New Nokia Smartphone Is a ‘Military Grade' Model With 5G That Can Take a Beating

HMD Global
  • The Nokia XR20 comes with a tough 6.67-inch Gorilla Glass Victus display, 5G internet and a dual-lens camera.
  • HMD Global, which makes Nokia phones, says the XR20 can be submerged in water for up to an hour and endure extreme temperatures.
  • The company also unveiled a modern take on Nokia's 6310 phone, which was introduced in 2001.

LONDON — The maker of Nokia-branded phones debuted a slew of new devices Tuesday, including a "military grade" smartphone designed to withstand intense environmental conditions.

HMD Global said the Nokia XR20 is the most durable phone it's created to date. The XR20 sports a tough 6.67-inch Gorilla Glass Victus display from American tech firm Corning and can resist damage from scratches and drops from about 6 feet, the company says.

It's what's known in the mobile industry as a "rugged" phone, a niche category in the market targeted mainly at extreme sports enthusiasts and manual laborers. HMD says it hopes the Nokia XR20 caters to a more mainstream audience.

In a marketing video, the company shows a woman spilling coffee over the phone and then rinsing it in the kitchen sink. A girl then accidentally drops the device, before picking it up and then dropping it again on a stony path. After all that, it's pretty much unscathed.

It's fitting for a brand whose phones were famous for their durability. The myth that Nokia phones were "indestructible" has been the subject of countless internet memes. According to HMD, the Nokia XR20 can be submerged in water for up to an hour and endure extreme temperatures.

Beyond its rugged credentials, HMD's new smartphone supports super-fast 5G internet and has a 48-megapixel and 13-megapixel dual-lens main camera. It comes in two colors: black and blue.

The Nokia XR20.
HMD Global
The Nokia XR20.

HMD is also throwing in four years of monthly security updates and three years of Android operating system upgrades.

Florian Seiche, HMD's CEO, said most people want phones they can keep for longer. HMD is targeting enterprise clients as well as consumers with the Nokia XR20, he added.

"This fits many enterprise device requirements," he said. "They don't want to pay $1,000 or $1,500 for a purpose-built rugged device which is clunky."

The Nokia XR20 starts at a price of £399 in the U.K. and $549.99 in the U.S. It will ship from Aug. 24.

Niche player

HMD was formed by former Nokia executives in 2016, who bought the Finnish firm's ailing mobile unit back from Microsoft in a $350 million deal. It is financially backed by Nokia, as well as other industry players including Google and Qualcomm.

The company has been trying to carve out a niche in the cell phone market, selling modern revivals of retro Nokia handsets and smartphones at the low to mid-range.

It has struggled in the smartphone market, holding just a 0.6% share in 2020, according to IDC. That's lower than LG, which recently decided to wind down its mobile business.

HMD is however a more prominent player in the feature phone — or "dumb phone" — market, with its oldschool handsets taking up 16% of the market last year.

The company on Tuesday unveiled a modern take on Nokia's 6310 phone, which was introduced in 2001. The new 6310 supports only older 2G networks, diverging from previous remakes which supported 4G.

The Nokia 6310.
HMD Global
The Nokia 6310.

HMD says this is because the target audience is people who are interested in Nokia's heritage but only want basic text and voice features.

The Nokia 6310 comes in black and yellow, and retails at £49.99.

Other products unveiled by HMD Tuesday included the Nokia C30, a £99 smartphone coming with a large 6.82-inch display, and four different ranges of Nokia earphones. The top-of-the-line Nokia Clarity Earbuds Pro come included with the Nokia XR20.

A shift toward online sales last year meant HMD has "managed to stay profitable," Seiche told CNBC. The company has also been pushing into services with its own network called HMD Mobile.

However, Seiche added that a global shortage in semiconductor components could prove challenging for HMD and other device makers.

"We see there is definitely overall tightness," he said, adding "we might see a certain imbalance across the market" as demand for low-end models is quite high.

Copyright CNBC
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