CES 2017: Nokia Android phone spurns the West

Image source, Nokia
Image caption,
The Nokia 6 is the first Android smartphone to bear the brand under a deal with HMD Global

The first in a series of Nokia-branded Android phones is to be released exclusively in China.

The device will be marketed in partnership with the local internet retail giant JD.com.

The team behind the Nokia 6 phone said the handset's "premium design" would appeal to the local market.

The announcement coincided with the final day of the CES tech show in Las Vegas, where other new mobile phones and gadgets have been launched.

Nokia no longer manufactures phones that carry its name but has instead licensed its brand to another Finnish company, HMD Global.

Until now, the only phones that had been released under the deal had been more basic "feature phone" models.

Image source, HMD Global
Image caption,
HMD Global may wait to unveil details of Android smartphones for other markets until next month in Barcelona

The Android device had been highly anticipated and marks Nokia's return to the smartphone market after a series of Windows Phone models. Nokia also briefly sold Android-based handsets - known as Nokia X - in 2014.

Microsoft used Nokia's brand for a short time after buying the company's mobile devices the same year, but later referred to the devices solely by their Lumia name.

Mobile World Congress

Nokia once dominated the mobile phone market but struggled after the launch of the iPhone a decade ago, and the subsequent release of Google's Android operating system.

HMD Global had previously indicated it would release several Nokia-branded Android phones in 2017.

It is expected to provide details of at least some of the other launches at another trade show - Barcelona's Mobile World Congress - in February.

"The decision by HMD to launch its first Android smartphone into China is a reflection of the desire to meet the real world needs of consumers in different markets around the world," the firm said in a statement.

"With over 552 million smartphone users in China in 2016, a figure that is predicted to grow to more than 593 million users by 2017, it is a strategically important market where premium design and quality is highly valued by consumers."

Image source, HMD Global
Image caption,
HMD Gobal sells feature phones, including the Nokia 150, in other parts of the world

The Nokia 6 phone runs Android 7.0 - the latest version, also known as Nougat - and features:

  • a 5.5in 1080p "full high definition" screen
  • a 16 megapixel rear camera
  • four gigabyte of RAM memory and 64GB of storage
  • two amplifiers supported by Dolby Atmos audio processing, which HMD says creates audio that "seems to flow all around users"

The specifications are mid-range, and so is the price: 1,699 yuan ($245; £200).

That makes it slightly more expensive than Huawei's Honor 6X but cheaper than Xiaomi's Mi 5s.

"Nokia remains one of the most recognised mobile phone brands on the planet," commented Ben Wood from the CCS Insight technology consultancy.

"HMD Global will be hoping it can capitalise on this as it seeks to relaunch Nokia devices in 2017.

"It will be hoping the brand will help it stand out in the incredibly crowded Android smartphone market, which is characterised by cut-throat competition and a sea of design sameness. "

Brandon Ackroyd, Head of Customer Insight at Tiger Mobiles believes that Nokia will launch the Nokia 6 globally if the device has a successful launch in Asia.

"If the Nokia 6 performs well in China then it's highly likely we will see a new international variant of the handset sometime in 2017. We'll be keeping our eyes on the certification websites in the coming months looking for a variant with more connectivity options like GSM, LTE, and CDMA that will make the device compatible with networks worldwide."

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