MWC 2016: Nokia plans to re-enter smartphone market

Nokia CEO says company could return to the smartphone market as early as this year

Nokia has confirmed it plans on selling smartphones again, nearly two years since it sold its hardware arm to Microsoft for 4.6 billion.

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri announced the Finnish company's intention to return to the sector it once dominated during a press conference at MWC 2016 in Barcelona, Spain, today, according to CNET.

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"There's no timeline, there's no rush," said Suri at the event. "It could happen in 2016, it could happen later."

Nokia, a 150-year-old company, started life in the forestry and power industries before becoming a hit mobile manufacturer during the growth years of the feature phone era in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Mobile phones such as the 3210 and 3310 were ubiquitous consumer devices during their heyday, but the arrival of Apple's first iPhone in 2007 changed Nokia's fortunes and the mobile industry completely.

Failing to keep pace with Apple, Samsung and other rivals, Nokia partnered with Microsoft, ditching its Symbian OS in favour of Windows Phone in 2011. Three years later, Microsoft bought Nokia's mobile division in a doomed bid to belatedly enter the smartphone market.

The deal between the two companies meant Nokia was barred from making smartphones until the second half of 2016, according to VentureBeat.

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Suri hinted that it might return to the smartphone market last summer, saying the company won't produce the phones itself, but license the Nokia brand to a manufacturer.

Today, the CEO told the audience at MWC that Nokia is holding on for the right partner instead of leaping back into the market with a "premium" offering.

But he suggested that Nokia would like to retain a level of creative control.

"We want to be in a position to design the devices in question with appropriate control measures in case they don't meet expectations," he said.

Suri added that he believes Nokia can still make an impact on the modern mobile market, saying: "The recognition of the brand is still very high in all the major markets. We think it's a good business model."

Since being locked out of making devices, Nokia has sold off its mapping business, HERE maps, to German carmakers and has been exploring 5G networks in its home country. It has also announced plans for new datacentres in the UK.

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