Nokia's history dates back to 1865, when Finnish-Swede mining engineer Fredrik Idestam established a pulp mill near the town of Tampere, Finland (then in the Russian Empire).

A second pulp mill was opened in 1868 near the neighboring town of Nokia, offering better hydropower resources.

In 1871, Idestam, together with friend Leo Mechelin, formed a shared company from it and called it Nokia Ab (in Swedish, Nokia Company being the English equivalent), after the site of the second pulp mill. Idestam retired in 1896, making Mechelin the company's chairman.

In 1904 Suomen Gummitehdas (Finnish Rubber Works), a rubber business founded by Eduard Polón, established a factory near the town of Nokia and used its name.

In 1922, Nokia Ab entered into a partnership with Finnish Rubber Works and Kaapelitehdas (the Cable Factory), all now jointly under the leadership of Polón. Finnish Rubber Works company grew rapidly when it moved to the Nokia region in the 1930s to take advantage of the electrical power supply, and the cable company soon did too.

In 1967, the three companies – Nokia, Kaapelitehdas and Finnish Rubber Works – merged and created a new Nokia Corporation, restructured into four major businesses: forestry, cable, rubber and electronics.

In 1977, Kari Kairamo became CEO and he transformed the company's businesses. By this time, Finland was becoming what has been called "Nordic Japan". Under his leadership Nokia acquired many companies including television maker Salora , followed by Swedish electronics and computer maker Luxor AB, and French television maker Oceanic. This made Nokia the third-largest television manufacturer of Europe (behind Philips and Thomson).

Nokia also acquired Mobira, a mobile telephony company, which was the foundation of its future mobile phones business. In 1981, Mobira launched the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) service, the world's first international cellular network and the first to allow international roaming.

In 1982, Mobira launched the Mobira Senator car phone, Nokia's first mobile phone.

Nokia's first fully portable mobile phone after the Mobira Senator was the Mobira Cityman 900 in 1987.

Following Simo Vuorilehto's appointment as CEO, a major restructuring was planned. With 11 groups within the company, Vuorilehto divested industrial units he deemed as un-strategic. Nokian Tyres (Nokian Renkaat), a tyre producer originally formed as a division of Finnish Rubber Works in 1932, split away from Nokia Corporation in 1988.

On 1 April 1988, Nokia bought the computer division of Ericsson's Information Systems, which originated as a computer division of Swedish aircraft and car manufacturer Saab called Datasaab.

in 1990, Finnish Rubber Works split away from Nokia.

In 1991 Nokia sold its computer division, Nokia Data, to UK-based International Computers Limited (ICL), the precursor of Fujitsu Siemens.

Nokia assisted in the development of the GSM mobile standard in the 1980s, and developed the first GSM network with Siemens, the predecessor to Nokia Siemens Network. The world's first GSM call was made by Finnish prime minister Harri Holkeri on 1 July 1991, using Nokia equipment on the 900 MHz band network built by Nokia and operated by Radiolinja.

Vuorilehto quit in January 1992 and was replaced by Jorma Ollila, who had been the head of the mobile phone business from 1990 and advised against selling that division. Ollila decided to turn Nokia into a 'telecom-oriented' company, and he eventually got rid of divisions like the power business. This strategy proved to be very successful and the company grew rapidly in the following years. Nokia's operating profit went from negative in 1991 to $1 billion in 1995 and almost $4 billion by 1999.

In November 1992, the Nokia 1011 launched, making it the first commercially available GSM mobile phone.

Nokia claimed in April 1996 its 447Xav and 447K monitors to be the first with stereo speakers and a sub-woofer.

On 12 June 1996, Nokia announced the sale of its television business to Canada/Hong Kong-based Semi-Tech Corporation. The sale included a factory in Turku, and the rights to use the Nokia, Finlux, Luxor, Salora, Schaub-Lorenz and Oceanic brands until the end of 1999.

Nokia was the first to launch digital satellite receivers in the UK, announced in March 1997.

In August 1997 Nokia introduced the first digital satellite receiver with Common Interface (CI) support.

In 1998 Nokia became the chosen supplier to produce the world's first digital terrestrial television set-top boxes by British Digital Broadcasting (BDB), which was eventually launched as ONdigital.

In 1998, Nokia co-founded Symbian Ltd.

In October 1998, Nokia overtook Motorola to become the best-selling mobile phone brand, and in December manufactured its 100 millionth mobile phone.

In May 1999 Nokia introduced their first wireless LAN products.

On 26 April 2001 Nokia partnered with Telefonica to supply DSL modems and routers in Spain.

In 2001 Nokia and Symbian Ltd. created the Symbian Series 60 platform, later introducing it with their first camera phone, the Nokia 7650.

