back to article So, Nokia. What makes you think the world wants your phones?

For over 20 years The Register has covered the rise and fall of Nokia phones. The story took a new turn this week with the arrival of a flagship, the first for three years, from the brand's custodians HMD. We spoke to the top executives behind the venture about their plans. Strictly speaking, this Nokia flagship comes from an …

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Realism

There's a lot to be said for a company that doesn't think that skinning a phone OS designed to work well with your choice of third party skin is necessary or smart.

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Re: Realism

Put the Microsoft Arrow launcher onto Android and Cortana as the assistant and the OS ceases to blow chunks. Just.

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Re: Realism without differentiation

On the other hand, what really differentiates any of these phones? The article implies that its different "because its a Nokia", but what else? Zeiss optics are a nice marketing badge, but really its the camera module as a whole that counts, and Sony camera modules could give Nokia/Zeiss a damn run for their money. Not having a bloaty skin, yes, but Motorola and Nexus devices have been doing that for years, so still no difference. Better audio is probably irrelevant to most buyers.

And apart from that, we've got an identikit sealed handset. One thing you could say about old Nokia handsets, they lasted well. With a sealed battery this will be a two year life device (Sound effect: scratched record, of Ledswinger going on and on and on about sealed bloody batteries). Now, many if not most people don't care about my pet peeve, but if not the battery, shouldn't Nokia have some other USP? Part of the old Nokia failing was that they thought that being Nokia on its own was enough, and its looking like they've carried this over.

Open season: What would others really like to have seen as a differentiatior to the established mass of identikit mid-range Androids?

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Re: Realism

I bought a Nokia 6 last week and it's great. I had been holding on to my Nexus 4 for ages as I specifically wanted a new phone with stock android, but without the horrendous price. There are so many phones that are full of bloatware, custom launchers and all sorts of other rubbish which can't be removed and doesn't get updated. Samsung seems to be particularly bad for this with their Touchwiz interface. I was hoping that Google was going to release a new phone that was affordable, but they seem to be going the way of the other manufacturers, making their phones £500+. I was considering a Pixel, but I can't justify that much money for a phone, and it's another phone which looks exactly like an iPhone. If I want a phone which looks like an iPhone, I will buy an iPhone. (But I don't.)

When a friend told me about them and that they were completely stock android, I was slightly sceptical, having worked in an IT support environment and worked with a few Motorola phones and other devices which claimed to be stock, but still had several apps, services and menus that had been tweaked and baked into the OS which couldn't be removed. However, I went into a phone shop and had a play with their display Nokia and it was great. The only additions are a different camera app, and a Nokia support app. Everything else is the same as my experience with the Nexus 4.

For the price, I can't complain. Carphone Warehouse is selling them outright for £200, which is pretty good considering what it is. It doesn't have the latest hardware in it, but as I don't play games or watch HD films etc on it, that doesn't matter for me. The battery is 3000mAh and It lasts all day and into the evening with moderate use. (Compared to the Nexus 4, I was lucky if the battery lasted until mid afternoon, but that's probably just the age of the phone and the deterioration of the battery) It has the latest version of Android (7.1.1) and seems to be getting regular updates. I had five system updates waiting that needed to be done when I got it out of the box. The last one was a 1st of August security patch, so It's good to see that the updates are being deployed promptly.

Overall, I'm really pleased with the phone. It runs smoothly even without the latest processor and hardware, although I would say that's probably because it isn't running a load of additional bloatware on top.

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Re: Realism without differentiation...Better audio is probably irrelevant to most buyers.

I'm fairly deaf and what matters to me is not audio quality (though it helps distinguish consonants, there is that) but volume. The sealed phones all seem to have rather quiet rings, in fact I had to ditch my Sony because while on headphones it was adequate, I was missing calls even on maximum ring volume. I've noticed that Chinese phones tend to have much louder rings but are not watertight, and I draw a reasonably obvious conclusion.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ ring volume 71dB

Sony Xperia XZ Premium 71dB

Apple iPhone 7+ 72dB

Oneplus 5 77dB

Xiaomi Mi 6 84dB

If the tradeoff is between volume and water resistance, then mine is the one with the plastic bag in the pocket in case of heavy rain.

