Typically, I try to avoid posting rumours on this website. They’re usually nothing more whispers from within manufacturing plants or poorly translated websites which are, themselves, posting nothing more than whispers from within factories. There has, however, been one story that’s cropped up time and time again, and it involves everyone’s favourite formally Finnish phone company, Nokia. The rumour goes like this: Nokia and Meizu are working with Nokia to bring a high end, Lumia smartphone to the market. Such a smartphone would run Android, feature a 50MP PureView camera (an improvement from the Lumia 1020) and would either be a Nokia device rebranded as Meizu, or a direct collaboration between the two. Wild, right?

The origins of the rumour seem to begin in January, and state that the phone would be called the MX4 Supreme, feature a fundamentally Meizu design (read: MX4), but would have its hardware features, software and colouring decided by Nokia. Of course though, Nokia’s devices division is no longer an independent entity, having been acquired by Microsoft (Nokia is now known as Nokia Corp.), and there are no indications that Nokia still have hardware engineers on board. Which leads you to ask how that sexy new Nokia N1 tablet came to be, doesn’t it? Nokia Corp. now license their name out to white label hardware partners, like Foxconn, who produced the Nokia N1 tablet, with no hardware involvement from Nokia other than the software it’s running.

The very next day, Meizu’s President of Science and Technology, Li Nan, publicly squashed the rumour that it was working with Nokia, citing how busy it was with its own products, let alone ones built in collaboration. Which, for a few months, seemed to put an end to the rumours. At least, until an unverified poster turned up on Chinese social networking website Weibo. This is it:

Lumia 1030

 

Cryptic? Yes. A smoking gun? Hardly. Still, this fired back up the rumour mill, tying neatly into a few of the prior rumours whilst offering new, exciting possibilities (Lumia 1030, anyone?). All of which leads us to this week, as an alleged picture of the Meizu Supreme turned up on, you guessed it, Meizu. Here’s that picture:

Alleged Meizu Supreme

The phone, from what we can see, is almost identical to the Meizu MX4, and even features the same antennae placement (comparison). The only noticeable difference is in the home button, which has gone from the circular capacitive button featured on the MX4 to a clickable hardware home button, in the style of Samsung’s hardware efforts. No sign of that 50/60MP PureView camera, but it’s certainly something we haven’t seen before.

All of which brings us up to date with the rumours, and leaves us with two questions; how and why? Neither question is easy to answer, but lets try anyway. Oh, and if you’ve got a hot notion burning away in your brain, that’s why the comment section exists.

How?

Nokia devices now belongs to Microsoft, and those engineers which didn’t want to join Microsoft have gone off to form various side projects like Jolla. As part of the deal, Microsoft purchased outright the naming rights for Lumia, PureView, ClearBlack, Surge, Mural and Asha, but they do not own the rights to the Nokia name. Well, they do. Sort of. Let me explain.

As part of the deal, Microsoft are free to use the Nokia name on feature phones for the next 10 years, but cannot use it for ‘smart devices’, which basically means nothing with a touchscreen and a modern OS. Nokia Corp. for their part, aren’t allowed to use their own name competing smartphone devices until the 31st of December, 2015. So, at the moment, Nokia Corp. wouldn’t be able to use their own name on this Meizu collaboration, but they would in the future. What they could never do, however, is use the PureView name to brand their camera tech. In fact, they could never build another PureView camera, because the patents now belong to Microsoft.

Why?

This is a much more difficult question to answer. Back before Nokia got sold off to Microsoft, they struggled heavily in the smartphone market. Whilst their phones were well reviewed, they never got the traction they needed in the US in order to become a successful, thriving business again. Getting back into that world seems like a waste of time and money, especially when licensing their name and services like Here are turning the company a very healthy profit. Hiring a team of engineers and designers to put money into a project which might break contract with Microsoft and would be unlikely to make them a significant return of investment just seems a tad bonkers, especially in a time when the smartphone market is trending towards cheaper, ‘everyday’ devices.

Thinking about Meizu for a moment, this deal doesn’t appear to make sense for them either. Their newest smartphones have been showered with praise for their strong design and excellent features, and sales numbers are impressive. Partnering with either Nokia Corp. or Microsoft Nokia would only dilute their strengthening brand.

The thing about rumours is, the good ones don’t go away. They niggle, they worm, they make sense on some level. Is the Nokia Meizu rumour a good one? Absolutely. Is it true? I’m just not sure. Perhaps I can’t see further than my own nose on this one, but I’m going to call some mistranslation and misinformation. That is, until proven otherwise.

Stay tuned.

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Ten fingers, five senses, one man, loads of Chinese smartphones.

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