It is not always that we get see the CEOs of major phone makers take a detour to Kenya. HMD Global, the exclusive brand licensee that makes the current Nokia phones has been trying to revive the name of the once key player in the mobile telephony space. Its presence in the Kenyan market can be tied to both nostalgia and the robustness of its devices, ranging from generally good hardware and some of the best software support you can get from an Android device.
Florian Seiche, HMD Global CEO passed through Nairobi this week, where he met some members of the media for a chat. In the brief moment he was here, Florian, who was in the company of other executives, including Justin Maier and Jean-Francois Baril who serve as the VP Sub-Saharan Africa and Executive Chairman, respectively, reiterated HDM’s strategy: push the popularity of its devices in growing markets, having secured a solid footing in Europe.
Nokia has also been selling feature phones in a world that is quickly ditching dumb devices for smart replacements. Some of the feature handhelds such as the Nokia 3310 from 2017 are a remake of near two-decades-old releases that sold hundreds of millions at that time. Florian says that Nokia is the world’s second manufacturer with 16 percent of market share in feature phones. It, however, failed to make a cut in the top 10 smartphone segment that included the likes of Samsung and Huawei, among other Chinese OEMs.
The 2020 edition of the Mobile World Congress will be staged in March in Barcelona, Spain. As it has been the case, Nokia will make an appearance with important announcements, but the CEO did not hint what we should expect from the show.
Last year, Nokia made many announcements, including many budget options that have since made their way to Kenya, as well as the Nokia 9 Pureview that we have a love-hate relationship with.
Based on what we have gathered from rumours, it is unlikely that the 9 will see its successor released anytime soon. The device was released with a year-old chipset when its competitors rocked faster internals.
It also cements the agenda for Nokia: if it wants to make a name in many markets, then its forte is simply the budget and mid-tier space because the high-end market is a tough nut to crack as it has come to learn with the lacklustre response to the 9 Pureview.
In addition, Sub-Saharan Africa has helped the likes of Transsion thrive because people love their phones cheap. Nokia may have the upper hand here because its offerings have better value than the competition, especially in the manner it handles updates.
We are looking forward to what the company will have in place, but I won’t be surprised if high-end releases miss the show for successors of the current crop of the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 versions.
Of course, 5G had to come up. To begin with, Nokia is a communications company that has its toes deep in the design and deployment of modern telecommunication technologies. In fact, the company was invited to test 5G services in India. Secondly, 5G is one of the hottest buzz words right now as was AI in 2019. Obviously, Florian had to mention HMD’s plan in that direction.
To this end, Nokia says it will release a 5G device during 2020. Heck, it might even show up at MWC. This will not be a surprise because other manufacturers have released 5G-capable smartphones.
However, it should be noted that the space is still developing and buying a 5G phone, besides making a hole in your pocket, is useless unless you are in the USA or some other first-world country. But still…
HMD wants to make Nokia a household name in Kenya. Will it get there? Maybe. It made a mistake when it sold its business to Microsoft, but that misstep is being fixed.
I still think that the company’s feature phones are overpriced in a space that has cheaper dumbphones from Transsion. Its smartphone department, is, by its own standards, doing okay. It replaces phones with newer and better models in a timely manner, and even older devices are graced with major updates. You don’t get to see that every day.
2020 is filled to be brim with promise, and we will see how HMD will take advantage of that.
In the meantime, has your Nokia been updated according to this roadmap?