Nokia nostalgia is catching on like wildfire. Ask the passionate Arto Nummela, who leads what seems as much a movement as a start-up business around the iconic name.
These days Mr Nummela’s company, HMD Global, is the custodian of the Nokia phone brand. The start-up began operating in December last year and took just three months to make a splash. That occurred in late February when it showcased a remake of the turn of the century Nokia 3310 at the world’s mobile conference in Barcelona. It stole the show.
Mr Nummela told The Australian yesterday how a Brazilian reporter he met recently was so moved by seeing a replica Nokia 3310 that she burst into tears.
He said that when HMD advertised Nokia jobs, he typically received about 50 applicants each time.
It’s as if the era of the iPhone never happened and Steve Jobs existed only in an alternate universe.
He said: “I’m a Finnish person. This is even deeper in my genes. I loved the brand the minute I started working with it.
“It’s a huge thing for us. We are very passionate.”
When some old Nokia phones from that era were brought in for the occasion, to Mr Nummela it seemed like he was reunited with old friends.
HMD comprises many former Nokia staff who were part of the juggernaut in the 1990s.
In 2014, Microsoft bought Nokia’s feature phone business for about $US7.9 billion but with Windows-based phones struggling, it sold it off within two years or $US350 million to Foxconn Technology, the manufacturer of many smartphone brands, and HMD Global.
HMD has partnered with Foxconn, which is building the feature phones in the factory Microsoft had owned in Hanoi. Its smartphones are being made in China.
Today, it’s Australia’s turn to experience the Nokia rebirth when Mr Nummela, here for two days, launches three Nokia Android models.
The replica Nokia 3310 that got all the attention in Barcelona isn’t coming to Australia as it works only on 2G networks. Vodafone, the last major carrier to use 2G, switches its 2G network off on September 30.
Mr Nummela said he was getting a great reception wherever he went.
“I haven’t found a single country who doesn’t want to have a Nokia phone, so we are going to launch everywhere in the world. There’s such a deep connection to the Nokia brand. It’s a very human brand, it’s everybody’s brand.”
HMD began by launching the Nokia 6 in China to a “really good reception”. Most were snapped up by young people. “We couldn’t keep up with demand,” he said. “It only took a few months before Nokia phones were 1 or 2 in some feature phone markets.”
Now HMD is making Nokia phone models for every part of the world. It initially was active in 50 markets and planned to reach 120 markets in the next months.
Mr Nummela said Australia had shown “the most interest in the world” in the new phones.
The Nokia 3, 5 and 6 will be launched today. They are all 4G phones run by an unmodified version of Android 7 Nougat, so they can always be updated with the latest Google features.
Mr Nummela said Nokia had a “unique take” on Android and was addressing consumer pain points. There would be security updates every month and feature updates.
“When you take these devices in your hand, you feel the soul of Nokia,” he said.
As for the replica 3310, when asked whether he could make one that worked with 4G in Australia, and had a better than 2MP camera, he made no promises, but said he was prepared to consider such requests.
“We’re continuously connecting with consumers and the things they want to do next. Keep tuned, we will be evolving this story.”
He said HMD Global would continue to target the feature and smartphone markets. “There’s not many brands that can stretch from the super high end to the lowest cost feature phone, and we will use the uniqueness of the brand going forward.”
“We can’t find a place where there is not interest from partners, consumers and even the media”, he said.
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