HMD hopes to forge its own identity with repairable smartphones

Nokia phone maker HMD has officially unveiled its first range of own-branded handsets.

Nick Wood

April 25, 2024

3 Min Read

The devices, called Pulse, have been known about since rumours of their impending unveiling were shared by a Finnish publication in March. As has become commonplace, specs and images of the new range were leaked ahead of the launch, this time by 91mobiles and tipster OnLeaks, in an article published last week.

The smartphone market is an almost impossibly-tough nut to crack, which is why HMD leveraged the venerable Nokia brand when it initially ramped up its handset operation.

Having proven that it can hold its own by developing affordable – if not particularly world-changing – devices, HMD now feels sufficiently confident to step outside Nokia's shadow and launch products under its own name.

Still keen to stand apart from the competition, HMD is leaning into the idea of repairable handsets. It launched its first one of those – the Nokia-branded G22 – at Mobile World Congress in 2023.

The new Pulse range adds three new repairable smartphones to HMD's stable.

The company describes them as having 'Gen 1 repairability', enabling owners to replace a damaged display, bent charging port or a failed battery. HMD has partnered with self-repair community iFixit, which will offer manuals, tools and replacement parts to the budding smartphone mechanic.

"HMD's ongoing commitment to designing phones with repairability in mind is an encouraging shift in our throwaway culture," said Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit.

Indeed, according to a survey by CCS Insight, 55% of EU consumers are interested in devices that are cheap to repair once the warranty has expired. In the US, interest stands at 49%. Similarly, 47% of EU consumers and 48% of US consumers are prepared to pay a slight premium for environmentally-friendly products.

"HMD has been a trailblazer for more repairable smartphones," said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight. "It's encouraging that the HMD Pulse family is even easier for consumers to repair, and this design decision aligns well with the consumer trends we are seeing in our research."

For its new portfolio, HMD has adopted the familiar tactic of launching multiple devices to address different budgets and customer groups.

So, there's the range-topping Pulse Pro, pitched at so-called selfie-lovers who can use gestures to control the 50 megapixel (MP) front-facing camera. The Pro also comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage.

There isn't much to pick between its stablemates, the Pulse and Pulse Plus. Both have 8 MP front-facing cameras, while the Plus' 50 MP rear-facing camera trumps the entry-level Pulse's 13 MP snapper. The Pulse also has less storage – 64 GB to the Plus' 128 GB.

All three devices come with the same 6.65 inch, 1612*720 display; the same 5,000 mAh battery – good for 59 hours of battery life – and the same Arm-based Unisoc T606 processor.

This similarity of spec could prove a curse as well as a blessing for HMD.

On the upside, standardising as much of the design as possible lends itself well to lowering the cost of supplying replacement parts, making it easier to offer a repairable, affordable device.

Differentiation suffers as a result though, and HMD might ultimately be better off focusing on one or two models rather than stretching to a third that may struggle to stand apart.

Nevertheless, it's refreshing to see a handset maker trying to move away from the built-in obsolescence that does the planet no favours and to which people are growing increasingly weary.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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