We don't need the Nokia 9 yet, and HMD is smart to delay a high-end release

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
We don't need the Nokia 9 yet, and HMD is smart to delay a high-end release
Is there such a thing as too many cameras on one phone?

You know, not everyone wants to own an ultra-high-end smartphone. Or at least not everyone insists on owning a so-called flagship mobile product if that means spending north of $800, 900, even $1,000.

I realize that must come as a shock to many of you, but in fact, the vast majority of global smartphone buyers today prefer something that doesn’t equate to the annual minimum wage in Indonesia. Let that sink in for a moment - there are people out there that would need to work a whole year just to purchase a 64GB iPhone XS.

Of course, you can understand why most companies choose to focus their R&D efforts and advertising campaigns primarily on “premium”, costly handsets. There’s also OnePlus, which owes its rapid rise to fame entirely to “flagship killers.” No, the mid-range OnePlus X doesn’t count.

Meanwhile, one brand continues to swim against the tide, releasing over a dozen affordable Android devices since early last year, but no true iPhone rival yet. Is Nokia, or rather HMD Global, afraid of something? Should the company revise this unconventional release strategy? Can it actually make money without a Nokia 9 or 10 completing its otherwise robust portfolio? Well, let’s see:

The market

Overcrowding, saturation, stagnation. Every single time there’s a new smartphone shipment report out, at least one of those three words comes up to describe the current state of the mobile industry.

Samsung’s numbers are dropping, Apple is pretty much standing still, Sony, HTC, and LG are bombing, whereas Huawei and Xiaomi continue their seemingly unstoppable race to the top. Now, I know what you’re going to say. The high-end P20 and Mate 10 definitely helped Huawei surpass Apple in global sales volume. Xiaomi is also getting more aggressive in the “premium” segment with pricey new Mi Mix-series releases.

But at their core, these are still companies catering first and foremost to bargain hunters. The only Huawei phone ranked among the ten best-selling models of May, for instance, was the P20 Lite. Not the Pro, and not the “regular” variant. The same Counterpoint Research report listed the entry-level Xiaomi Redmi 5A as the world’s fourth most popular smartphone, ahead of the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy S9.

Even Samsung is starting to realize low to mid-end devices are central to the company’s hopes of reversing a worrying trend. HMD was smart to understand that earlier, reviving Nokia as an accessible brand to the masses.

Why risk alienating a solid audience by shifting some of the focus away from reasonably priced, reasonably powerful phones like the 7 Plus to a Nokia 9 that may not have enough going on to stand out from the pack?

Just think about the horde of fancy new flagships already scheduled for October announcements. Even if that bonkers penta-lens Nokia 9 prototype proves legit, it wouldn’t be easy to go up against a Pixel 3 and 3 XL with presumably stellar photography software, not to mention triple camera heavyweight contenders from Huawei and LG.

Five rear-facing cameras could be overkill, and perhaps most importantly, such a crazy new shooter setup would mean HMD doesn’t plan to slot the Nokia 9 in the inexpensive flagship category, alongside the likes of the OnePlus 6T.

The brand

HMD Global should think long and hard what consumers expect from the Nokia brand these days. This is the name of a company that once ruled the world, but the company itself willingly pulled out of the mobile device manufacturing business.

The brand was licensed out to a startup established by a handful of industry veterans after a disastrous Microsoft partnership and acquisition. Granted, the business was already struggling when the Redmond-based tech giant took control of it, but by the end of the two’s alliance, the Nokia name and Microsoft’s smartphone ambitions appeared similarly devastated.

HMD pulled off the impossible in less than two years, making millions of people feel comfortable buying gadgets carrying the iconic Nokia logo again. Check that, tens of millions of people. We’re talking 4.4 million smartphone shipments during the final three months of 2017, around 4 million units in Q1 2018, 4.5 million in Q2... and a great deal more if we also take feature phones into consideration.

While Nokia has barely managed to crack the top ten smartphone vendor list during the April - June 2018 timeframe, the brand is already in the global top three when it comes to “dumb” phones. That’s obviously a low-margin business, but it’s not completely irrelevant.

The strategy

You don’t have to be a professional analyst to understand it takes time to rebuild confidence in such a tarnished brand. Remember how violently we all mocked 2014’s Nokia X family? Plenty of people probably still remember 2015’s Lumia 950 and 950 XL too, which were technically sold under Microsoft’s own name, but forever associated with Nokia.

It’s hard to follow a flagship duo no one cared about, even after three whole years, and despite HMD playing all its cards right so far. The company chose a living, breathing OS, shining in the software support department straight off the bat, and tugging at the heartstrings of nostalgics in a truly expert way.

But it’s practically impossible to try to convince Nokia 3310 or 8110 owners to upgrade to a phone ten times as expensive. Selling an $800 or $900 Nokia 9 would be a whole different ballgame even compared to selling the 7 Plus, 6.1 Plus, or impending 7.1 and 7.1 Plus.

Besides, HMD already tested the waters with the stunning but Snapdragon 835-powered Nokia 8 Sirocco. While there are no specific sales numbers for specific models available from the company or third-party market researchers, it definitely felt like MWC 2018 audiences paid significantly more attention to the Nokia 7 Plus, and yes, even the rebooted 8110 “banana phone.”

Bottom line, it might indeed be wise to not take a chance on the Nokia 9... yet. The profit margins on that would no doubt beat those of the 7 Plus, but mass-manufacturing a high-end phone with five, four, three, or even two Zeiss cameras requires not just tons of money. A lot of time would need to be dedicated to the project, not to mention many other resources in the distribution and marketing departments.

