The new Nokia = the (slightly) old Moto?

It has almost been two years since Nokia made a comeback in the tech world under the HMD Global umbrella. The company was once a tech behemoth, but went out of business after ruling the smartphone industry pretty much for more than a decade. Obviously nostalgia hit a new high, and fans rejoiced when the company stepped back in the mobile phone ring in early 2017.

But the Nokia that has come back is not the same Nokia which exited the tech building a few years ago. This is a very different company. And well, it only seems fair, because in the period of the relative absence of the Finnish brand, the world of mobile phones had changed drastically as well. When Nokia disappeared from the horizons of the tech sea a few years ago, the industry was nowhere near as saturated with brands as it is today. By the time the brand was back, the Indian market had been hit by the Chinese smartphone wave with the likes of Xiaomi, OnePlus, HuaweiHonor, OPPO, Vivo, along with other brands, and consumers had more options –  more options than ever before. These brands also brought the concept of packing relatively high-end specs in budget devices, and making smartphones more value for money, and suddenly what was earlier a “you can only get this much at this price” scenario in industry, soon became a “spec-price” climb, especially at the mid and lower-mid segment of the market, which had the highest numbers. Whoever climbed the spec number Everest at the least price had a good chance of coming out as a winner – witness Xiaomi’s success.

Interestingly, amidst all this, there was one player in this competitive segment which really was not giving in to the pressure of making its spec sheet look as strong as the competition in business or fight on price. This player was Motorola. The first Moto G and Moto E did surprise people with their price tags in 2014, but the years that followed saw other brands more than match their prices and spec sheets. Motorola, however, stuck to its guns.

Fast forward to 2017. Nokia makes a comeback but instead of going down the usual “spec-price” war lane which is already pretty crowded, it plays it smart and decides to take the road less traveled. A road I would like to call the “The Moto Route.”

Let’s take it from the very beginning. It will not be an exaggeration if we said that both Nokia and Motorola were among the biggest names in the phone world before tragedy struck. Then fate added another similar page in both brands’ stories when both were sold to different companies before landing up with their final respective parent companies, Lenovo and HMD Global.

And this is not the only place where their fates have coincided. Motorola had mapped out its comeback based on certain broad parameters and a few years down the line, I think Nokia is following almost exactly the same roadmap. Perhaps not deliberately, but I do think that the new Nokia is increasingly becoming like the slightly old Motorola. This is not a random statement, but is based on some very solid similarities between how these two brands have been and are operating. There are a few things Motorola became known for in its second coming, and I am spotting the same from Nokia in its own comeback:

Daring to be different design

In a world full of similar looking designs, if there was one company whose smartphones stood out, no matter what category they were placed in, it was Motorola. The logo, the shape, the solid feel and not to forget the (generally) dimpled logo, made sure people recognised that it was a Moto phone – it was almost impossible to mistake the devices from the brand as from any other. Then came Nokia and guess what? The brand invested time, energy and money into making sure that the design of all its smartphones screamed Nokia on top of their lungs – from the solid “cut from a single block of aluminium” early look to the more contemporary glass look. The solid bodies, camera placement, Nokia logo, all make the smartphones from Nokia very distinct.

Banking on brand history

Another thing that both Motorola and Nokia share and enjoy, thanks to their legacy, is a strong brand name. In world where people still have prejudices against Chinese brands (although that scenario is changing rapidly), both Motorola and Nokia have been looked at as international brands that have been around for quite some time now. Yes, they have been both been in rough waters and exited markets, but yet both have retained a very faithful following, and both brand names still remain iconic – even though Motorola itself is now owned by a Chinese company. Motorola never shied of invoking its history and nostalgia, and Nokia is doing the same in its comeback. And it is not just in terms of words – Nokia has even been reissuing classic models to remind users of its heritage.

Not giving in to the “spec-price” rat race

In the day and age of a “spec-price” tug of war, neither Motorola nor Nokia have opted to take this route. Both brands have not shied away from charging a premium for their devices even in the highly competitive mid and affordable phone segment. The brands have not been desperately packing in everything and anything in a smartphone under a relatively affordable price tag. For instance, when Motorola churned out the Moto Gs, one of the most popular smartphone series from the brand, the devices were always higher priced and relatively lower specced as compared to Xiaomi’s Redmi Note series, which was hands down its biggest competitor. And yet it always managed to hold its own.

Now we see Nokia following a similar pattern where it is releasing smartphones like Nokia 7.1, Nokia 8.1, Nokia 5.1, and Nokia 6.1 Plus (review) for prices that seem a little higher than the competition, in spite of having specs that are sometimes comparable and often inferior. Some would say that is because of their brand equity. Well, it is still a brave strategy. It would be simpler to stick to the low price route, but credit where it is due – neither company took that route (although Motorola perhaps erred too far on the premium side with the latest edition of the G)!

Betting on Stock Android

Before their setbacks, both Nokia and Motorola had their own software, but when Motorola made its comeback in the tech industry, all its smartphones came with stock Android and the brand wore it like a badge of honour on its shoulder. Nokia has been following the exact same path with the concept of Pure Android, which basically is a fancy name stock Android, and pushes it as a USP for its devices. And like Motorola, Nokia too has used uncluttered Android as one of its trump cards to good effect. If Motorola added some of its gestures to Android, Nokia added its special camera app. However, while Motorola lost the Android update plot a few years into its comeback, Nokia has been right up to speed in that department and has been even matching the Pixels in this regard sometimes.

Still need convincing that the Nokia is following the path of the slightly old Moto? Well, given the success Motorola initially enjoyed in its comeback, Nokia is certainly following in the right footsteps. It will however be interesting to see if Nokia can sustain the momentum of its return, unlike Motorola, which seems to be fading out. Ironically, its fading out is good news for Nokia, for thanks to its largely similar approach, it is stepping into the very gap its adversary seems to be vacating. Those who wanted to say “Hello, Moto” therefore, now have the option to say Hello to the new Nokia.

Nimish Dubey

Nimish Dubey has been writing on technology since 1999. He has contributed to a number of publications and websites including The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Mint, Economic Times, Outlook, and India Today. He is currently the Editorial Mentor at and a regular contributor to Indian Express. When not writing, he loves to read and listen to classic rock.