brand’s heritage was not a bad move, but if you develop a bunch of regular phones and add them to your portfolio, you end up exacerbating your innovation problems. Yes, HMD managed to deliver 11 million regular phones in the first quarter of 2021 alone, but who is building their business around the dying segment of devices? This is not a long game, and it is not a road to renaissance of greatness. This is just some kind of stupidity.
Software development will not save you from lagging in hardware
In comparison with models from Xiaomi or realme companies, HMD Global products will most often be exhibited at a significantly higher cost with comparable characteristics. According to its representatives, this is a consequence of the lack of advertising in the shell and quick updates. However, the lack of advertising is not at all what can compensate for the lag in performance and problems with the optimization of the software. Ads are easier to digest when your machine is faster, has better hardware, offers more features, gets updated more often, and sells for a lower price.
Market competition is fueling consumer expectations and working wonders for Android customization. Leaving aside personal preferences and some bloat of programs, we can say that almost every OEM-manufacturer has its own generally good shell, which is gradually becoming more lightweight and is regularly updated. Yes, annoying ads are preserved in them, but it is not so difficult to survive if you get a significantly better smartphone for less. And HMD is obsessively investing in ad-free operating experience, completely oblivious to customer requests, negatively impacting sales. For the first quarter of 2021, it delivered only 2 million devices to the world market.
And in other directions the picture is similar. For years, HMD tried to accustom buyers to its confusing decimal model naming scheme, only to suddenly switch to the X, G and C series, making the choice even more confusing. To top it off, the top-end device in the portfolio looks like a rugged smartphone for the corporate segment. Hello, Nokia, where are the colorful and unusual devices that were in the Lumia line?
For a company that has set itself the task of regaining its former place in the top mobile phone manufacturers, a rather strange choice is to rely on niche or ultra-budget devices. If you’re a fan of the old Nokia, then you can’t help but notice that HMD Global is simply draining the potential it had as it embarked on a journey of rebuilding a once great brand.
Of course, creating a good smartphone is not easy, but it’s rather strange that a company generally spends the very minimum of its efforts on development. Moreover, some things should not be difficult for her at all. One could understand HMD’s problems if it was developing software from scratch, but it can’t keep up with releasing updates to stock Android. The company simply does not make any efforts to remedy the situation, showing disdain for its few remaining loyal customers.
Five years ago, the HMD Global venture looked like a very ambitious, but with real prospects, project, but in the intervening time it has returned exactly to the place where the original Nokia company ended.