Nokia to return to the smartphone race in 2016 with Android handsets

Nokia N1

Time flies.  It feels like jut a few months ago when Microsoft purchased Nokia’s handset division and with it an exclusive to the Nokia brand name for smartphones till 2016.

It was however more than 2 years ago, and 2016 is rapidly rushing on towards us, and with that it seems Nokia’s plans to reclaim its brand for smartphones by re-entering the market.

Today Re/code reports that Nokia aims to rejoin the phone market that year, according to information from multiple sources.

Its Nokia Technologies division has already released two Android products in the form of its critically acclaimed called Zlauncher and the N1, an Android tablet design it licensed to another manufacturer that is selling it under the Nokia name in China.

“They have a lot of great stuff in development,” said Richard Kerris, a former Nokia executive who also consulted for the company until last year as part of his last startup. “It gave me complete confidence that Nokia is a company that is not going away.”

The company is also rumoured to be working on Virtual Reality related designs, and Kerris said people will be blown away if some of the stuff he saw comes to market.

Nokia Technologies own 10,000 patents and is actively working on developing and licensing more.

Nokia has also been hiring new staff, and  last year recruited former Dolby Labs executive Ramzi Haidamus as its president and last week hired longtime Cisco executive Guido Jouret to be its chief technology officer.

The news is somewhat at odds with Nokia’s recent $16.6 billion re-commitment to its carrier network business after its purchase of Alcatel-Lucent, but Nokia have stated it continues to have “a clear focus on incubating new technologies and sharing those technologies through an active licensing program,” suggesting its handset ambitions remain.

Nokia promised it is “expanding into exciting new areas … with a focus on enabling the human possibilities of the connected world” but said it won’t have more to say on that until a later date.

It remains to be seen how Nokia’s return to the smartphone market will impact Windows Phone.  With Windows Phone’s strongest markets being Europe, India, Latin America and South East Asia it is clear Nokia’s legacy is still driving the operating system.  On the other hand Microsoft has managed to maintain its momentum very well in the smartphone market despite recent moves to drop the Nokia brand name, and it may be that for Nokia it is now much too late to reclaim their old audience.

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