Nokia is making its way back, initially announcing that it's going to be embracing Android and producing a number of smartphones and tablets over the coming years in May, with reaffirmation of its position in December.
Nokia's story has more twists and turns than a mountain pass, with an equal number of ups and downs. The announcement that we'll be seeing Nokia-branded phones once again is certainly exciting, so we'll be keeping our ear to the ground and reporting on all the different strands of this story.
So with that in mind, what's the story on Nokia's return to consumer smartphones and what do we want to see?
Nokia Android phones: Two handsets lines rumoured
- Mid-range Nokia D1C
- Flagship Nokia P1
First up, there's rumours that Nokia is working on two (or more) handsets lines and these are said to be in the prototyping stage.
There are some codenames floating around, like Nokia D1C, first thought to be a tablet, but now considered to be a mid-range phone, said to come in two sizes - 5.0 and 5.5-inch sizes, although some are saying 5.2 and 5.5 inches.
The more exciting might be the Nokia P1, which is thought to be the flagship. Again, there's talk of two sizes again, although the water is very murky at the moment.
Both names are a little abstract and there's very little information to go on here, so take it with a pinch of salt.
Nokia Android phones: Colourful Lumia design?
- IP68 protection suggested
- Metal build rumoured
In terms of design, it's said that the Nokia Android phones will offer a premium metal design. Nokia isn't especially well known for metal design - unlike someone like HTC. That said, the last Nokia-branded Android device we saw was the Nokia N1. The Nokia N1 was a Foxconn-built tablet, and it's a Foxconn subsidiary that Nokia has partnered with for the return of its devices.
In terms of details, apart from metal, there's been talk of IP68 water and dust protection in the Nokia P1 flagship device.
However, when Nokia started churning out Lumia handsets, there was one thing that made them stand apart: colour. No one else was making devices in colours other than black or silver, perhaps gold, or a special edition pink. Meanwhile Nokia was giving us neons with punch and verve. We're certainly hoping that we see these things again.
But alongside those colours, Nokia has produced some phones that feel great and look great, without going all-out metal, like many of current flagships. On the design side, we'd certainly expect a feel that takes us back to some of the Nokia greats of the past, and even some of those more interesting Lumia devices before Microsoft Devices took over.
Nokia Android phones: We want PureView camera wizardry
Currently there's little word on what to expect from the cameras on forthcoming-Nokia devices - except passing mention of a 22.6-megapixel camera and that the P1 would have an advanced camera.
Nokia's Symbian swansong before this whole Microsoft thing was the 808 PureView. In some ways this was demonstrative of everything that was going wrong at Nokia, presenting a slightly under-specced phone that was too expensive, sitting on an operating system that lacked the consumer ease of the iPhone and the maturing Android (we're talking 2012, remember the burning platform?)
But it gave us the 41-megapixel PureView camera and that trumped everything else around at the time. PureView, with Zeiss lenses, continued into the Lumia line and the next big hit was the Lumia 1020, again punching hard with the camera in 2013.
The smartphone camera game has changed in the last few years, but there's still a lot to play for. Camera performance still gets top billing from all manufacturers - Apple gives its iPhone launch over to camera demos, Samsung does the same - so there's everything to play for.
As we mention below, there's talk of 16 or 13-megapixel cameras in the Nokia D1C, with an 8-megpixel front camera.
Nokia Android phones: Hardware specs
- Nokia D1C: Full HD, Snapdragon 430, 2/3GB RAM, 16GB storage
- Nokia P1: Quad HD, Unknown
The details are rather unsubstantial at the moment and there's little that can be independently verified. Currently there are only a few sources claiming information on future Nokia devices, meaning you need to take this all with a pinch of salt.
Nokia D1C specs
The Nokia D1C, if pitched into the mid-range, is likely to offer a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, with two display sizes rumoured at 5.2 and 5.5-inches.
In terms of hardware, it's thought that the Nokia D1C will offer a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chipset, fitting its mid-range position, with one device offering 2GB RAM and the other offering 3GB RAM. The storage is rumoured to be 16GB.
It also follows that the larger D1C will have a 16-mega pixel camera and the smaller a 13-megapixel camera, with both offering an 8-megapixel front camera.
While these specs don't sound unrealistic, we're not sure if Nokia will dive in and offer so much variance, as it means more hardware and configurations to support.
Nokia P1 specs
There's less to go on for the rumoured flagship device, the Nokia P1. There's a possibility that the P1 will come in different sizes too, although a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 resolution display will put this device in flagship contention.
The Nokia P1 will likely opt for something more powerful under the hood like the Snapdragon 835, a new chipset for 2017, but there's been nothing said of substance to suggest what it might offer.
We would hope for all the convenience features like USB Type-C, microSD card support and hardware powerful enough to take advantage of some of Nokia's other interests, like VR. With Google's new Daydream VR platform due to launch later in 2016, we hope that Nokia will be jumping on board.
Nokia Android phones: Nougat fronted with Z launcher?
- Android Nougat
- Nokia customisations
Despite jumping off the Symbian train and falling into the Windows Phone quagmire, one of the details that Nokia has publicly confirmed is that it's working on Android devices. The Nokia N1 tablet was also Android, but otherwise Nokia isn't really known for its Android devices.
However, that didn't stop BlackBerry making the jump off its own sinking platform. BlackBerry managed to introduce plenty of lovely Android features on the Priv, proving that you don't need to have a long history with a software platform to be able to innovate with it.
Nokia did release a launcher for Android called Z Launcher. This launcher would let you scribble to find apps to save you digging into the apps tray to get what you want. It's likely that we'll see a full range of Nokia innovations when its Android phones surface.
Nokia Android phones: Release date
- Confirmed for H1 2017
- HMD has a stand at MWC 2017
Nokia hasn't officially confirmed when Android devices might be hitting the market, but it was reported that the target was for the end of Q4 2016. That timeline was credited to a Nokia exec talking to the media in China, but as 2016 draws to a close, it seems very unlikely that we'll see anything from the new company so soon.
For Nokia to make a big bang, the most obvious time to do so would be at Mobile World Congress 2017, in February. The company has stated that it will be targeting H1 2017, i.e., the first half of 2017.
That would give HMD (the company producing phones under the Nokia brand) time to make an appearance at Mobile World Congress 2017 and launch to market well within the first half of 2017. Fortunately, we already know that HMD will be at MWC, because the company will have a stand there.
And finally: what happened to Microsoft and Nokia?
The Nokia and Microsoft smartphone dalliance we'll put down to a nasty affair. With Nokia realising that it was falling behind, it embraced Windows Phone with the Lumia line.
Soon the Lumia line was pretty much all there was to Windows Phone and Microsoft took over. The Nokia name was dropped, Microsoft Devices ruled the roost and several Microsoft Lumia devices followed.
That hasn't really worked out so well, so Microsoft has sold off some of the Nokia business it acquired, a new company has been formed called HMD (staffed by ex-Nokia and ex-Microsoft people), Nokia has granted a brand license to this company to make smartphones and tablets, and that's how this messy break-up will play out.
Nokia has said, however, that it's going to be keeping a close eye on things to make sure that everything carrying the Nokia name meets the standards you expect, which is an important point, leading to a new generation of Nokia smartphones.