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Startup to bring back Nokia's banana phone

Startup to bring back Nokia's banana phone
Posted at 8:03 AM, Feb 26, 2018

The banana phone is back.

A startup that licenses the Nokia phone brand has unveiled a new version of the 8110, a curved mobile phone that was first released in 1996 and featured in "The Matrix."

The phone, which is offered in banana yellow and black, will sell for €79 ($97). It comes loaded with a new version of the game Snake, Finnish startup HMD said in a statement.

"This is a return to the glory years of Nokia," said Ian Fogg, senior analyst at IHS Markit. "But it also includes all the new technology."

The 8110 comes with 4G, and a handful of apps including Google Maps, Facebook and Twitter. But it doesn't have a flashy operating system and users won't be able to download other popular apps.

Fogg said that basic -- or "feature" -- phones are appealing because they are reliable, and can run for a long time on a single charge. The 8110 goes 25 days in standby mode, for example.

Nokia used to be the world's largest maker of mobile phones, but it struggled to adapt to the era of smartphones and compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung.

Microsoft purchased the company's handset business in 2013, but later unwound the deal. Nokia now focuses on making technology for telecommunications networks.

HMD, which has licensed the Nokia brand since 2016, sold over 70 million handsets in 2017, according to IHS. That puts its sales, on an annualized basis, in the same league as Sony and Lenovo.

"HMD's strategy clearly aims to return Nokia to be a mobile market leader, even if it's too early for HMD to realistically target displacing Samsung or Apple," Fogg said.

Nokia marketed the original 8110 as "the first of its kind in terms of its ergonomics." Its battery lasted up to six days, and it was able to store 16 ring tones and up to 324 names and numbers.

"It feels good in the hand and fits into any pocket. The revolutionary curved design fits the natural shape of your face," the company said in a press release at the time.