Nokia Confirms Plans To Return To Smartphones

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Nokia says it wants to design smartphones again, but not manufacture them

Nokia has confirmed it wants to return to the smartphone market once it is legally able to do so next year, but has reiterated it will do so through a design and licensing model, not through direct manufacturing.

The company revealed its intentions in response to recent media speculation and reported quotes from CEO Rajeev Suri that Nokia would design smartphones which would be manufactured by third party partners.

The iconic Finnish manufacturer has been unable to lend its name to any smartphone until late next year, and to any feature phone for another 10 years, as part of the £4.6 billion deal that saw Microsoft purchase Nokia’s devices and services unit in 2013.

However with Microsoft preferring to use the ‘Lumia’ brand for its smart devices and widespread cuts in its mobile division, Nokia could sense an opportunity.

Nokia mobile return?

Nokia Lumia 625 (10)“For 14 years Nokia was the biggest cell phone maker in the world, and the brand became a household name — one that evoked quality, innovation and human connection,” said Nokia spokesperson Robert Morlino, “The brand is still recognised that way by millions of people around the world, which is incredibly gratifying and a huge compliment for the people who helped create it. So it’s not surprising that today, the question comes up all the time: will Nokia return to mobile devices?”

“The answer is: it’s complicated,” he continued, noting the current Nokia is dedicated to developing the businesses it retained following the Microsoft sale, namely its mobile network equipment, HERE maps and technology development and licensing units.

“We also aim to continue bringing our iconic design capabilities and technology innovation to the mobile space, and in the form of amazing products people can someday hold in their hands. However, we’ll do it in a completely different way from before.

“The right path back to mobile phones for Nokia is through a brand-licensing model. That means identifying a partner that can be responsible for all of the manufacturing, sales, marketing and customer support for a product.

“If and when we find a world-class partner who can take on those responsibilities, we would work closely with them to guide the design and technology differentiation, as we did with the Nokia N1 Android tablet. That’s the only way the bar would be met for a mobile device we’d be proud to have bear the Nokia brand, and that people will love to buy.”

A return to the industry in which it made its name would be curious given Nokia’s recent expansion of its core networking business, which appears to be its main focus. It has agreed an £11.2 billion deal to acquire French rival Alcatel-Lucent and is lining up suitors for its HERE Maps.

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