Ina Fried

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Former Nokia Workers Aim to Make Android Seaworthy With Rugged New Phone

After seeing his third smartphone die during a three-month sailing trip in 2010, Heikki Sarajarvi decided that there had to be a better approach.

Adaia BMW Group Designworks USA

“I was so fed up,” Sarajarvi said. “I can’t be the only one who is destroying these smartphones doing completely normal things.”

He talked to other sailors and found that they were having similar issues. It wasn’t even about getting the phone wet, he said. Salty sea spray alone was ruining the phones.

So the ship builder and onetime Nokia consultant connected with some other workers at the Finnish cellphone company and set up his own company, Adaia. Of the company’s 16 employees, about half are former Nokia workers.

After two years of toiling, the company has a working prototype for its first product — a rugged Android phone with both cellular and satellite connectivity for texting and email — and for summoning help in an emergency.

Adaia’s phone won’t be out until next year, and it probably won’t be cheap. Sarajarvi said it will cost more than a high-end smartphone, but less than the four cellphones he had to buy.

Adaia partnered with BMW Group’s DesignworksUSA on the design, inspired by a topographical map.

“Dualism is the key characteristic of the design,” said Laurenz Schaffer, the president of the BMW Group-owned design firm, which has worked on phones dating back to the Nokia 5100 series. “It had to support an extreme, active lifestyle in the outdoors, as well as be appropriate to use in an executive meeting.”

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