Nokia Brand Returns on Super Cheap Dumb Phones

December 14, 2016, 5:45 PM UTC

The once-vaunted Nokia brand name is returning to the phone market, but without the premium cachet it held just a few years ago.

Foxconn and HMD Global, a startup created by former Nokia executives, paid $350 million to Microsoft in May for the assets to manufacture feature phones. A deal with Nokia granted the rights to use the brand name.

Now this week, HMD unveiled its first two new models.

The Nokia 150 and Nokia 150 Dual SIM will sell for $26 and be available initially across the Middle East, India, Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Europe starting early next year. The all-plastic phones have 2.4-inch color screens, standard dial pads, and come in either black or white. They don’t connect to the Internet nor do they run apps, but they do include an FM radio player and have 22 hours of talk time with the ability to go up to 31 days between needing a recharge.

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The phones are likely to appeal to consumers who can’t afford smartphones and expensive monthly data plans. But the simple models could also appeal as backup devices or secondary phones among higher-end consumers, particularly as carriers allow their customers to attach more than one device to a single phone number.

Sales of so-called feature phones have been slipping over the past few years. Total shipments of mobile phones are expected to drop 2% this year, according to market tracker Gartner.

Nokia was the largest phone seller on the planet for more than a decade starting in 1998, but in the face of surging competition from Apple (AAPL), Blackberry (BBRY), Samsung (SSNLF), and others, it slid into obscurity. Microsoft (MSFT) bought what was left of Nokia’s shrinking phone business in 2014 and still sells smart phones under its own Lumia brand. Nokia (NOK) itself now focuses on selling telecom network equipment.

HMD says it plans also to bring out a line of Nokia-branded smartphones running Google’s (GOOGL) Android operating system.

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