In a country where getting a landline was a luxury, and mobile phones were steadily getting popular, I was very happy finally getting my first mobile phone during my second job. It was a GSM Nokia 5110. The one in the commercial with the Bill Clinton look-alike (or was it him?) playing Snake. The phone was long and hard, and it vibrates. That came out wrong. Antennas were still in fashion thus the length, it was tough as nails, and it could vibrate in silent mode with a special battery plus many of the ringtones we all know and love. It was a joy to use which made it real easy calling home and my mom overseas. No distracting apps except for Snake, a battery that lasts a week or more on standby, interchangeable cases, ear-splitting text notifications, SMS jokes and porn-ASCII art. Hmm, happy times.
The 5110 continued to evolve into other models, like the more sturdy 3210, lighter 3310 and smaller 8210 each one a bestseller until Nokia got crazy with keypads and form factors. Nokia was the phone to have until Blackberries, the iPhone and Android came along. Nokia was too slow to adapt to touch screens and held on to its Symbian OS. Come to think of it, Blackberry is going through the same thing. So both companies’ phone businesses are down the toilet. Microsoft bought Nokia while Blackberry refuses to sell. The Nokia brand of smartphones didn’t do well in Microsoft’s hands using Windows Phone OS. Microsoft later shed the Nokia brand for smartphones but still used it for feature phones.
The feature phone business wasn’t doing well for Microsoft either so they sold the business to FIH Mobile Limited, a subsidiary of Foxconn for a measly 350 million dollars compared to the total 7 billion they invested in the Nokia mobile business. FIH will be able to carry the Nokia brand for the feature phone market which is still going strong outside the United States. Phones are for calling and texting, and the occasional snapshot and music and not everyone can afford a real smartphone. There are very cheap smartphones out there that either break down fast or function very slowly and have very limited memory.
Nokia Technologies regained the rights to use the brand to sell smartphones and licensed those rights to a new Finnish company called HMD Global Oy. HMD Global Oy will be manufacturing Nokia smartphones tablets and feature phones. These new devices will be using the Android operating system. The whole development is a throwback to the good old days when Nokia used to manufacture phones from both Finland and China where the Finnish phones are said to be more expensive and coveted.
It’s great news for Nokia fans who have now flocked to other manufacturers and are now very nostalgic for their old 51xx, 33xx, 82xx series of unbreakable phones. These phones even gained popularity in eBay for a while getting sold at a high price because of a sudden demand for simpler phones. Whether this new venture by FIH and HMD will be successful will probably depend upon the quality of the devices they churn out. Nokia was well-known for quality. A good well-maintained 5110 can still be used today. Will the new devices be at par with the devices of days gone by? Will the quality be up to Apple’s standards? Will both companies be able to work together and create compelling features instead of just banking on nostalgia?
Nostalgia will play a big factor that’s for sure. A short Google image search for the 5110 came up with a modern Android mock-up with a larger but similar form factor which could have probably made sales if it were real. Nokia and Motorola were the brands to get back then. Motorola’s been eaten by Lenovo, but they’re apparently making their own play at nostalgia by re-launching the Razr. As long as these phones are built with toughness in mind, have no signal problems, integrate with social media and can live on one charge for a week, and maybe put express covers back in fashion, then by all means. Hail Nokia!