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Re: Realism without differentiation

Depends how it's sealed. If it's like a N8 then it's quite changeable (undo a screw, disconnect a cable, and slide out the bottom of the phone and the battery). If it's glued together then it's not.

I'm interested in one as my next phone because as it's carrying the Nokia name then hardware design will be good (if they're like before then good coverage, voice quality, battery life, camera, and audio), the repair service will hopefully not be terrible, and they've promised to keep it updated which in the Android world is quite a lot.

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Re: Realism without differentiation

Sealed battery? Well that's just killed my interest in the new Nokia phone. The battery recently gave up in my 18 month old LG phone, but at least it was a doddle to replace and the new battery only cost £7. I don't like the idea of chucking anything until absolutely necessary.

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LDS
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"Zeiss optics are a nice marketing badge"

Yes, that's why Sony needs it too for its cameras...

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RDW

Re: Realism

TechnicianJack is basically me - also just got a Nokia 6 to replace a Nexus 4. No nonsense near-stock Android, nice big screen, solid build, SD slot, FM tuner, has the magnetometer the Moto G5 leaves out, and is readily available. Gamers would go for something different, but for me it ticks all the boxes for the price.

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Re: Realism without differentiation...Better audio is probably irrelevant to most buyers.

I think that's just as much to do with the environment in China - incessant traffic, it's not considered rude to watch a movie on speakerphone in a restaurant or train, speakers blaring from shops, pre-recorded tapes touting discount goods, etc. So maybe they haven't worked out how to make a waterproof phone loud enough.

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Boffin

The most important USP

Can you throw it at your annoying mate who is spouting some crap about immigrants and telling you there's such a thing as "Britishness" without a single hard fact to back up his assertions, pick it up, store it and then find it in a drawer seven years later, not only with enough charge to power up to prove it's worth charging but also fully functional?

If the answer to any of the above is "no" then it's not a bloody Nokia. And don't get me started on fixed batteries. I still have devices that use BL-5Cs long after the handsets that created the format have gone from the market.

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"The older generations like to feel like millennials at heart"

No we really don't.

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Hmm I dunno maybe. I have fond memories of my Nokia 920 which was built like a tank, no removable battery but still works well (when I fire it up) and is keeping charge after 4yr.

So if the build quality is good and price isn't too bad then maybe. I've an iPhone SE now but find everything a bit small for my fat man fingers but I'll be buggered if I'm paying a grand for an iPhone 8

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Angel

Smart(er) Phones

I couldn't give a fig about a pseudo-Nokia "smart" phone. Nokia feature phones were where it was at. If someone wants to revive that Qt-based Symbian hotness, sign me up for two. (One for Wifey too.) Seriously. After years of hating every Android and iPhone I buy, I still keep going back to slotting my SIM into my old C6-01. If anyone could make a profitable niche for themselves in today's ridiculously over-saturated market of crap, its Nokia (or someone renting their name) selling feature phones, that both work as phones, and have usable features. (Something today's "smart" phones have neither of.)

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Anonymous Coward

"If someone wants to revive that Qt-based Symbian hotness"

Yes, relaunch the mistakes that sunk Nokia... maybe Nokia could also re-acquire Trolltech as well...

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Re: "If someone wants to revive that Qt-based Symbian hotness"

Nokia N9 with their Meego /Maemo was one of the best designed phones I had pleasure to use. The Trolltech strategy was sound, if only board infested with American companies didn't found useful idiot to strangle it in the cradle.

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Re: "If someone wants to revive that Qt-based Symbian hotness"

Another making a comment who really has no idea. Symbian was not the downfall of Nokia, it was the management.

I actually saw an N8 with a Qt UI overlay and it made Symbian sing. At least Symbian was developed for mobile from the ground up, not some crappy desktop port to mobile, as an example, Windows springs to mind

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They should put a skin on the OS that emulates the S60 look and feel... for us old fogies.

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Hell, Samsung have. S8 TouchWiz is very 'inspired' by Meego Harmattan/Symbian Belle.

iOS 7 also copied Nokia's squircle design for icons but went over the top with the colours.

