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You won't believe this: Nokia soars back into phone-flinger top 3

Brand recognition and stock Android. Is the gamble paying off?

HMD's Nokia-branded Androids haven't exactly got reviewers raving – but they are shifting in decent numbers. Counterpoint reckons HMD sold 4.4 million Nokias in the final three months of 2017, with total sales to date topping around 10 million. That's enough to put it in the UK Top 3 again, analyst Neil Shah reckons.

Globally in Q4, Shah estimates Nokias outsold Sony and HTC.

Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's phone division permitted the Finnish parent company to reuse the Nokia brand on smartphones from the end of 2015. A new entity named HMD was assembled, and its first phones were unveiled at MWC last year.

"There's money in brand licensing when the technology brand retains trust and an emotional appeal," we wrote at the time.

It's too early to say if shipments have translated to money, but the brands market presence is at its highest in years.

The 10 million cumulative total was estimated by long-time Nokia tormentor Tomi Ahonen.

HMD's strategy was to build volume in emerging markets to access lower component costs that come from greater economies of scale. It didn't launch with a UK flagship until the tail end of last year. (We found the Nokia 8 to be a respectable stock Android with few surprises. Well. No surprises.)

Is it enough? Speaking to us about this a year ago, CCS Insight's Ben Wood reckoned that if HMD could hit annual shipments of around 80 million in 2019 it would be back in the game. With a run rate of 5 million a quarter, there's some way to go.

The sales numbers undoubtedly prove demand has remained for a no-frills stock Android with a trusted brand behind it.

Earlier this year, HMD acquired the rights to use Nokia's old Asha brand. Ashas were souped-up Series 40 phones which briefly enjoyed a good reputation in India, until Androids became affordable at rock-bottom prices. Nokia was then, ironically, forced to launch its own de-Googlified Android platform while the acquisition by Microsoft was being completed – one of the more surreal launches your reporter has attended. ®

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