After Microsoft decidedly underutilized the storied brand of Finnish phone company Nokia for more than two years, the creator of Windows is selling off its featured phone business and licensing the Nokia brand to a company that will support the creation of new Nokia smartphones and tablets powered by Google’s Android operating system.
Nokia was once the most powerful and well known phone maker in the world before Apple flipped the market on its head with the introduction of the iPhone, the first truly popular smartphone. Nostalgic tech fans have clamored for the return of quality Nokia products ever since.
Microsoft’s $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia in 2014 did little to answer those prayers. Despite having great, although rather bulky, cameras, the Nokia Lumia series never took off in the public consciousness and still lags far behind competing Android and iPhone devices. In fact, only 2.3 million Lumia phones were sold in Microsoft’s first quarter of 2016, marking a 73-percent decrease in sales from the same period the previous year.
Microsoft has refocused on its Windows phones and integration of the Windows 10 platform by partnering with phone makers like ACER and HP. Therefore, it’s sold off what Microsoft calls its “feature phone business” to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn, for $350 million. Microsoft will still own the Nokia brand but license the name off to a new company called HMD Global, who says it will support the creation of new Android-based Nokia hardware with a $500 million investment in the expansion of the brand over the next three years.
So why should consumers care? Because Nokia has always made really powerful and great-looking hardware!
Let’s face it, the Windows mobile software, what Nokia phones have run for years, never really took off. So, more than a year ago the company released an Android tablet called the N1. Due to contractual obligations, Nokia couldn’t make a phone on Android, but it could make a tablet, and the N1 was pretty good. It showed off what the company was still capable of, featuring nice build quality and a tried-and-true design — all running on a modified version of Google’s powerful Android system.
Now those contractual obligations are abolished, and the Finnish company is free to create a (hopefully beautiful and powerful) handset under a platform people actually use. Nokia used to be known for taking risks like Samsung does today. Earlier Nokia devices pushed the bar on how flip phones were designed and really popularized the idea of making phones in more punchy, vibrant colors. And, for better or worse, it leaned into the camera bump phenomena.
This isn’t the end of its days with Microsoft, but it’s the beginning of an era with Android. Nokia fans may glean some details of that future at Google I/O this week.