Nokia should make Harmattan available as an optional downloadable theme pack and sue them both.

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MJI
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Unhappy

My best ever work mobile

N8

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S club 7

I think i is like S Club 7. It pretended to be aimed at teens, yet it was really aimed at older children.

Same with nokia... we old ppl remember how bad it was at the end, their internal struggles, their perception that the network operator was their client etc etc.

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Re: S club 7

I think i is like S Club 7. It pretended to be aimed at teens, yet it was really aimed at older children.

Yep. I'm not sure if I fancy that Rachel more than that Jo. What about you?

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Re: S club 7

Hannah first surely?

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Re: S club 7

I don't remember Shirley

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Anonymous Coward

So what? Another Andtroid phone?

No, thank you. Whatever brand is printed on the case.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So what? Another Andtroid phone?

Your loss, there are some superb android phones out there, better than anything Apple can throw out there.

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Unhappy

My current mobile is a nokia E63

I have 3 "tv" android devices, about 7 active tablets and one phablet. I've done a lot of android hacking, mainly on the internals and linux side.

I'm writing this now on an android device. I like android.

In spite (actually, "because") of all this, I DO NOT WANT AN ANDROID PHONE.

In addition to that, flat shaped slabs are just not ergonomic and suck for typing when out in the 'real world' (I can type fine on a tablet in ordinary conditions, but I want to continue to be able to use my phone in the wind and rain, when it's dark) I don't want the device to be constantly running "services" and shit which have sod all to do with the functionality of the phone.

As I said, I like android. It's a nice portable OS for tablets.

I DON'T WANT IT ON MY PHONE!

Now, alternatives? They have the same or worse problems.

So, yes, my main mobile phone is an old Nokia E63. I recently had to buy a new charging jack (amazed that I could find it) but other than that it's totally reliable - as a phone should be.

Unfortunately, with only SSL (no TLS), I can no longer use encrypted sites or ssh (unless I hobble my ssh daemon to accept SSL again, which I don't want to do)

I've been looking for an upgrade, but no joy. Ideally, I want the same phone I have now but with uptodate software - a proper keyboard, and not shaped like a squashed brick

I've seen nokia E63's on sale new for about 80 quid or so - I'd spend that in a shot if it had the latest TLS

So, TL:TR I long for the old Nokia. However "innovative", I don't give a shit about another slab running android/IOS/windows.

*Sent via Android 5.1 Tv box, bluetooth 'remote' sized keyboard ("airmouse"), 90inch screen (home cinema projector), sitting on my sofa looking out at all the rain*

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Re: My current mobile is a nokia E63

"As I said, I like android. It's a nice portable OS for tablets."

I find the opposite. Or at least it was so last I checked; I haven't seen Android later than 4.x.

I haven't been interested in Android since 4.1 Jellybean, the last version to feature the tablet UI on larger tablets (or 4.0.4 ICS on all tablets). It's far too "phone" by my way of thinking ever since Google decided that all devices were now phones and that they all had to have the same UI to keep from confusing people when things were moved over three inches. Somehow, though, when they were moved from the tablet UI to the phone UI when I first saw 4.1, I figured out how to adapt in a few seconds; no confusion at all. I didn't LIKE the change, but I certainly was not at a loss how to use the same familiar back, home, and task manager buttons now that they were three inches to the right.

Having the notification bar on top and the button bar on the bottom makes no sense at all for a tablet that is generally held in landscape. I have two bars instead of one, at top and bottom of the screen, wasting vertical space that I don't have as much of, especially with Android devices having aspect ratios of 16:9. This is done in order to save horizontal space, which I have an abundance of. Most of the action bar is empty space; so is it with the notification bar. If only they could be combined into one unified bar and moved to the bottom... wait, we had that but Google decided that the UI had to be the same on everything, so that UI that assumes an abundance of vertical space and a shortage of horizontal space is now mandatory for everyone.

It would have been really simple for Google to have a simple preference that would enable the "confusing" tablet UI (or as I would prefer, the tablet UI in landscape and the phone UI in portrait, automatically selected), but... well, it's Google. They know best; options are for chumps.

