Exclusive: HMD lead talks Nokia’s approach to Android

    We sit down with HMD's chief product officer to discuss all things Nokia - old and new

    Last night Nokia in partnership with HMD took the stage at MWC 2017 to announce its comeback into the world of smartphones with Android onboard.

    And this morning I had the opportunity to sit down a bit with HMD’s chief product officer, Juho Sarvikas and talk more about Nokia’s return to smartphones and plans for the upcoming future:

    Hey Juho, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Let’s dive right into it. Nokia just launched three affordable handsets, do you plan to continue focusing on the budget market or do you have plans for a flagship as well? 

    We believe that Nokia belongs to everybody. There reason why we are starting here, at the cheapest, most affordable level (Nokia 3 at €139, Nokia 5 at €189 and Nokia 6 for €229) is that if you look at it globally 45% (ish) of people shop in this segment, so it’s highly relevant. Nokia phones bring qualities that are highly valued by the consumers in this segment, so we believe it’s a great way to start our journey globally.

    How do the new Nokia phones differentiate from all the slew of Android phones out there?

    It’s everything that the brand has always stood for – quality, reliability – all phones feature a robust built quality. So the only thing I’m hoping to achieve right now is once people go to the store they buy their first Nokia Android smartphone and they use it in real life and hold it in their hand they feel the Nokia difference. And then my theory is that it will be like an avalanche where people will start telling their friends “Hey, remember Nokia? Everything that it stood for, the very human nature of Nokia, it’s come back in a very modern way. There’s a new chapter and we hope that many people will join us.

    Your answer bodes well with my next question – what’s the difference between old Nokia and new Nokia?

    It’s one Nokia, this just a new chapter. It comes with the attributes Nokia has stood for like I mentioned. We want to deliver everything that you expect and we’ll do it in a very modern way. So of course now you have Android and we’ve made a very bold statement when we said we have the purest form of Android which will deliver a very simple, clean and fast UI which is what consumers are asking for. So, we’ll be able to roll out timely security updates very effectively for the entire portfolio, so your Nokia is going to be safe. And then we can roll out the latest Google innovation whether it’s a platform release, a service like Google Assistant (yes, the assistant will be available on the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6). We’re in a position to do that fast because we’re thinking differently about how we build our software.

    Why do you think Android is such a good fit for Nokia?

    We ask the consumers. If you look at the market share and you look at how Android is doing then the decision to bring Android on is a natural one. If you think what Google is doing with Android – they are bringing technology to everyone and that’s pretty much what Nokia has always done – basically they believe the same things we believe. It’s been a great partnership so far.

    It almost sounds like Nokia is looking to fill the Nexus void (RIP Nexus). We’ve got premium build, clean Android and affordable price:

    If you consider the Nexus as the best of Android in its purest form we’re kind of doing the same. But I wouldn’t call it stock Android. The reason why I wouldn’t do that is that we’re not using the open source reference designs, we’re using Google mobile services and we’re integrating the latest and greatest services.

    As a last question, I really loved the Nokia N1 tablet with Android. Is there a chance you’re thinking of launching another one?

    I’ll go back to the consumers again. We’re talking to a lot of the new generation, globally. We’re always looking for opportunities to bring out new products, but it depends on what consumers want.