A remnant of onetime phone giant Nokia could be planning to come back to a business the Finland-based company famously abandoned not so long ago: smartphones.
Nokia Technologies is working on a secret project that will result in the company announcing a new smartphone as early as 2016, Recode is reporting, citing people who claim to have knowledge of its plans. According to the report, Nokia would unveil the device and then license its design and name to another company that would handle production and sales.
Almost exactly a year ago, Microsoft formally acquired Nokia’s phone business for $7.2 billion. The deal called for Microsoft to have the rights to use the Nokia name for a period of time and to continue producing Nokia smartphones through 2015. Nokia Technologies is one of three divisions that was not included in the sale.
Microsoft announced in late 2014 that it was abandoning the “Nokia” branding in smartphones in favor of Microsoft Lumia products. (The Lumia name had come over from Nokia.) At about the same time, Nokia announced a tablet, called the N1, that carried its own branding.
With the ban on releasing a Nokia smartphone up at the end of this year, the Finland-based company now has ample time to work on a new handset that it could announce as early as 2016.
Getting back into the smartphone business will be an important, but potentially difficult, reboot for Nokia. The company was once the dominant handset maker in the world, but failed to adapt swiftly to the touchscreen smartphone craze and soon found itself well behind Samsung and Apple. As Nokia tried to rebuild its business, customers increasingly turned elsewhere.
Since the sale to Microsoft, Nokia has been focused on build out its mapping and network equipment businesses. Nokia Technologies, which is reportedly taking on the smartphone development, licenses the company’s patents to other firms. It’s also charged with new product development.
According to Recode’s sources, Nokia Technologies is also working on other types of products, including devices designed for virtual-reality uses.
For now, though, the focus is on the possibility of Nokia rejoining the smartphone market. It’s currently unknown what the device would look like or what features it would offer. Since Nokia’s N1 tablet is running Android, it’s possible that the smartphone would also be an Android-based device. Launch details, including timing and availability, were also unknown.
Nokia declined to comment on the Recode report.