I guess I am lucky then that my tablet hasn't had any updates beyond Jellybean... but that's the other thing that sapped the remainder of the interest I had in Android. I tend to keep my stuff for a long time; I am typing this on a nine year old laptop that's still up to date on security fixes, and will be for at least six more years on Windows 8.1 and presumably longer than that on Linux. If it breaks, fine, but don't make my useful equipment artificially obsolete because someone stopped updating the OS it has to use.

Until I can have something similar to that on a tablet or phone, you can keep them. I have a five year old tablet that works fine, is still fast enough to do everything I want it to, but that has been abandonware for four years. Even the three years that Google and Apple devices boast isn't even close to being good enough. My tablet would have only been abandonware for two years in that case, but it would still be out of support and out of luck.

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Re: My current mobile is a nokia E63

@Updraft102: Sounds like what you are really after is a Windows 8 tablet. Don't even bother with 8.1. Day-1 GA Win8. That's your flavor.

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The most important thing I look at when considering an Android phones is timely OS updates. I bought a Motorola phone (when it was owned by Google) for just that reason.

Right now, I'm Android gun shy...

Google has done some great work on the OS, but if that doesn't make it to whatever phone I buy it's worthless.

I'll probably buy an IPhone SE because it's a decent value, and I KNOW I'll be getting updates for years to come. Nokia sounds like a decent value (hardware wise) but they need to reestablish my belief in their longevity before they'll be in consideration.

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"but they need to reestablish my belief in their longevity before they'll be in consideration."

And therein lies the [circular] problem.

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Harmattan Skin

Now that would actually be neat :D

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Coffee/keyboard

"The older generations like to feel like millennials at heart..."

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, man.

I turned sixty this year, and I'm perfectly happy with the generation I grew up in.

JEEzus, somebody smack that guy.

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about ten years ago ...

.... I said to anyone that would listen (basically just my 8 yr old daughter, but whatever*) that if nokia did an android, I would buy it like a shot. The nokias I owned just had bulletproof reception in the worst places. Bought an HTC instead (good phone, but not nokia standard) But now, a decade later ... bit late to the party, I think.

* doesn't listen now, but that's not unusual

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Removable batteries need to fall off your wanted list.

They really do.

We can't make them puncture and flame proof without making them bulky.

Bulky went out with NiCd batteries a decade ago.

You want sealed. You want waterproof.

You want an iPhone7.

Too soon?

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> We can't make them puncture and flame proof without making them bulky.

That's true of *swappable* batteries (swapped on a daily basis)- they need their own robust case. By contrast, *replaceable* batteries (changed once a year) can be made flimsier.

It's a distinction that the people calling for removable batteries don't always make clear.

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Well...

Not everyone wants their phones to be flat. If you look at typical DECT phones, those are bulky and even waste lots of space. However since they are the right shape, they fit nicely into ones hand.

The problem today is that all the manufacturers are focussed on bringing out essentially the same product. This increases development costs (how to shave of another fraction of a millimetre), but lowers margins. That's a very unhealthy situation.

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Re: Well...

The difference is that for a DECT phone is that you rarely (if ever) put it in your pocket and go out for a walk. That's why slimmer is considered better for a mobile.

"The problem today is that all the manufacturers are focussed on bringing out essentially the same product." - this I couldn't agree more with.

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If you are prepared to add depth then you can get cases with built in battery which can be swapped easily enough. When the internal battery gets old they can be swapped in 30 minutes.

Modern batteries are much better.

I don't need a replaceable battery at all.

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So tell me...

...why I should buy one of these 'Nokia' Android handsets over a $100 Cubot off AliExpress?

They don't seem to be offering anything special - Zeiss camera and OZO speakers?

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Anonymous Coward

There's no fucking way I'm buying some Nokia running Windows . Satya can fuck off

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Facepalm

@Anonymous Coward

@Anonymous Coward:"There's no fucking way I'm buying some Nokia running Windows . Satya can fuck off"

Jesus, what a dipshit. Did you even read the article? It's an Android phone...

