HMD releases new Nokia-branded feature phones

HMD Global, the Finnish phone maker and licensee of the Nokia brand, has unveiled two feature phones for 2G and 4G connectivity to serve basic communication.

The Finnish company is one of the few that still believe there is a profitable business in the feature phone market. It release two models today, the Nokia 220 for 4G (pictured) and the new version of Nokia 105 for 2G.

“We know that our fans across the globe have diverse needs, so it is important to us that we ensure we cater to them in the way they expect. The Nokia 220 4G and Nokia 105 bring 4G and 2G connectivity at an incredible value,” said Juho Sarvikas, Chief Product Officer of HMD Global. “In addition, both Nokia 220 4G and Nokia 105 live up to the core values of reliability and simplicity that have come to be associated with a Nokia feature phone.”

The key selling points of the 4G Nokia 220 include HD voice call over LTE, mobile internet, and dual-SIM option. The battery standby time is said to last up to 27 days on the single-SIM version, and 17 days on the dual-SIM. Its spec sheet also claims that users can use Facebook though it is not clear whether it is through a full-version of the Facebook platform, a stripped down version of the app (e.g. Facebook Zero, which would need operator support), or a link to the mobile web.

The 2G Nokia 105’s key selling point is the battery life. Both phones also come with FM radio, the difference being the Nokia 220 does not need to use the headset to be plugged in as the antenna. Both phones will be available from August. The Nokia 220 starts from €39, and the Nokia 105 will start at 13 Euros.

According to the feature phone software and operating system company KaiOS, which is another active player in the feature phone market, about half a billion pieces of feature phones are sold each year and the market has been stable. Although the key markets are in emerging markets like Africa, India, there is also a stable segment in places like North America.

KaiOS’s software serves the so-called “smart feature phone” segment, which can support, among other things, web apps. The company announced that it platform has just received the official version of WhatsApp. It may be worth highlighting that HMD is also a KaiOS OEM, with the Linux-based operating system powering the new Nokia 8110, which also received the official WhatsApp. The company’s vision looks also to be shared by its operator partners. Orange has recently joined the “Series B” funding round therefore become a KaiOS investor.

KaiOS gains Orange support in African drive

Orange has come out in support of KaiOS Technologies, as the telco contributed to the $50 million raised in total during its Series B funding round led by Cathay Innovation.

The cash itself will be used to fuel expansion of the feature phone operating system into new markets, introducing new features and further expanding the KaiOS developer community. To date, there are currently more than 100 million devices running on KaiOS, with a footprint in 100 countries.

“Our mission is to open up new possibilities for individuals, organizations, and society by bringing mobile connectivity to the billions of people without internet in emerging markets, as well as providing those in established markets with an alternative to smartphones,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies.

Aside from fuelling an alternative to Google’s Android OS, the partnership between is also geared towards improving accessibility from a device perspective.

“Today the two main barriers to internet access are the lack of infrastructure, for which Orange is investing one billion euros per year, and the cost of the device,” said Alioune Ndiaye, CEO Orange Middle East & Africa.

“As part of our effort to overcome this second barrier, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to develop our partnership with Kai through a direct investment. Providing our customers with access to affordable devices is a crucial step in our ambition to democratise access to the Internet in Africa.”

During Mobile World Congress this year, Kai and Orange launched Sanza, a smart feature phone which incorporated voice-recognition, extended battery life and popular apps as the main features. However, most importantly, the device is sold for as little as $20.

As Ndiaye points out above, accessibility in terms of infrastructure and devices is an issue across the African continent fuelling the ever-expanding digital divide. Africa is a profitable region for Orange, but to grow these profits the telco will have to ensure the internet is accessible to the millions of people who aren’t surfing the digital highways today.