Chinese experts on Sunday expressed doubts about the prospects of a successful comeback for Nokia in the Chinese market with just the launch of an Android smartphone, saying the market has become too competitive and mature in recent years.
HMD Global, a Finnish company that secured exclusive rights to Nokia branding last year, announced on Sunday the launch of Nokia's first smartphone, the Nokia 6, exclusively in the Chinese market.
The Nokia 6 will be available in early 2017 through online shopping platform JD.com at 1,699 yuan ($245.61), HMD Global said in a press release. The new smartphone will have an aluminum unibody design, a 5.5-inch screen and 4GB RAM and 64 GB storage that runs the latest version of Android Nougat, according to the press release.
"The Nokia 6 marks the first step in HMD's ambition to set a new standard in design, material quality and manufacturing innovation across every tier of its products by building on the hallmarks of a true Nokia phone experience," the press release said, adding there will be more to come in the first half of 2017.
HMD said it chose to launch its first Android smartphone in China because of the market's strategic importance.
"With more than 552 million smartphone users in China in 2016, a figure that is predicted to grow to more than 593 million users by 2017, it is a strategically important market where premium design and quality is highly valued by consumers," it said.
However, Nokia's move in the smartphone business might be a little too late, especially in the Chinese market, which has become so competitive and mature over the years with the rise of many domestic brands, experts noted.
"There is basically no chance [for Nokia]," Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Institute, a mobile Internet consulting agency, told the Global Times on Sunday. "Especially, in that price range, there is no way Nokia will be successful."
Zhang said Nokia's strategy to step into the lower level segment of smartphones with prices under 2,000 yuan might have been a mistake. Nokia did have a good reputation among Chinese consumers who were born in the 1960s and 1970s, he pointed out, but the younger generations are more familiar with newer brands such as Huawei, Xiaomi and other domestic brands, which dominate the lower segment of the smartphone market.
Furthermore, Nokia lacks a long-term strategy in the smartphone business in China, according to Li Chengdong, a Beijing-based independent analyst.
"I sincerely doubt the real intent of Nokia in the smartphone business, given its previous decisions to steer away from the sector," Li told the Global Times on Sunday.
He said that the company's decision to launch the Nokia 6 in the Chinese market might be result of "some Chinese companies' active pursuit to take advantage of the Nokia brand.
"This appears to be a short-term arrangement for Nokia and (its Chinese partners) and they are being very cautious, but there is no way it will succeed," Li said, adding that long-term strategies in product design, marketing, branding and other areas are necessary.
Still, launching the Nokia 6 in the Chinese market might be a low-risk step for the company, because the Chinese market is big and diverse enough to digest these smartphones if their prices fall after an initial sales failure, Zhang said.