Will we see Nokia’s new phones at Slush?

Yes. Yes, we will. At least, that’s what I think.

Nokia at Slush 2014.

Nokia at Slush 2014. Photo by Jussi Hellsten via Slush Media.

We have known that Nokia is returning to the mobile device market for some time. Their complicated deal with HMD Global and FIH Mobile showed that they were planning to get back into the water, but up until now details have been lacking. I think that is about to change.

There are more leaks, more rumours and more hints that Nokia is finally going to show their hand. Mike Wang, a Nokia executive in China, has been quoted as saying three or four new devices will be unveiled by the end of 2016. These are rumoured to be two feature phones and two smart phones.

Nokia’s dwindling fan base might be cheered at their return to the mobile market, but in a way Nokia never left it. They have dabbled with apps like Z Launcher and even released the N1 tablet in the Chinese market.

I think their recent past shows what we can expect from these new devices. We will see Android devices aimed at Chinese consumers. They will probably expand in other developing countries, but we shouldn’t expect anything in the West at this point. There are no hints from retailers or operators in Western Europe that new Nokia devices are coming. America, of course, is out of the question. Apple owns the high end of the US market while Samsung takes the bulk of the rest. Nokia has a long and distinguished history of failing in North America.

These new devices will be slightly differentiated by the Nokia brand name, perhaps an updated version of the Z Launcher and better than average optics. They will basically be commodity products. This was my opinion previously, and I see no reason to change it now.

Nokia unveiling the N1 at Slush 2014.

Nokia unveiling the N1 at Slush 2014. Photo by Jussi Hellsten via Slush Media.

But why do I think we will see something at Slush Helsinki? First, they have hinted that we will see something before the end of 2016. Secondly, there are some curious gaps in the Slush agenda which make me think Nokia might have reserved time. Finally, there is precedent: Nokia launched the N1 tablet at Slush in 2014. I think Nokia would prefer their announcement at their home turf. They would undoubtedly get an enthusiastic reception, just like they got for the N1. The Slush crowd is notoriously loud and boisterous, but I have never heard them cheer like they did for the N1.

I must put in a caveat, though. I understand that things are coming down to the wire and Nokia might not yet be prepared to show off their new devices. This is why the Slush agenda does not yet list Nokia as a presenter. CEO Rajeev Suri will be a keynote speaker at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February. If Nokia is not ready in time for Slush I believe the announcement will come at MWC.

In my book The Decline and Fall of Nokia I was unabashedly fond of Nokia. Perhaps why I was so critical of their mistakes was because I am fond of them. Sometimes we are less forgiving of people – or companies – we genuinely like. We expect more of them and hold them to a higher standard, so I really hope Nokia gets it right this time. Maybe if things go well they will eventually enter developed markets as well. I love my Samsung smartphone, but I would drop it in a heartbeat for an excellent Nokia.

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