By Eric Auchard and Jussi Rosendahl
BARCELONA/HELSINKI (Reuters) – Seeking to capitalize on their comeback over the past year, the makers of Nokia phones are expanding to include a premium Android smartphone, their first, and a remake of one of its biggest hits of the 1990s, the 8110 “slider” phone.
Set up by ex-Nokia executives who have licensed the famous brand, HMD Global — as the year-old company is known — has focused on mid-priced Androids and even sub-$100-priced phones since entering the smartphone market.
Chief Executive Florian Seiche said HMD has sold around 30 million phones after introducing 11 new phone models over the past year. On Sunday, it announced two new models, plus refreshed versions of three phones first offered last year.
“We feel great about the momentum we had in 2017 and that gives us the confidence to double down in 2018,” Seiche told reporters at a briefing in London ahead of the product launch.
Mobile phone market tracker Counterpoint Research said Nokia phones surged during 2017 to become the world’s No. 1 seller of low-cost feature phones and No. 11 in smartphones after only entering the market last year. On a combined basis, Nokia now ranks as the No. 6 mobile phone seller, Counterpoint calculates.
HMD’s strategy is to use distribution partnerships with 600 top mobile operators and retailers in selected markets around the world to offer reliable, affordable products with the latest innovations, plus monthly Google security updates on all phones.
Europe remains the biggest region for Nokia phones sales, Seiche said; India, Russia and Indonesia are its biggest country markets.
The Nokia 8 is the company’s flagship phone, priced at 749 euros ($920.75) and designed to compete with Samsung’s and Huawei’s premium models. A new, 4G-ready version of Nokia’s 8110 is priced at 79 euros ($97).
Nokia 8 is available in April, the revamped 8110 in May. The 1990s throwback model comes in two color choices, classic black or banana yellow, a play on how its keyboard slid out, inspiring the nickname “banana phone”.
Nokia Corp, once the world’s dominant phone maker, sold its handset business to Microsoft in 2014 and is now focused on telecom network equipment.
HMD took over the Nokia feature phone business from Microsoft in 2016 and struck a deal with Nokia Oyj to use the brand on smartphones.
(Editing by Larry King)