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Nokia’s big comeback: Watches, bathroom scales, a 3310 PR gimmick, Snake, erm...

And bargain-basement phones. Wow

MWC Nokia held its long-anticipated phone comeback in Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Art – while treating us to an archaeological virtual tour through Nokia’s own ancient history.

This was a full frontal assault by Nokia: the HMD venture, which has a 10-year licence to use Nokia’s brand on phones, isn’t just some remote outpost staffed by dimwitted cousins of the family. HMD received the full backing of Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri today, who explained the venture was just one part of a Nokia return into consumer electronics.

Another part is Withings, the “smart analog” watch and bathroom scales and blood pressure monitor maker that Nokia acquired last year. A Withings watch is an analog timepiece with only a bit of “smart” in it, and it lasts weeks, not hours. Henceforth, Withings gear will now be branded Nokia gear.

Suri explained that while today most of Nokia’s revenue comes from business-to-business stuff and networks, it wants “to be closer to the customer”. And squeeze some life into dormant intangible assets.

Suri says a licensee such as HMD should be “indistinguishable” from an internal Nokia unit. However, this will be put the test if HMD’s Android push runs into trouble. Will HMD’s private equity investors and Foxconn be asked to help out with more capital, or Nokia shareholders? We’ll see.

As expected, HMD offered no surprises. We’d surmised they had been targeting the low-end in emerging markets, and that is exactly what it is doing. HMD unveiled three budget Nokia Androids, and one retro classic PR stunt: the Nokia 3310, a surprise announcement which was spoiled when it was leaked a few days ago.

Yes, HMD has even kept the name 3310.

The ‘droids are the Nokia 3, 5, and 6. The 6 had already been announced, bizarrely, in China on a Sunday morning. They’re priced at €139, €189, and a piano black version of the 6, for Europe, at €299. This is where WileyFox has pitched its tent. Anyone hoping against hope for a surprise, or some of that old magic, will be disappointed.

And don’t get too excited about the 3310, though, which is best thought of as an homage to an old favourite. Really, it’s the same 2G cheapie that Nokia’s feature phone division has never stopped knocking out, as owners came and went. This team, by the way, deserves some kind of medal for endurance: it survived the Elop era at Nokia, the Ballmer acquisition, and the Nadella bloodbath. But people never stopped buying feature phones that last a month between charges, and survive heat and dust. Of course, it runs Snake… and, of course, it’s a PR gimmick.

It's a Nokia 3. Or a 5. Or maybe a 6. No ... we're sure it's a 3.

So Nokia is back, but not in a way to set pulses racing. The brand carries a lot of goodwill, but it’s also possible to burn through a lot of money in the cut-throat Android market, selling a lot of phones for very little margin. Huawei told us today that it was leaving the £100 market to others – it doesn’t need the hassle. So, who knows?

For more details and specs of the four new devices, head over here. ®

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