×

Nokia 8 launch: HMD Global unveils $702 flagship Android smartphone

  • HMD Global launched the Nokia 8 flagship smartphone.
  • The Nokia 8 is priced at 599 euro ($702) and is going on sale in early September.
  • Key specs include a 5.3 inch display, the ability to use dual cameras. It will run Google's latest mobile operating system called Android O.

HMD Global, the start-up that licenses Nokia's brand, launched a flagship smartphone on Wednesday, as it looks to establish itself as a major mobile player using the iconic brand.

The 599 euro ($702) Nokia 8 is going on sale in early September, potentially ahead of Apple's new iPhones which are set to be unveiled next month. Nokia is also stealing a march on Samsung which is gearing up to reveal the Galaxy Note 8 smartphone next month.

HMD's Nokia 8 has the following key specs:

  • 5.3-inch display.
  • A camera that contains sensors made by Zeiss.
  • Dual camera mode that allows users to take pictures and videos using the front and back camera at the same time. HMD is calling this "bothie" mode rather than "selfie".
  • Ozo Audio which is three microphones to capture 360 degree sound. Ozo is the name of Nokia's expensive virtual reality camera used by Hollywood film studios. HMD has used the audio technology in their phone.
  • Four colors: matte silver, polished blue, matte blue, polished copper

The Nokia 8 will run Google's latest mobile operating system called Android O. HMD said that the phone will have pure Android, meaning that the company has not modified the software in any way, like many manufacturers do.

"We think with the Nokia brand and the combination of industry leading performance as well as immersive and innovative consumer experience, we will be immediately able to make a mark in the high end segment," Florian Seiche, acting chief executive of HMD Global, told CNBC in an interview ahead of the launch.

HMD was created last year by ex-Nokia execs who acquired the intellectual property required to make phones from Nokia. This included branding and technology. It has partnered with Foxconn to manufacture the devices.

In the last eight months, the company has released eight devices — five feature phones, and three smartphones. The Nokia 8 will be the ninth device. The three smartphones — the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 — are all mid range handsets. But the Nokia 8 is seen as crucial if HMD is going to make a mark on the global smartphone market.

HMD Global's Nokia 8 allows users to take pictures and video with both the back and front camera at the same time.
HMD Global
HMD Global's Nokia 8 allows users to take pictures and video with both the back and front camera at the same time.

"HMD Global needs a successful Nokia-brand flagship smartphone to re-establish the Nokia brand in the smartphone market, because the Nokia brand was always viewed as innovative and high quality. It's almost impossible to meet the expectations of the Nokia name offering only a selection of feature phones and low to mid-range smartphone models," Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS, told CNBC by email.

Alternative to Apple, Samsung?

The Android smartphone market has become incredibly competitive not only from the likes of Samsung, but also Chinese players like Huawei and Oppo stepping up their game. HMD will be hoping to differentiate itself through some of its unique features, especially as it launches ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and next generation iPhones.

"It is very clear that HMD Global needs to position Nokia branded devices as an alternative option for consumers who don't want the expense of a top of the line iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by email.

"Nokia remains a widely recognized mobile phone brand and HMD needs to capitalize on that as quickly as possible. The Nokia 8 is another important milestone as the company adds breadth to its portfolio of devices in an effort to broaden its appeal to consumers."

The company said its initial smartphones are performing well. In India, the Nokia 6 device received over 1 million registrations on Amazon of people interested in the handset. Seiche said HMD is confident it can meet the demand for its phones, despite being a young company.

"We have significantly ramped up our supply, however, we are still catching up with the demand but we feel that is a positive thing as it helps to sustain the momentum," Seiche told CNBC.

No US or China launch

HMD did not release the specific markets it would be releasing the Nokia 8 in yet, but told CNBC that it would launch in countries which are accustomed to higher average selling prices of phones. These include core western European markets, areas of the Middle East, and Asia.

But Seiche told CNBC it would not launch in the U.S. or China.

"The U.S. requires a separate strategy, even a separate portfolio and tech investment so we are not in a rush today around that because we are seeing such strong demand across the globe," Seiche said.

HMD has already launched the Nokia 6 in China, selling through e-commerce giant JD.com. Seiche said reception to the device was "beyond our expectation." While the new Nokia 8 will not launch in China, the company said it is crafting a specific strategy around the world's biggest smartphone market, and will launch specific devices tailored to consumers there.

"China is a big focus market and we will make announcements on those dedicated products there in the future," Seiche told CNBC.

WATCH: iPhone 8 launch will happen in September, after all