Mobile

Flagship Nokia 8 phone looks great, but won't come to the US

Nokia is positioning the phone as a challenger to flagship Samsung and Apple models.

Now Playing: Watch this: Nokia finally has a flagship Android phone to get excited...
1:43

The Nokia 8 is generating a lot of hype for good reason. The company's flagship phone has a blazing fast processor, custom camera software and, perhaps most importantly, the Nokia brand name. 

What it won't have? American buyers anytime soon.

"We are not planning to bring the Nokia 8 to the US at this stage," Florian Seiche, who runs Nokia parent HMD, said in an interview on Wednesday. Seiche's statement contradicts reports that a special RAM supercharged version of the phone would launch stateside.

Nokia once ruled the cell phone market and its distinctive ring tone could be heard on streets and in offices around the world. The company didn't keep up with a changing market and it was eventually sold, first to Microsoft and then to HMD. The decision to sidestep the US market, at least for now, comes as competition in the high-end phone market reaches a new crescendo. Samsung recently unveiled the Galaxy Note 8 and Apple is expected to launch as many as three new iPhones next week

On Wednesday, Nokia launched the 8 in Australia for AU$900, which will be followed by a Sept. 13 release in the UK, where it'll retail for £599. Americans who desperately want the Nokia 8 should consider buying it from Australia, where the price converts to just under $720. The UK price translates to around $780.

Why would you pay all those dollars for a phone? The Nokia 8 has a lot going for it, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, the same CPU you'll find in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Like most new flagship phones, it has a dual camera -- but a fun plus is software that allows you to take pictures with the front and back cameras simultaneously. The software, Seiche said, is designed with the youth market, which was born too late to have nostalgia for Nokia, in mind.

nokia-8-flagship-product-photos-hero-8

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Like its earlier 3, 5 and 6 models, Nokia's 8 runs on a pure Android OS, a bonus you'll typically only find on Google's Nexus or Pixel phones. (Only the 6 is available in the US. It can be purchased through Amazon.)

After retiring its Lumia line last year, Nokia revived its smartphone business at Mobile World Congress in February. The company targeted budget-conscious buyers; the Nokia 6, the priciest, cost just $180 (£220, AU$350). The idea of a Nokia phone running pure Android, rather than the Windows Mobile operating system used on Lumia phones used, got people excited. But the devices weren't meant to compete with the iPhones or the Samsung Galaxy S phones of the world. 

That's where the Nokia 8 steps in.

"When we started with our new Android smartphones, we deliberately selected this price point between $150 to $300," Seiche explained. "That represents across the globe almost 40 percent of [smartphone sales]."

Most phone sales in the hugely populated China and India markets, as well as emerging markets, like Africa and South America, are generated by inexpensive devices that often retail for less than $300. Nokia's intention with its early Android phones was to "make an impact quickly," Seiche said. 

Nokia will use the 8 and the flagship phones that follow to innovate on design and features, he said. 

If you're in the US and particularly keen on the Nokia brand name, you won't find much trouble importing an unlocked phone from another country. But Seiche says Nokia wants to be a leading phone brand in "3-5 years," a goal that inevitably would include the US.

The US "has always been a tough market for Nokia to crack," said Counterpoint Research analyst Neil Shah, noting the carrier certification that phones go through in the US is costly and can often take several months. "A full-scale roll out will take time," he said, a sentiment echoed by Seiche.

"We only started operationally on Dec. 1 last year," the CEO said of Nokia's smartphone division under HMD. "We can't do everything in one day." 

Technically Literate: Original works of short fiction with unique perspectives on tech, exclusively on CNET.

Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about "women in tech."