This week marks the second anniversary of the Nokia name’s return to smartphones under HMD Global. We’ve seen a slew of smartphones from HMD since then, ranging from entry-level devices to high-powered flagships.
It’s easy to dismiss HMD Global as a mere pretender and brand licensee. After all, it’s not the real Nokia, right? Here’s why the company should be seen as a proper spiritual successor to Nokia.
A ton of former Nokia employees
One thing you might not know about HMD Global is many of its executives were actually former Nokia employees. Whether it’s current CEO Florian Seiche (a former Nokia Europe executive) or the company’s design directors, there are loads of HMD people with “Nokia” on their resumes.
Heck, it even surprised me when the regional PR people were employees I had previously known when they were at Nokia. Of course, the presence of a large number of former Nokia employees doesn’t guarantee anything. However, there are people at the company who get why consumers bought Nokia phones in the first place.
Nokia design DNA
One of Nokia’s trademarks was its durable and premium designs, and HMD has certainly delivered here. You need only take a look at the Nokia 8 Sirocco to see some Nokia DNA, but even the firm’s low-end devices maintain that philosophy. It’s hardly a surprise, given how some senior Nokia designers work at HMD, but it’s welcome to see anyway.
The company also issued two retro reboots in the Nokia 3310 and Nokia 8110, and it’s tough to argue that they don’t look like something the “real” Nokia would’ve done today. (Now, about those ridiculous prices.)
The Nokia camera experience
If there was one unique selling point for Nokia Lumia phones, it was the camera experience. Back then, Nokia had been teaming up with Carl Zeiss in order to deliver better camera lenses. The firm also offered features like refocusing and cinemagraphs before most other OEMs picked up these features.
Arguably the most influential addition has to be the inclusion of a Pro Camera mode in Lumia phones. This delivered manual adjustments (ISO, shutter speed) before Android supported it. It was all packaged in a very intuitive wheel-based menu.
We’ve seen LG adopt a similar UI for its manual mode in the years that followed, but HMD Global went the whole hog and acquired the patents for the UI last year. Now all Zeiss-equipped HMD Nokia phones have the same Pro Camera UI seen on older Nokia devices.
A focus on audio recording
The Finnish company’s phones, like the Lumia 1520 and Nokia 808, were audio recording beasts. This was due to the multiple high-quality microphones in each phone that delivered solid, distortion-free sound at a time when rival phones struggled with loud audio.
The Nokia 8 shows HMD Global hasn’t forgotten about audio capabilities, featuring three microphones and Nokia’s OZO recording tech for 360-degree surround sound recording. This audio setup has also landed on devices like the Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco, giving you better audio recording in theory than many rival devices.
What more could HMD do?
HMD Global has focused on the design and camera performance of its devices, showing it understands what made Nokia a popular choice in the first place. The company’s job isn’t done yet, though.
For starters, we know the Finnish company obtained the Pureview name from Microsoft and Nokia earlier this year, suggesting more camera improvements are afoot (although Pureview was a brand name used for Nokia phones rather than a specific technology).
We also have to wonder when we’ll see a device truly manage to combine the best of Nokia and HMD. The Nokia 8 Sirocco demonstrated the firm’s design chops, but we thought the camera experience should’ve been better for the price. HMD has a ways to go to truly succeed Nokia and challenge the likes of Google, Samsung, Huawei, and Apple’s cameras.
Hopefully that oft-rumored penta-lens smartphone isn’t just a gimmick.