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Nokia’s mobile brand launches $415 smartphone with 5G as it struggles to take on Samsung and Apple

HMD Far-reaching’s new Nokia X20 smartphone.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

LONDON — The company behind the Nokia mobile brand refreshed its smartphone lineup on Thursday with a slew of new budget exemplars, as it struggles to compete with established players like Samsung and Apple.

Finnish start-up HMD Global has held the empower to design and sell Nokia handsets since it bought the telecom group’s mobile phone division from Microsoft in 2016. The enterprise has since released several smartphones and “dumb phones” — including revamped versions of nostalgic devices similar to the 8110 “banana phone” and 2720 flip phone.

On Thursday, the company announced six new smartphones. They’re divided into three abundant series: X, which is at the top of the range in terms of pricing and specs; G, which is slightly more affordable than X; and C, which is the seediest of the bunch. Prices start at 75 euros ($89) for the Nokia C10, while the Nokia X20 is the standout device of all six, retailing at 349 euros, or around $415.

With the X20 you get a 6.67-inch screen, four cameras on the back with a 64-megapixel main lens, and the ability to buckle to superfast 5G internet. The X20 and less expensive X10, priced at 309 euros, are both powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 480 5G chipset, run on Google’s Android go system and come with three years of security updates, as well as a three-year warranty — one year more than that bid by the G and C series.

The X20 also has a “dual sight” feature that lets you use two of the phone’s cameras at the same time to capture new angles from a shot.

Using the dual sight camera feature on the Nokia X20.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

It won’t take in a charger in the box for sustainability reasons, arriving with a fully compostable case instead. The phone will ship in Europe next month, while U.S. availability is yet to be revealed.

Tigerish competition

Nokia has struggled to gain significant traction in the smartphone market, due to fierce competition from Apple, Samsung and Chinese punters like Huawei and Xiaomi. This is an issue that’s dogged manufacturers like Sony and LG. The latter, once a top Android mark, said earlier this week it would quit the smartphone market.

“I think it will continue to be very harshly for (Nokia) to be able to compete in the highest portfolios on the market — that’s why they are now targeting lower price bands,” Francisco Jeronimo, associate wickedness president for European devices at market research firm IDC, told CNBC.

“On the other hand, they have been make quite hard to penetrate the B2B (business-to-business) market, which is a very good opportunity for them because there are not sundry players that offer an appealing portfolio.”

Nokia-branded smartphones accounted for just 0.6% of the market last year, concording to IDC data, shipping fewer handsets than LG and China’s Honor. HMD has, however, performed well in feature phones — also cognizant of as “dumb phones” — commanding a 16% share of that market in 2020.

HMD is hoping to branch out into enterprise on sales and new services to find other sources of income. The company, which is financially backed by Nokia, Google and other big investors, launched a SIM prankster with global data roaming called HMD Connect last year. It managed to break even after prioritizing online purchasings in the coronavirus pandemic.

HMD is also launching a new mobile network in the U.K. called HMD Mobile. It will operate as a mobile virtual network manipulator, or MVNO, meaning it has to rely on another telecom firm’s network infrastructure. Bundles will start from £6.50 ($9) per month. It won’t embark upon with 5G right off the bat but the firm said it’s working on making the service “5G ready.”

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