Google’s Nexus line of phones is now dead. But Nokia, under the stewardship of HMD Global, could well bring back elements of what made Google’s Nexus phones so popular with users. Things like stock Android, fast updates and competitive pricing.
Nokia – under the HMD – has released a slew of mid-range handsets targeted squarely at emerging markets. The main event, however, is the Nokia 8, which will get an official unveiling on August 16.
This handset will be a true Android flagship in every sense of the word. HMD has snagged a deal with Carl Zeiss for optics, the specs for the handset are on par with with we’ve seen from Samsung and LG, and the design looks to be as solid as ever.
But where things might get a little more interesting is to do with pricing; the Nokia 8 could well be priced below what Apple and Samsung are charging. Likely more around the OnePlus 5-mark, if reports are to be believed.
This is a very sweet spot for handset makers and HMD appears to be aiming squarely for this segment. Aside from the OnePlus and OPPO, they’re owned by the same firm, it is quite difficult to get a flagship phone for under £500.
Nokia could do well in this space. But it could also go one better than OnePlus by ensuring its handsets receive Android updates in a timely manner. If Nokia can do this it would essentially be the new Nexus brand of the Android space.
And EVERYBODY misses Google’s Nexus phones.
In a recent release, HMD noted it is putting in place a new strategic partnership with Google and Foxconn to further its gains in the mobile space during 2017/18.
“Most of the smartphones in the market do not have the Android OS in the way it should be,” said HMD Global’s vice president for the Middle East and North Africa Per Ekman.
“Vendors are adding a skin on top of the OS. Consumers have the right to have the latest version of the OS, and we will be pushing the latest version and the patches as soon as it is available from Google.”
“We and Google will jointly enhance the Nokia brand to put the right kind of inputs into the phone, including Google Assistant,” he said.
Nokia’s current phones – the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 – all run a pretty clean version of Android. But these handsets appear to be just the tip of the iceberg.
Nokia’s BIG release for 2017 is called the Nokia 8, which is now available, and the Nokia9. This is the phone everybody has been waiting for, as it is the phone that will match both Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 with respect to specs and features.
HMD wants to get Google onboard to help push its Nokia agenda and that should be music to the ears of any Nokia/Android fan.
This particular route, if done correctly, could create quite a USP for the Nokia brand inside the Android space, as no other manufacturer has perfected getting Android updates out in a timely fashion.
If Nokia – either through its own blood, sweat and tears or via assistance from Google – can create a means by which to push Android updates out in a timely fashion, ahead of other players in the space, it would almost certainly find itself with a lot of new friends.
Android updates – or, not getting them – is still a big stickling point for a lot of Android users. No one brand has nailed it yet. And this is mostly down to the nature of the Android ecosystem; Google’s partners are always focussed on what comes next, not supporting older handsets.
Timely Android updates and an emphasis on clean UX design and minimal bloatware is why I have consistently used Nexus and, once they died a death, Pixel phones as my daily drivers.
Nokia Nexus Phones – Getting Android Updates RIGHT
For me, this aspect of HMD’s pitch is the most tantalising. The reason I have used Nexus phones pretty much since day one, and now Pixel phones, is because they get the software first. I don’t like waiting for new updates to land, basically – and why should I?
You have paid for a phone. The software that powers it is arguably the most important aspect of the device, so it stands to reason that any user will want the latest and greatest build of that software.
If Nokia can pull this off, which I’m still not convinced about, then they will have done what no other Android partner could: beat fragmentation. If it does this by working closely with Google, and gets the pricing right for its phones, it could well fill the void left by Google’s Nexus phones.
And it looks like HMD is keeping its promises too. The company rolled out the latest Android security patch super early, beating even Google, which has yet to issue the update to its Nexus and Pixel handsets.
“HMD has done it again. Nokia 5 is the first Android smartphone to get the September 2017 Android Security update before any of the Google’s own Pixel or Nexus smartphones. Google has not pushed September Security patch to its own devices yet and has not even posted the security Bulletin for September security update,” reports Nokia Power User.
This is hugely impressive, even more so when you consider how little time HMD has been using Android. Once Oreo is in place on Nokia’s Android phones, updating should be even quicker as well thanks to Google’s Treble.
HMD has confirmed that ALL Nokia Android phones will get two year’s worth of Android updates and no one phone will be left out in the cold. This is exactly what Essential has promised too, and larger players like Samsung and LG could well learn a lot of these small, upstart companies.
The demand for solid, reliable, and, most importantly, good value Android phones is very real. Even more so in 2017 and onwards, as we’re consistently being charged more for handsets that aren’t all that dissimilar to ones’ released in 2016.
Specs and hardware will not win Nokia any friends; just ask HTC, Sony and LG. No, what Nokia needs is a coherent USP, something no other Android player is offering. And that could well be updates direct from Google. I mean, it can’t be that hard to do?
It’s a bit like outsourcing your company’s IT, I guess. Set it and forget it. Let Google take care of that side of things.
The Antithesis of What Samsung is Doing
I like Samsung phones, for instance, but I detest the amount of bloatware that ships on them. I also don’t like Samsung custom UI, or anybody else’s for that matter, as I prefer the look of stock Android.
Google knows what it is doing with Android. Over the years the look and feel of Android has developed rapidly; things like Google Assistant are great and add in real value.
Rather than working against The Big G – as Samsung does – Nokia is taking the smart route and seeing how it can work in cahoots with Google to better penetrate the market.
If Nokia can find a way around this, I will be very impressed. The only real question now is how it is going to actually do it?
And God knows Google needs another, more manageable Android partner; one that can be groomed and play ball. Samsung is Google’s biggest Android partner by a country mile, but the South Korean tech giant makes no bones about how much it wants to get away from Android and Google’s authority.
TizenOS was the first step in Samsung’s path away from Google’s Android OS and the launch of Bixby, a direct competitor to Google Assistant, was another. Samsung wants to have complete control of its handsets and the software they run. This is how it becomes more like Apple and makes more money. Android, while necessary at present, is stopping them from doing this and this puts the company in a very tricky position.
Plus, the Nokia brand is still immensely popular with millions of people the globe over. Just look at the frenzy HMD created in the run up to MWC with the launch of the rebooted Nokia 3310 – one of the best marketing tricks EVER – and its trio of Android-powered Nokia phones.
Search volumes around Nokia’s Android phones are huge as well, and this tell us two things: 1) A LOT of people are very interested in the Nokia brand and 2) once Nokia does release a proper flagship phone, a lot of people, providing it is a solid release, will likely buy it.
No wonder Google’s interested in working more closely with HMD to bring Nokia back into contention.