When HMD Global relaunched the Nokia brand in 2017, its goal was to offer affordable smartphones that run on the latest version of Android.
“Pure, secure, and always up-to-date,” is Nokia’s mantra.
Pure, because Nokia smartphones use a version of Android as close to the one Google releases for its own devices. It doesn’t “reskin” it, load its own apps, or customise it in any way.
Secure, as Nokia can release the latest security updates from Google to its devices as they are released.
Many Android manufacturers in South Africa have promised regular updates and feature upgrades, but none have truly delivered.
This is due to the way mobile network operators handle new software for devices. For every OS update, you must have the new software tested on your device – usually at a cost.
As network operators want the software on the phones on their network to be customised, each device has hundreds of different versions of its software.
Rolling out a significant change, like upgrading from Android 6.0 to 7.0, is therefore a massive undertaking.
The operator approvals process is no different for Nokia today than it was when the brand operated under Microsoft.
Shaun Durandt, the general manager for HMD Global in Southern Africa, said that if it comes at a cost or an additional investment of time, they’ll continue to pursue their goal of “pure, secure, and always up-to-date”.
“Granted, the portfolio is still pretty lean, but there’s no indication that we’re going to take our feet off the petrol,” said Durandt.
He said HMD has a dedicated team in South Africa that works with operators and is in communication with the operators’ laboratories.
Durandt explained that Nokia has implemented their phone software to ensure they can push out updates as quickly as possible.
This includes having one firmware version per device, per country.
Other devices frequently ship with special firmware variants per operator, complicating future upgrade endeavours.
Nokia previously told MyBroadband it can deliver any operator-specific customisations “over the air” – separately from the rest of the operating system.
It also architected its system so that security updates can be delivered without impacting core phone functionality or its connection to the cellular network.
This means Nokia can typically send out security patches for Android on Google’s monthly release cycle without having to go through operator approvals first.
When Nokia announced its pure Android experience, tech-savvy users understood its significance, said Durandt.
Ordinary consumers, however, had little frame of reference. Nokia’s “pure” version of Android had no meaning to them.
The company is looking to counter this with its “Phone Shui” campaign.
A play on Feng Shui, Nokia said its minimalism means better performance, better battery life, and lower frustration levels.
“Phone Shui is all about harmony and balance, and uncluttering your life,” said Nokia.
“Pure Android means that you don’t have any of those annoying pre-installed apps you can’t get rid of – bloatware.”