It may not be long before the fabled Nokia of yesteryear makes a triumphant return. According to a report in Nokia Power User, two Nokia-branded Android handsets are bound for an unveiling in late 2016 or early 2017.
“Trusted sources” told the publication that the two handsets, one smaller (5.2 inches) and one larger (5.5 inches), have “sturdy” metal bodies characteristic of Nokia’s historical designs. And one of their rumored features has the potential to break new smartphone ground: cameras, the “most sensitive ever” to come to market, that are reportedly the product of a years-long, $1.35 billion graphene development effort. Another reported innovation is a “touch & hover” interaction that might, much like Microsoft’s scrapped McLaren project, use a combination of sensors to respond to finger gestures.
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Other highlights include water and dust resistance up to IP68, fingerprint sensors, and OLED displays with QHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) resolutions. In terms of software, the handsets will reportedly sport an improved version of Nokia’s predictive Z-Launcher — a newer version than the beta available in the Google Play app store, apparently — atop the very latest version of Android, Android Nougat.
Assuming the report is accurate, it won’t be Nokia at the helm of the forthcoming devices’ development, technically speaking. HMD Global, a Finnish company co-founded by former Nokia executives Arto Nummela and Florian Seiche, acquired the rights the company’s mobile brand from Microsoft in May. HDM has a contract with FIH, a subsidiary of iPhone manufacturer Foxconn, and under a strict licensing partnership, follows Nokia’s design and hardware guidelines in exchange for access to the company’s extensive patent library.
News of new handsets is consistent with HMD Global’s stated intentions. In May, the company promised a range of devices, including feature phones, smartphones, and tablets, in late 2016.
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In recent years, Nokia has struggled to gain a foothold in the high-end mobile market. Following the company’s adoption of Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system in 2011 and its acquisition by Microsoft in 2014, sales of its handset suffered — shipments in 2013 alone were down 22 percent year on year, according to Strategy Analytics.
And following Nokia’s divestiture from its parent company earlier this year, things haven’t looked much better. In April, thanks in part to lower-than-expected smartphone shipments, it announced 900 million euros in downsizing measures — a plan which partially involves the layoffs of 1,400 staff members in Germany, 1,300 in Finland, and 400 in France.
Despite the Finnish company’s woes, though, it’s setting its eyes on the future. It has teamed up independently with Foxconn to produce the N1, an Android-based tablet. It has dipped its toes in virtual reality with the Ozo, a $60,000 professional-grade 360-degree camera. And it’s getting into fitness, too: it acquired French fitness device company Withings this year.
“We have been reinventing ourselves for 150 years using this amazing brand,” Ramzi Haidamus, president of Nokia’s consumer Nokia Technologies division, told Digital Trends in June. “We’re starting to focus on people’s happiness and health in a way that wasn’t possible before because the technology wasn’t possible before. You can expect some really surprising products in the next year or two directly from this company as we turn a new chapter.”