Seeking to capitalise on their comeback over the past year, the makers of Nokia phones are expanding to include a premium Android smartphone, their first, and a remake of one of its biggest hits of the 1990s, the 8110 “slider” phone.
“Today another icon is reborn. And based on popular demand, in 4G,” said Juho Sarvikas, Chief Product Officer of HMD Global, the licensee of the Nokia brand.
The 1990s throwback model comes in two colour choices, classic black or banana yellow, a play on how its keyboard slid out, inspiring the nickname “banana phone”.
Like the original, the revamped 8110 is curved and comes with a keyboard cover that slides down and is used to unlock the phone or answer calls. It is a feature phone, meaning only a small number of apps such as Google Assistant, Google Maps and Facebook are available – but not WhatsApp, Twitter or Snapchat.
The 4G-ready phone will be priced at 79 euros (US$97) when released in May, according to HMD Global.
Besides the revamped 8110, the company also announced a series of new handsets, including the entry-level Nokia 1, the mid-range Nokia 7 Plus and a new version of its Nokia 6 model.
It also launched an update of its flagship Nokia 8 model, called the 8 Sirocco. The Android phone, built with a steel frame, is billed as one of the toughest phone models on the market and almost impossible to bend by hand.
Its specifications are almost the same as last year’s Nokia 8 with the introduction of the new 5.5 inch 18:9 bezel-less, edge curved display that the company says it is up to the highest standards.
Designed to compete with Samsung’s and Huawei’s premium models, the Nokia 8 Sirocco is expected to be released in April at a price of 749 euros.
Set up by ex-Nokia executives who have licensed the famous brand, HMD Global has focused on mid-priced Androids and even sub-US$100-priced phones since entering the smartphone market.
Chief executive Florian Seiche said HMD has sold around 30 million phones after introducing 11 new phone models over the past year.
“We feel great about the momentum we had in 2017 and that gives us the confidence to double down in 2018,” Seiche told reporters at a briefing in London ahead of the product launch.
Mobile phone market tracker Counterpoint Research said Nokia phones surged during 2017 to become the world’s No. 1 seller of low-cost feature phones and No. 11 in smartphones after only entering the market last year. On a combined basis, Nokia now ranks as the No. 6 mobile phone seller, Counterpoint calculates.
HMD’s strategy is to use distribution partnerships with 600 top mobile operators and retailers in selected markets around the world to offer reliable, affordable products with the latest innovations, plus monthly Google security updates on all phones.
Europe remains the biggest region for Nokia phones sales, Seiche said; India, Russia and Indonesia are its biggest country markets.
Nokia Corp, once the world’s dominant phone maker, sold its handset business to Microsoft in 2014 and is now focused on telecom network equipment.
HMD took over the Nokia feature phone business from Microsoft in 2016 and struck a deal with Nokia Oyj to use the brand on smartphones.