Company / division: HMD Global
HMD Global Launches First High-End Android, Nokia 8 (Aug 16, 2017)
NDTV’s Manish Singh has an interview with the head of consumer electronics sales for Amazon in India which provides several interesting insights on trends around smartphone sales there. It seems Amazon’s sales of smartphones in India have risen dramatically in India over the past year, up 100% overall but up by far higher percentages in the smaller cities around the country. Perhaps more importantly, Amazon is finding that a smartphone is often the first purchase a customer makes through the site, but in many cases turns the customer into an Amazon convert, with many other purchases following that first positive experience. In a sense, this is the equivalent of Facebook or Google pursuing strategies to expand internet access: the efforts are designed to create new potential customers who are more likely to be loyal to Amazon, though this would be even more effective if Amazon launched its own devices, something NDTV has previously reported it was working on. The piece here also talks about Amazon’s strategy of offering the broadest possible range of devices and brands while also securing the odd exclusive including phones from OnePlus and a particular model of the iPhone. That’s an interesting strategy in a market where a majority of smartphone sales are still made in offline retail, but online is an increasingly important channel. Overall, some good insights into both Amazon’s India strategy and the Indian smartphone market. Also worth noting: this separate story from NDTV on the new Nokia 6 (from HMD Global) hitting 1 million “registrations” (effectively a soft pre-order) on Amazon’s website in India, which is running some special promotions and bundles around the phone.
Google has today announced a patent licensing alliance which is intended to provide cover to member companies using each other’s patents. The idea is that any member can use any other member’s patents without fear of being sued, something that’s actually been quite common between members of the broader ecosystem over the last few years. The alliance has only nine members to start with, about half of which are smaller smartphone brands, but the members do include Samsung, LG, and of course Google itself, as well as Foxconn. Those members alone apparently have 230,000 patents between them which will now be freely available to other members within the context of Android devices. This is a fascinating move, and it’s impressive that Google was able to get Samsung and LG in particular on board without also having some of the other big Android vendors. Of course, none of this will stop these companies from suing those outside the Android ecosystem (or this alliance), but it might help temper some of the animosity that has sometimes characterized competition between Android OEMs.
Americans Don’t Care About Nokia (or Huawei) – PCMag (Mar 7, 2017)
This is good from Sascha Segan, explaining why “Nokia” (really HMD Global) and its new 3310 are irrelevant in the US, but also in some ways more interestingly why Huawei (and other Chinese manufacturers) have long struggled here. With Nokia/HMD, it’s a long-standing lack of investment in the unique requirements of the US market including CDMA networking technology, whereas with Huawei it’s a more complex geopolitical issue involving Huawei’s networking gear. It’s easy to dismiss the US government’s objections to Huawei equipment in networks covering US network traffic as scaremongering or protectionism, but in a previous job I heard from very reliable sources about Chinese gear (not Huawei’s) in telecoms networks which had backdoors installed – these concerns can’t just be dismissed out of hand. But even beyond that, there are significant other reasons why the Chinese brands don’t succeed here, including notably the fact that those brands simply aren’t known, and in many cases the companies aren’t doing enough to change that. The one place where some of the Chinese brands do reasonably well in the US wireless market is the prepaid segment, were several have made a decent business. But that’s much less brand- and much more price-sensitive than the much larger postpaid market.
HMD Launches New Nokia Phones – Wired (Feb 27, 2017)
Quick explainer for those that haven’t followed the saga of Nokia over recent years: Microsoft bought Nokia’s Devices and Services business, including the smartphone and feature phone businesses, a few years back, along with exclusive use of the Nokia brand in these markets for several years. That exclusivity has now expired, and Microsoft last year sold the rump of the feature phone business to a new Finnish entity called HMD Global, which now has the rights to manufacture phones under the Nokia brand. The original owner of the Nokia brand and devices business, which now mostly makes telecoms network gear, has essentially nothing to do with these new phones. The MWC announcement actually covered three smartphones, the Nokia 3, 5, and 6, but almost all the attention has been on its resurrection of the extremely popular candy bar feature phone from 17 years ago, the Nokia 3110. It’s fascinating to see both the BlackBerry and Nokia brands get reboots at MWC from new companies – both were once key players in the global industry but have fallen enormously from those heights, and are probably past the point where a meaningful resurrection is possible, considerable nostalgia notwithstanding.