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Re: @Anonymous Coward

"Jesus, what a dipshit. Did you even read the article? It's an Android phone..."

Hey, be fair ! I read the article, then had to read the comments to find out if it was really an Android phone. I agree that our anonymous friend should have been able to guess but the article is not clear on the subject.

Davo

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Camera Tech?

I still use a Nokia 808 as my one and only phone.

It has a removable battery but after years of use, the original is still fine.

But, despite being launched in 2012, its 41 megapixel 1.2" camera was (and still is) incredible camera tech and I believe still unsurpassed. The sat nav is better than any other I've tried. I've been waiting for Nokia to bring out innovation similar to the 808 or its predecessor, the N8. All they've done is more or less bought off the shelf parts and encompassed them in a Nokia badge. Is the innovative Nokia of old dead? Is it too much to expect of HMD to do anything other than sell on Nokia nostalgia?

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Slow build up?

1) Guarantee long term support of the OS.

2) Suck up low volumes for 2-3 years whilst everyone watches to see if this is true.

3) Gain market share in the next refresh cycle.

4) Profit?

I realise there is enormous pressure on established players to cease support to drive the replacement market but if you don't have that market share then that isn't an immediate issue.

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Re: Slow build up?

Yes, I thought that. When support becomes something buyers care about, new entrants actually have a benefit because they want new buyers, they aren't (like Apple and Samsung) in a get-them-to-replace cycle.

Nokia and the Essential phone may go head to head on this.

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Anonymous Coward

I use to be a die hard Nokia person , Nokia N900 being my last Nokia phone and costing me £500 sim free.

That was during the early days of the big mobile disruption the iPhone was causing. I was your typical IT person, i refused to get anything Apple , and Nokia was going no where so i got a Samsung Galaxy S2 as it ran Android. What a mistake that was, badly built, crap call quality , locked up and freeze lots and bad battery life after just 6 months.

By that point and i had stopped being a total tool and got my first Mac to prove to my self that Apple was shit and i had a Mac to prove it. (i thin Windows 8 driving me insane helped here too) Well now the problem is i was wrong, the Mac is amazing, best laptop i have ever owned, i fell in love with MacOS and showed Windows the door after 20 years. I then got an iPhone and an iPad, and then Apple made them all work together even better with calls, texts going to what ever i am using, and being able to pull my activity from 1 device to another.

So the problem for me is, if i dumped my iPhone for a Nokia i would lose all the things i love about being in the Apple eco system, so even a die hard Nokia fan like my self will struggle to buy one.

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And that's the main reason I refused to buy anything Apple - I know they made / make beautiful hardware and meld it all with software that just works and also across devices, but that comes at a price. And that price isn't just a fiscal one. Part of the price you pay is an increasing dependence on the ecosystem of which you are now a part. Leaving that becomes increasingly difficult.

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Right now they don't seem to be offering anything that would make me want one (oh do come on - nostalgia for a brand that has essentially zero to do with its roots right now? Yeah, I have some, but I'm not THAT stupid...). Now, IF they would offer either a) a proper landscape hardware full qwerty keyboard, or b) delightfully bold and innovative takes (like they used to) on the incredibly stale slab form-factor or c) a truly astonishingly good camera on the phone (I've seen samples, the ones for the 8 are rather kinda "meh" - just look at how mid-distant foliage gets mangled...) or d) a stowable screen, whatever form factor as long as it opens to at least twice the size of the phone itself or e) at least a second high-res e-paper screen for reading e-books (hello Yotaphone) or f) a battery life of three full days (a weekend of dying of boredom in the middle of nowhere - if I wanted to carry a zillion extra power packs I don't need Nokia for that...) of semi-continuous use (light browsing etc., not video playback or calling), or... or... SOMETHING that isn't just a false use case invented by marketroids completely severed from reality, THEN I'd be quite interested...

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I would give it a try.

I love the Carl Zeiss lens in Windows Phone but I am not its user. Having a Carl Zeiss camera lens in an Android variant by Nokia would be a traction for someone like me. I have been Nokia user since 3310 days. The minimalist design is attractive that I saw in Nokia 6, and loved it. The point is to reach the company with open mind and give it a try.

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