HMD has made some major strides in reviving Nokia phones after purchasing the branding rights from Microsoft back in 2016. However, despite enjoying 20% year-over-year growth as recently as Q2 2019, Nokia phones haven’t been quite as successful in the U.S. as the company had hoped, which is something HMD’s chief product officer Juho Sarvikas wants to change now that he is adding vice president for North America to his list of titles.
Currently, Nokia/HMD are in a somewhat difficult spot because while carriers have picked up a few of its budget and mid-range devices, Nokia still doesn’t enjoy the widespread availability of other Android phones from companies like Samsung, Google, or even LG. That means Nokia has to fight for sales in the U.S.’s open channels (via third-party retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and others), which only accounts for around 10% of all U.S. phone purchases (compared to around 90% sold by carriers).
But as one of the first moves as head of HMD’s North American division, Sarvikas says HMD is “doubling down” on the U.S. and hoping to work more closely with carriers while also bringing over more phones from the HMD’s European division starting with Nokia 8.3 5G.
Featuring a large 6.8-inch display, Snapdragon 765G processor, 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of storage, quad rear cameras, and an expected price tag of around $650, the 8.3 5G is looking to hit the sweet spot between mid-range and high-end smartphones, while also undercutting the OnePlus 8 as one of the least expensive 5G phones on the market. Furthermore, while the Nokia 8.3 5G won’t be immediately available for purchase through any of the big U.S. carriers, Nokia says the 8.3 5G should be compatible with all of the U.S.’s existing 5G networks.
But what might be more important for smartphone fans in general is that with HMD looking to increase cooperation between its North American and European divisions, HMD is promising to bring more of its niche phones and fun retro revivals like the Nokia 8 Sirocco and the Nokia 8110 to the U.S. These phones are often the most exciting phones Nokia announces every year, but rarely have support or get sold by U.S. retailers.
HMD/Nokia is also in an interesting position in that it is one of the few phone makers that has a wide range of both traditional smartphones and less expensive feature phones (aka dumb phones), which have seen a bit of resurgence in recent years from people looking for cheap back up phones or phones that don’t constantly spam their owners with notifications.
That said, saying you’re investing more in the U.S. and actually doing it are two very different things. So while bringing over the Nokia 8.3 5G is a decent start, it’s going to take a lot more than a single device for HMD to transform Nokia into one of the U.S.’s leading phone brands again.