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HMD’s first Nokia smartphone is heading to China

Nokia fans hankering to get their hands on a new smartphone with their beloved brand name and without Microsofts unloved mobile OS will need to go to China if they want to buy the firstAndroid-poweredfrom the Finnish phone maker thats now licensing Nokias IP for phones.

The new device maker,HMD,was founded last year by a group of senior ex-Nokians, with the explicit aim of (exclusively) licensing Nokias brand name for new mobile hardware having acquired the relevant rights from former owner, Microsoft back in May.

HMDsfirst two mobiles, outedlast month, were both features phones. But itsnow announced its debut smartphone: a premium handset its calling the Nokia 6, which is billed to launch in China in early 2017. The device will be distributed exclusively via local electronics ecommerce giant, JD.com, with a price-tag of 1699 CNY ($245).

So what kind of Nokia-branded Android smartphone will $245 buy you? A highly polished aluminum unibody handset, packinga 5.5 inch Gorilla Glass HD screen, which, at a quick glance, could pass for an iPhone.

Inside theres a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage and the latest flavor of Googles Android OS (Nougat). Also on board: dual speakers, Dolby Atmos audio, a 16MP rear camera and 8MP front facing lens (both f/2.0).

Commenting in a statement, CEO Arto Nummela, flagged factors such as the Nokia 6s design, durability, entertainment and display features.The Nokia 6 is a result of listening to our consumers who desire a beautifully crafted handset with exceptional durability, entertainment and display features, he said.

Why is HMD focusing on China? It points tothe size of thesmartphone market 552M+ users last year, with projected growth to 593M+ in 2017 callingitstrategically important. So this isabsolutely about seekingto drive volume sales in a market that still has some growth potential, which, given what can even besize zero Android OEM marginsthese days, is as youd expect.

Nummela goeson to suggestHMD will be expanding its portfolio quickly with additional handsets in the coming months so again, it looks to be gearing up to push forvolume sales.

Our ambition is to deliver a premium product, which meets consumer needs at every price point, in every market, he said. We start today, with our premium, high quality Nokia 6; built to deliver a fantastic core user experience for Chinese consumers. We look forward to unveiling further products in the first half of this year.

The fiercely competitive phone making space has not been kind to manya seasoned hardware firm in recent years. Soit remains to be seen whether aFinnish Nokia IP licensing vehicle will find fairer business fortunes here or be forced to watcha veteran brand being drowned out amid allthe noise.

According to Strategy Analytics 2016 Q3 smartphone market report, three of the top five devicemakers hailedfrom China with fast-growing local challenger OEMs such as OPPO, Vivo and LeEco taking share from larger firm Huawei, for example.

The analyst dubbed competition in the Chinese market as intense, noting that Huaweis growth more than halved in the quarter owing tothis clutch of domesticrivals. HMD will clearly be hoping to add its name to the list of rising challenges in future years.

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