Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Nokia has come a long way during the past century and a half. From paper pulp to boots and phones, the company has had a talent for spotting trends and reinventing itself. Now it seems to be preparing itself for another round of renewal.
In April 2016, we reported Nokia's acquisition of Withings, a French digital wellness start-up, and wondered if the company could successfully re-enter the consumer products space with health-related devices (see Nokia Returns to Consumer Tech with Withings Acquisition). Withings had established itself as an innovator and its customers were early adopters of connected wellness products.
Now that the market for smart home products is reaching mainstream, Nokia is replacing the Withings brand with the Nokia name. The French company is certainly respected as an innovator, but the Nokia logo still has global clout. This is highlighted by the excitement and nostalgia for the reboot of the Nokia 3310 feature phone by HMD Global. The Finnish brand still tugs at some heart strings.
Its new "Health" Web page lists a series of Nokia-branded products — some new, some simply relabelled. But its line of health-related devices including activity-tracking watches, a scale that measures body mass index for up to eight people and a smart blood-pressure monitor, gives Nokia aficionados a certain level of optimism. The company has a new and growing portfolio of consumer products now available for purchase in-store and online. There's some new blood flowing through the brand.
Nokia has also released a new version of its Nokia Health Mate app, which is at the centre of its health products. The app and related service collect data from each device to provide insights and trends on weight, activity, sleep and blood pressure. There's a health portfolio being created here and it will compete against similar services from companies such as Apple and Google.
There's still trust in the Nokia brand. It has a level of wholesomeness, at least among generations that depended on its products for connectivity. That was a vital function. Now as those people age, Nokia hopes it can offer a new type of vital product to consumers around the world.
There's no doubt that Nokia has ground to make up among consumers and these health products alone won't lead to a miraculous return to its former glory. If every person in the world needed a handset, only a subset needs a Wi-Fi connected body scale. But the timing is right as Nokia is riding a new trend. Now the products will have to speak for themselves, either making or breaking a new reputation for utility.