Nokia is back in China, now with Android.
The century-old Finnish company has announced its latest smartphone model, the Nokia 6, will be available only in China by early 2017. HMD, Nokia's authorized phone distributor, posted an announcement on its website Sunday, saying "more to come in H1 2017." This clearly signified Nokia's ambition to rise again and reclaim its position as a leading global phone maker.
Screenshot of Nokia's web introduction of Nokia 6 on January 9, 2016. /Nokia
Nokia faded away as a smartphone builder after selling its mobile phone manufacturing division to Microsoft in April 2014. The deal was agreed after a years-long cooperation with the software giant, in which Nokia installed Microsoft's mobile operating system (OS) in nearly all its smartphones, isolating itself from most non-Apple smartphone makers that chose Google's Android as their main mobile OS.
Nokia's Lumia phones, with Windows Mobile OS installed in 2014. /CFP Photo
This cooperation was considered a failure by many, as the OS never achieved market majority, and Nokia's market share dropped so much that some statistics had to include the brand in "others" when compared to Samsung and Apple.
Some argued that Nokia should have chosen Android as soon as it decided to give up its own mobile OS, the Symbian, which hasn't been updated since October 2012.
A Chinese user taking notes while holding an Nokia feature phone in April 2016. /CFP Photo
As the once dominant player in the world cellphone market, Nokia's popularity in China remained for years even after iOS and Android were introduced to the country. According to US marketing agency IDC, Nokia occupied 24.3 percent of China's smartphone market in the first quarter of 2011, ranking number one before Apple — that's more than half a year after the iPhone 4 started selling in the country.
Nokia is still considered the best phone maker in terms of build quality by many in China. There are widespread memes among Chinese phone users about the solidity of Nokia devices. A quick example: when someone accidentally dropped a Nokia phone on the ground, Nokia fans may joke "OMG, don't break the Earth!" instead of worrying about the device itself. Some Nokia fans believe that even if the phone breaks into parts, it's still highly likely to function as normal after being put back together. Another famous joke in China: "A Nokia phone is the best artifact to crack walnuts."
Web picture showing a Nokia N95 smartphone used to crack walnuts. The model was released in 2007.
But will Nokia's new Android phone be as tough? Today's smartphones are commonly equipped with large touchscreens covered by glass, nearly all of which is Corning's Gorilla Glass. Nokia 6 is no exception. So we can't expect the glass to be any less likely to crack than on any other phone. Can Nokia build a more solid phone, while using exactly the same glass? It remains to be tested.
Not the 1st Nokia Android
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop holds up the Nokia X at its unveiling in Barcelona, February 24, 2014. The model has Android pre-installed. / CFP Photo
Nokia's claim that its 6 is "the first Nokia smartphone powered by Android" is questionable, given that the company introduced an Android phone, the Nokia X, during the Mobile World Congress in February 2014. Nokia considers the X as a feature phone, however, and the product line was scrapped soon after Microsoft acquired the company's mobile manufacturing business in April 2014.