Nokia-branded smartphones will no longer carry the ZEISS branding as HMD Global has ended its years-long partnership with the German optoelectronics company. Even before HMD Global took over the license to manufacture and sell Nokia-branded mobile devices, ZEISS was a long-term partner of Nokia. However, the relationship has not been exclusive as ZEISS also partners with Sony Mobile and Vivo, collaborating with both brands on the camera technology on their smartphones.
ZEISS is not the only camera company that has split with its phone partner. Earlier this year, Huawei also ended its multi-year partnership with Leica. The German camera company then signed a new agreement with Xiaomi, another Chinese brand and major Huawei rival. The first set of products from the partnership includes the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, announced in July 2022.
While HMD Global didn’t announce that its partnership with ZEISS has ended, none of the smartphones announced this year by the Finnish company bear the ZEISS logo. Apparently, the Nokia XR20 rugged smartphone launched in August 2021 was the last smartphone co-developed with ZEISS. Nevertheless, Nokiamob got a statement from ZEISS, which confirmed that both parties decided to end their partnership in 2021. ZEISS has also removed HMD Global from its list of brand partners.
ZEISS’s statement doesn’t say what resulted in both companies going their separate ways, but a plausible reason is HMD Global’s new business model, which is focused on the entry-level and mid-range categories. Products in these categories are not known for their camera performance, so expending resources on developing competitive camera features isn’t a wise investment. The opposite applies to Sony and Vivo, whose phones with ZEISS technology are premium and high-end flagships such as the Xperia I IV and the Vivo X Note.
Despite the end of the partnership, one can’t rule out the possibility of it being rekindled in the future if HMD Global decides to get back into the premium smartphone race. The Nokia brand is still a very popular one, and a fair share of fans will be willing to pick up a capable flagship from the brand if and when it decides to manufacture one.
It is also possible that HMD Global may decide to go with another brand in the future, such as Hasselblad. It may also decide it doesn’t need a partner to develop the camera chops for future Nokia phones. There are multiple brands such as Apple, Google and Samsung whose phones pack impressive cameras and do not need the input or name of a famous camera company to help them succeed.