Sunday, June 23, 2024

HMD’s first phones just leaked, and I’m mighty disappointed


Still from HMD marketing material.HMD

At Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024, Human Mobile Devices (HMD) – the maker of Nokia-branded mobile phones – announced plans to make “affordable, beautiful, desirable, and repairable” phones. We also got our first look at the new HMD logo for phones, but what truly set the hopes high were the teaser images (like the one shown above).

The visual assets released by the brand showcased phone concepts in yellow, green, and pink, among other colors that brought back the sweet memories of the Lumia-Windows Phone days. The bright colors, flattened edges, and palm-friendly rounded sides had me more excited for these upcoming HMD phones than for some flagships lined up for a 2024 reveal.

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After all, smartphone design really took a back seat in 2023, at least for global brands hawking their wares in Western markets like the U.S. Flat sides that dig into your palm, heavy glass-metal builds, and a boring color palette really took the aesthetic joy out of buying a new phone, especially when they cost close to $1,000.


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Why, HMD? Just why?


Well, it seems that HMD won’t be a redeemer for smartphone shoppers yearning for a dash of fresh design. Today, leaker @OnLeaks (along with MySmartPrice and 91Mobiles) dropped alleged renders of two upcoming HMD phones, and they look nothing like the exciting phones I was hoping for.

The phones are said to hit the shelves bearing the names HMD Pulse and HMD Pulse Pro. At first look, it seems HMD took liberal inspiration from the budget phones sold by the likes of China’s Realme and Motorola, among other brands. The only element of boldness here is the color options.

The entry-level Pulse trim is seen in a lilac gradient shade, and there’s also a light blue shade to pick from. As for the Pulse Pro variant, it’s only depicted in boring dark blue or black shades. We’re not sure if more colors are in the pipeline, but even if there are, they won’t be enough to lift the otherwise bland design.

The camera island is your usual rectangular shape with rounded corners and two large rings around the lenses. This design is so generic that without the HMD logo on the rear shell, it would be impossible to identify the phones. The saving grace is the bezels, which appear uniformly thin on all sides for the HMD Pulse.


Interestingly, the Pulse Pro is depicted with a thick chin alongside the bottom edge. It’s odd to see HMD giving the pricer variant a more outdated look. But these are leaked renders, mind you, which means the market-ready version could end up looking a bit different, for better or worse.

Now, it would be unwise to expect a premium design from a decidedly budget-centric phone. But then, HMD promised us “affordable, beautiful, desirable” phones barely a few weeks ago. Also, it’s worth having a look at the competition and what they are offering in terms of styling at a pocket-friendly price.

Check out these budget phones from Xiaomi (from left), Tecno, and Realme:

Xiaomi / Realme / Tecno

As far as specifications go, the HMD Pulse will reportedly offer a 6.56-inch HD+ screen while a 5,000 mAh battery keeps the lights on. The phone will have a 13-megapixel camera at the back and will reportedly come Blue, Black, and Pink shades.

The Pro version, on the other hand, might come with a 6.56-inch HD+ display with a 90Hz refresh rate and a 5,000mAh battery. Interestingly, the leak mentions a 50-megapixel camera at the front as well as the back. The processor inside is claimed to be the Unisoc T606, while the memory configuration is 6GB of RAM paired with 128GB of onboard storage.

The specifications aren’t particularly impressive, especially for the rumored 179 euro asking price. They are definitely weak against what Xiaomi and Realme have to offer in Asia. It would be interesting to see how HMD aims to stand out with its new brand identity.

Oh, HMD, why did you squander this chance? HMD

But for now, the road ahead seems tough. HMD doesn’t really garner the same kind of respect and recognition that the Nokia logo did. A meh specifications sheet isn’t going to do it any favors, especially in a market where even upstarts like Tecno are racing ahead with brave and bold experiments.

It was a terrific opportunity for HMD to at least revisit the iconic looks of the Lumia phones, which it brazenly teased in its marketing materials in February. But that seems to be a fading pipe dream, which is disappointing to see and won’t do much good for HMD. All we have left for now are lovely renders and some nostalgia.

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