Nokia’s back, baby!
On Wednesday, Microsoft announced plans to sell the Nokia brand for old-fashioned featurephones for a cool $350 million to the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer Foxconn, best known as the manufacturer of the iPhone.
Back in 2014, Microsoft officially ditched the Nokia brand for its smartphones, focusing on its Lumia and Windows Phone products. As a result, the once independent Finnish company’s name is now most commonly associated with Snake II, teenagers’ first phones circa 2002, and drug dealers.
But while Nokia and featurephones have faded from view in the West, they remain a huge market globally. Featurephones, also called dumphones because they are a step below smartphones technologically, are bigger today than the iPod ever was, and they outnumber the entire car business, for instance.
Let’s take a look at the numbers:
- According to midyear worldwide predictions last year, dumbphones were forecast to sell 590 million units. (Smartphones sold about twice as much, or 1.4 billion, in 2015.)
- As far forward as 2019, dumbphones are still forecast to sell 350 million units a year.
- Apple stopped reporting iPod sales in 2015, but in 2014 it shipped just 14.4 million. And at the iPod’s all-time high, in 2008, 58.3 million units were sold — one-tenth the size of the dumbphone industry in 2015.
- The featurephone market is even an order of magnitude larger than the global auto market, which shipped 72.4 million vehicles in 2015, according to data compiled by Statista.
Amid Apple CEO Tim Cook’s visit to India this week, people are raving about the potential the region holds for the smartphone industry’s growth. There are a “billion phone sales at stake,” Bloomberg wrote.
And while there is certainly potential there, the established featurephone market isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Cook acknowledged as much on the California-based company’s quarterly earnings call last month, telling analysts: “The smartphones that are working there are low end, primarily because of the network and the economics, [so] the market potential has not been as great there. But I view India as where China was maybe seven to 10 years ago from that point of view, and I think there’s a really great opportunity there.”
So while you might not use a Nokia dumbphone anymore, a hell of a lot of people still do.
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