HMD Global is still a fairly small outfit with a modest retail presence in key Western markets like the US, so perhaps it would be smart to invest time and money in that before joining the insanely competitive flagship phone arena. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong in establishing and consolidating a reputation as a maker of reliable, robust, and affordable phones first. Just ask Huawei and Xiaomi.



1. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 561; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

If it has telephoto lens upto 1200mm & well optimised camera app like Google camera.Then definitely its a buy for me.

19. Atechguy0

Posts: 918; Member since: Aug 03, 2018

With that many cameras this thing should be able to generate an 80 mp image, especially if all the images are stitched together. But it depends on the each camera. Still if it could generate an 80 mp image, then that is your zoom. If you zoomed in on the 40 mp images from the Nokia 1020. Then those images included a built in zoom as well.

20. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

1200 mm? You sane?

21. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

1200 mm? You sane?

2. GeorgeAF

Posts: 91; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

HMD is being smart. Its better to make a profit by attracting consumers who are loyal to the Nokia brand than to try capture those who have found solace in other brands and make a loss. Build then brand up again, when the world is ready for you, unleash the monster in your basement

3. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Use SD855 + release it in Q1'19 + undercut S10 price

6. yann

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 15, 2010

Why they must lower the price, when Apple and Samsung set the pricetag so high? To lose money? Flagships are not for everyone. At least they are for people with money. Thats the key to success of Apple. Their products cost less than half from final price, but noone complain. At the end Apple have the half of all mobile phone industry profit. Why HMD refuse this profit?

13. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

What a BS? They'll still get profit even with $600 pricetag, (heck, they'll still make money if they sell it for $500). HMD isn't Samsung or Apple, HMD didn't have big loyal fanbase, they can't just sell $1k smartphone and hope it will automatically sell millions of units, only Apple and Samsung could do that. See LG and HTC for example, They try to charge $900 for their new flagships, and do massive price cut soon after, they should have sell it for $700 and get more market share that way. They can get more profit by selling millions of units at $700 than a few hundreds units of $900 smartphones

4. surethom

Posts: 1748; Member since: Mar 04, 2009

Best if they now wait for MWC most Samsung owners are due renewals then so can take some of there share if the price is not to high?

5. meanestgenius

Posts: 22773; Member since: May 28, 2014

HMD is making wise business decisions here. Even though they are using the very well established Nokia name, they are still a young company. Better for them to start off with low to upper mid range smartphones that pack value for money, as opposed to releasing flagship after flagship like many other OEM's do, only to take huge losses. They are also being smart by primarily focusing on the markets where the Nokia brand is strongest, and other markets second. This way, they can maximize their profits. Their strategy is definitely paying off for them, as they are now one of the top 10 global Smartphone makers. Great, quality smartphones and awesome software support. Great job, HMD.

7. Elvis358

Posts: 286; Member since: Mar 25, 2018

It's funny because every one is crying when Nokia will release Nokia 9 smartphone but oky phonearena ,oky...


Posts: 197; Member since: May 28, 2018

Well, we'll see how that strategy pays off

9. japkoslav

Posts: 1553; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

We do not need or technical difficulties? We all know the answer. Money earned by implentation < profit increase.

11. sks1969

Posts: 108; Member since: Mar 04, 2012

I have seen the affordable Nokia's out perform the Chinese brands oppo, vivo and Xioami, in the basics of call quality, battery, regular updates, clean software etc. This is the right move by HMD global

12. Chrusti

Posts: 106; Member since: Jul 25, 2015

I have seen many Nokia devices failing and being totally outperformed by Xiaomi and Huawei.

15. meanestgenius

Posts: 22773; Member since: May 28, 2014

I have seen many Xiaomi devices failing and being outperformed by Nokia and Huawei devices. ;)

16. japkoslav

Posts: 1553; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

17. Sparkxster

Posts: 1260; Member since: Mar 31, 2017

Glad Nokia delayed the 9 now it will definitely come with the snapdragon 855 and they can take the time to make it perfect.

18. johnh3

Posts: 150; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

Nokia 8 Sirocco had a older processor than the current competition. I think it was mistake to release it. But for HMD Global will be able to survive in the long run they must act faster. Nokia X6 and X5 taking forever to reach other markets than just China and India. The Nokia brand is still strong but they cant rely on some nostalgia factor so much longer. I hope we will see some nice Snapdragon 710 device soon. And when Nokia 9 reach the market they had time to make it perfect.

22. Djm626

Posts: 8; Member since: Sep 27, 2018

Very disappointed if this does not happen by years end. With the release of the pixel in several weeks and Samsung and apple sales still going strong if they wait until next year they are going to fail. The market is only going to get tougher as time goes on! They are already talking about a phone with 10 lenses possibly coming next year and here is going to be Nokia with last year's model with next year's pricing. By 2019 every phone manufacturer is going to be using the latest and fastest processor! They have been doing nothing about teasing about a global release for who knows how long now they are begging to sound like the boy who cried wolf! Going to have to go the pixel route as I'm not waiting until 2019 . They had their chances with me and they blew it

23. Djm626

Posts: 8; Member since: Sep 27, 2018

In this competitive market, you have to act and implement quickly if you want to stay above water! Now that this 5 lens camera has been talked about and publicized for some time now, it's only going to put ideas in other brands heads and guess what? They are going to come out with something even more mind blowing while once again HMD is going to be scratching their heads

24. emjoigently

Posts: 154; Member since: Aug 22, 2017

If you do a wild phone like that, it better damn well live up to its promise. The photos better be spectacular. If they are not, they'll be mocked ruthlessly.

25. RoyalMike unregistered

I think we never need a Nokia phone, just stop the bs

26. meanestgenius

Posts: 22773; Member since: May 28, 2014

We never “need” any one brand. To think that is what’s really “BS”. Now want is a different thing entirely. And many want a Nokia branded smartphone. And that’s not BS.

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