Who is Nokia?

Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash

As a member of the Urbandroid Team (developers of Sleep as Android, Twilight, and initiators of DontKillMyApp.com), I have a lot of experience with what bugs Android users on phones from various vendors.

And especially Nokia. The issues with their battery saving policies led us to creating DontKillMyApp.com, a voice of the indie Android developer community and a shared FAQ for dealing with undocumented vendor modifications to battery saving options in stock (commercial) Android.

Nokia is guilty of being the worst offenders in terms of background process killing on Android. They claim their phones run stock Android, but nothing could be farther from the truth — the system itself may be close to stock, but the devil hides in the preinstalled bloatware.

The not-so-stock Android

So — Nokia phones come with a handful of system apps that strongly modify the system behaviour, send user data to Taiwan, and cannot be disabled or uninstalled (without using ADB). This behaviour is undocumented and often times in conflict with Android development guidelines.

Nokia thus bundles stock Android, but then modifies its stock behaviour unpredictably by preinstalled apps. That’s a pretty harsh trick.

And what’s even more unbelievable? Nokia was able to pull this trick even on their Android One programme phones.

Almost all of those system apps share a common package namespace, com.evenwell. Which leads us to the question…

Who is Evenwell?

Googling Evenwell yields almost no results, most of them are reddit posts of people complaining about various things com.evenwell packages do to their Nokia phones.

There is a company on Google Play Store registered as Evenwell Digitech, but their apps use a different namespace — com.fihtdc, com.einstein. So this looked like a red herring.

The main question is — who is writing the software for Nokia phones? Is that HMD Global software department, using the namespace com.evenwell, or is it someone else out there writing those apps for HMD Global?

After a lot of digging, I’ve found the answer, and it lied in uncovering the company structure and partnerships of HMD Global. So without disclosing who Evenwell is yet, let’s draw ourselves a picture of HMD Global’s business relations.

HMD Global & friends

HMD Global boasts to be “an independent, Finnish company”. But in this business, nobody is truly independent.

Let’s take a look at the obvious — relationship to Nokia. Nokia is not an investor in HMD — it does have representation on the HMD board, and will receive royalty on every Nokia-branded device that the company sells.

But the Finnish company wouldn’t be able to actually manufacture the phones by themselves. So who does make them? Hon Hai Precision Industries. Which is — Foxconn.

Foxconn is a big investor in HMD Global through its subsidiary FIH Mobile Limited, and makes Nokia phones in an Indian factory, formerly owned by Microsoft. Foxconn also seems to get ideas from Nokia, for example this clone of legendary Nokia 3310 which they manufacture under the InFocus brand.

InFocus is one of the brands of FIH/Foxconn. Somewhere at this point I looked at the FIH website and found their 2017 annual report, which lists a few of their subsidiaries, and lo, behold, there was some Evenwell Digitech listed.

I also found that while Evenwell does not have any website, there is a website for http://fihtdc.com. Yup, that’s the namespace for the Evenwell Digitech from the Play Store, mentioned earlier. This website shows an email signin form, presumably for employees, where they can choose a domain under which they want to sign. And what a treasure of domains can they sign in under!

There is fihtdc.com, which I claim now tightly established as FIH umbrella domain, there is fih-foxconn.com, and there is evensoft.com.tw, which is most probably a domain of Evenwell Digitech.

So yeah, Evenwell Digitech is a subsidiary company of the biggest investor in HMD Global and a manufacturer of Nokia hardware. Evenwell Digitech writes system software for Nokia in the West under namespace com.evenwell, and in the East for Nokia and InFocus under namespace com.fihtdc.

So what?

All of this means that the system software written for Nokia phones is not written by Google or by HMD Global.

It is written by a company which does not have any direct trust from end users, which monitors and interferes with the phones’ behaviour, and whose operation is not disclosed by HMD Global.