These days, when you think of the cell phone, you think of the iPhone. Fifteen years ago, however, it was all about Nokia.
Before phones got “smart,” the Nokia brand was the signifier of high quality tech and sophisticated design. The Finnish manufacturer that traced its roots all the way back to 1865 was one of the biggest tech companies in the world coming to the end of the 20th century. That all changed with the advent of the smartphone. Nokia tried all sorts of different tactics to get its foot in the race, however, they never could get ahead of the likes of companies like Samsung, LG, and even Google itself.
It all led to Nokia hopping onboard the sinking Windows Phone ship, which has all about crashed to the bottom of the sea at this point. Through it all, the brand always kept up its simplified and iconic design, right to the very end.
Nokia was eventually acquired by Microsoft and subsequently dismantled, leaving us with the impression we’d never see a return of the classic smartphone brand. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop joined the Microsoft Mobile division (and is now an Executive Vice President at Microsoft) and dropped up to 18,000 employees that had been at Nokia.
It was the end.
The Nokia that we are seeing a revival from today is coming from a different place entirely. The company HMD Global was formed last year after picking up both the Microsoft Mobile division and a licensing of the Nokia brand. In other words, it’s a company that was formed on the iconic name recognition of the Nokia logo.
It’s not just the brand name, though. There are a number of veteran Nokia employees that have been brought on to give the reboot some credibility. So is the Nokia 6 the real comeback we’ve been wanting
Pure Android in an All-Metal Body
The Nokia 6 is a new Android smartphone that has been available in China since late last year. However, this year at Mobile World Congress (MWC), HMD showed it off to the entire world and announced its coming international availability this Spring.
To see Nokia die off with Windows Phone was a sad sight to see, especially considering all the great hardware and design that was going to waste. That’s why the prospect of an Android Nokia phone is enough to get a lot of people’s attention.
The phone is a 5.5-inch device with a 1080p display—pretty standard when it comes to run-of-the-mill Android phones. The specs across the board fit that mold, in fact. It’s got a 16-megapixel camera, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and runs Android Nougat. It also comes in a special edition Arte Black version, which comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Going only that far, it looks like Nokia is more interested in blending in than standing out.
The place where the Nokia 6 catches our attention is in the design. The phone has an all-metal body that the company says comes from a single slab of aluminum. It’s a beautiful-looking device that bears the slightest resemblance to some of the phones being put out under the Lumia brand for Microsoft back in 2014.
The other thing Nokia pushed in its announcement was the use of “pure Android.” That means no bloatware, no ugly icons, no gimmicky features, and only one messaging app. That also means deep integration of services like the Google Assistant and Google Now, which connect some of Google’s most important services into features that interact with the user in extremely convenient ways.
Even as Google has gone to the efforts of putting out its very own smartphone in the Pixel, Android OEMs and carriers are still resolved to put their own skins over the Android software. The idea of a “pure Android” smartphone from Nokia is admittedly tantalizing for those of us who prefer Google’s simplified design and functionality. On top of that, the Nokia 6 will be sold at an extremely competitive pricepoint: $240.
The Nokia 6 wasn’t the only smartphone brought to MWC this year. We also got two midrange phones: the Nokia 3 and the Nokia 5. In addition, we also got a nostalgic relaunching of the iconic Nokia 3310. At this point, it’s pretty clear that HMD is going to use the Nokia name for all its worth, so get ready for more throwback phones that no one is going to actually want to use.
The truth is that we really won’t ever see the real return of Nokia. For all intensive purposes, the actual company that spearheaded phones like the original Nokia 3310 and even the Lumia 1020 is all but gone. That being said, the Nokia 6 seems like a solid Android device at an impressive price. We’ll have to wait and see if there is some sincere substance behind the Nokia brand name, but as of now it seems like it could end up being just another Android smartphone manufacturer in a very crowded market.