HMD's Nokia launches a smartphone subscription service with eco-friendly twists

Hold onto your phone for environmental, but not financial, rewards.


HMD’s Nokia has continued to roll out serviceable but unremarkable smartphones for the last few years. Forgoing attempts to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Samsung and Apple, it’s settled into a groove of releasing solid mid-range and entry-level smartphones, wireless headphones and even tablets. Now it’s announced a new subscription plan that it says will “reward users” for keeping their phone for longer.

Its new Circular subscription, launching in the UK and Germany to begin with, centers around the environment and sustainability. It’ll appear alongside four new devices, including what HMD calls its most eco-friendly smartphone yet. The Nokia X30 is made of 100% recycled aluminum, including both the frame of the device and speaker grills, and uses 65% recycled plastic.

The X30, which for now isn’t coming to the US, has a 6.43-inch FHD+ AMOLED screen (90Hz) and a 50-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization (OIS). However, despite those recycled material bona fides, HMD confirmed that there’s still no removable battery, one of (several) issues when it comes to electronics waste.

The Circular service itself is more interesting than the phones. The subscription fee will cover the phone itself, and any accidental damage, loss or theft will be taken care of without a separate monthly cost. The monthly pricing is reasonable, if not groundbreaking. For now, two devices (and they’re not even the new Nokia phones) will join Circular; The Nokia XR20 will cost £20 (roughly $23) per month with a £30 (around $35) setup fee. It’s a ruggedized 6.67-inch 5G smartphone with dual cameras, including a 48-megapixel primary sensor.

There is also the Nokia T10 LTE, an entry-level 8-inch tablet, for £10 (roughly $12) a month with the same £30 (around $35) setup fee.

While the aforementioned X30 won’t be on Circular at launch, those concerns about a reduced footprint when the battery isn’t removable are at least partially addressed. When you return a phone to them, either when you upgrade or leave the service, the company will recycle or refurbish the device. It will also donate devices that can’t be resold to charitable causes, although details were scant on what these would be. There will be longevity incentives for holding onto your Nokia phone for longer too, it’s just not a financial one. Instead, you’ll gain credits for every six months you continue to use your phone, with these increasing the older the handset gets. These can then be put towards ‘buying’ some tree saplings, or carbon offset credits.

Given the structure (and power) of US mobile carriers, this model is unlikely to carry over with similar prices, if at all, but the company said it will roll Circular out globally in the coming months.

Update 9/1/22 12:25PM ET: The X30's screen size has been corrected.