Nokia returns to smartphones at long last, but you can't buy it (and probably don't want to)

The first new Nokia handset created under the HMD Global umbrella will be a budget phone only available in China.

In December, Finland-based HMD Global announced to some fanfare that its first Nokia-branded Android handsets would be landing in early 2017. Less than 10 days into the new year, the first model has already arrived, but those in the U.S. looking to get their hands on the first Nokia phone in years will have to wait a little longer.

If the Nokia 6, as HMD is calling it, is any indication of what’s to come from its licensing deal, there isn’t too much to get excited about. Squarely aimed at the budget market, the phone features a 5.5-inch LCD screen, 4GB of RAM, a 16MP camera, 64GB of storage, and a 3,000 mAh battery. Under the screen is a Snapdragon 430 processor, and while the phone does run Nougat, it remains to be seen what kind of skin HMD has applied to it. It will sell for around $250 in an exclusive deal with China’s Jingdong Mall online shop. The My Nokia Blog also also uncovered a commercial for the phone.

But while these phones are emblazoned with the name Nokia below the camera, they are not true Nokia phones. Back when Microsoft bought the company in 2014, it tried to revive the Lumia brand with a line of Windows Phone handsets, but they failed to make much headway in the market. Then in February of last year, HMD licensed the rights to use the Nokia name in a 10-year deal. While Microsoft still sells Lumia phones, they no longer fly under the Nokia flag, and the future of both brands is murky at best.

In a press release announcing the Nokia 6, Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer at HMD, touted the phone’s China exclusivity but also hinted at future products from the company: “We have set ourselves a mission to deliver the best possible smartphone experience, with a beautiful premium design touch, to everyone, at every price point,” he said. “The Nokia 6 marks the first step on our journey, with more to come in 2017.”

Why this matters: Back before phones were so smart, Nokia was the king of mobile devices, so any handset bearing its name is sure to get some attention. But after being sold and split off, it’s hard to imagine the company ever returning to a position of prominence. The rest of the Nokia Android phones releasing this year will likely stay in the mid- to low-range of the market, and even if a model does launch in the U.S., it’s unlikely to pose any kind of a threat to Samsung or Google.

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