Nokia was one of the pioneers of mobile gaming due to the popularity of Snake, which came pre-loaded on many products. In 2002, Nokia attempted to break into the handheld gaming market with the N-Gage. the device was a failure, unable to challenge the dominant market leader Nintendo.

In April 2005 Nokia partnered with German camera optics maker Carl Zeiss AG.

On 1 June 2006, Jorma Ollila became the company's chairman and retired as CEO, replaced by Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.

Nokia acquired the entire company in June 2008 and then formed the Symbian Foundation as its successor.

In November 2008 Nokia announced it would end mobile phone sales in Japan because of low market share.

The old Symbian OS became completely open source in February 2010.

On 10 September 2010, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo was fired as CEO and it was announced that Stephen Elop from Microsoft would take Nokia's CEO position, becoming the first non-Finnish director in Nokia's history. Ollila had also announced that he would step down as Nokia chairman by 2012. On 11 March 2011 Nokia announced that it had paid Elop a $6 million signing bonus as "compensation for lost income from his prior employer", on top of his $1.4 million annual salary.

In November 2010 it was announced that the Symbian Foundation was closing and that Nokia would take back control of the Symbian operating system under closed licensing.

On 11 February 2011, Nokia announced a "strategic partnership" with Microsoft, under which it would adopt Windows Phone 7 as its primary operating system on smartphones, and integrate its services and platforms with its own, including Bing as search engine, and integration of Nokia Maps data into Bing Maps. Elop stated that Nokia chose not to use Android because of an apparent inability to "differentiate" its offerings, with critics also noting that his past ties to Microsoft may have also influenced the decision.

On 1 August 2011, Nokia announced that it would adopt a new three-digit naming system for mobile phone products and stop using letters, effectively ending the Nseries, Eseries, and short-lived Cseries.

Nokia's first Windows Phone flagship was the Lumia 800, which arrived in November 2011.

Ollila stepped down as chairman on 4 May 2012 and was replaced by Risto Siilasmaa.

In July 2013, Nokia bought Siemens' stake in the Nokia Siemens Networks joint venture for $2.2 billion, turning it into a wholly owned subsidiary called Nokia Solutions and Networks, until being rebranded as Nokia Networks soon after.

In September 2013 Nokia announced the sale of its mobile and devices division to Microsoft. The sale was positive for Nokia to avoid further negative financial figures, as well as for Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer, who wanted Microsoft to produce more hardware and turn it into a devices and services company.

On 17 November 2014, Nokia Technologies head Ramzi Haidamus disclosed that the company planned to re-enter the consumer electronics business as an original design manufacturer, licensing in-house hardware designs and technologies to third-party manufacturers.

On 14 April 2015, Nokia confirmed that it was in talks with the French telecommunications equipment company Alcatel-Lucent regarding a potential merger. The next day, Nokia announced that it had agreed to purchase Alcatel-Lucent for €15.6 billion in an all-stock deal.

On 14 July 2015, CEO Rajeev Suri confirmed that the company would make a return to the mobile phones market in 2016.

On 3 August 2015, Nokia announced that it had reached a deal to sell its Here digital maps division to a consortium of BMW, Daimler AG and Volkswagen Group for €2.8 billion. The deal closed on 3 December 2015.

On 28 July 2015, Nokia announced OZO, a 360-degrees virtual reality camera, with eight 2K optical image sensors. The division behind the product, Nokia Technologies, claimed that OZO would be the most advanced VR film-making platform. OZO was fully unveiled on 30 November in Los Angeles. The OZO, designed for professional use, was intended for retail for US$60,000.

On 26 April 2016, Nokia announced its intent to acquire French connected health device maker Withings for US$191 million. The company was integrated into a new Digital Health unit of Nokia Technologies. Nokia later wrote off the cost of the acquisition and in May 2018 the health unit was sold back to Éric Carreel, a Withings co-founder and former CEO.

On 18 May 2016, Microsoft Mobile sold its Nokia-branded feature phone business to HMD Global, a new company founded by former Nokia executive Jean-Francois Baril, and an associated factory in Vietnam to Foxconn's FIH Mobile subsidiary. Nokia subsequently entered into a long-term licensing deal to make HMD the exclusive manufacturer of Nokia-branded phones and tablets outside Japan, operating in conjunction with Foxconn. The deal also granted HMD the right to essential patents and featurephone software.

On 28 June 2016 Nokia demonstrated for the first time a 5G-ready network.

In October 2015, following approval of the deal by China's Ministry of Commerce, the merger awaited approval by French regulators. The merger closed on 14 January 2016, but was not complete until 3 November 2016.

In February 2017 Nokia carried out a 5G connection in Oulu, Finland using the 5GTF standard, backed by Verizon, on Intel architecture-based equipment.

On 30 June 2017, Gregory Lee, previously CEO of Samsung Electronics in North America, was appointed Nokia Technologies CEO and president.

On 5 July 2017, Nokia and Xiaomi announced that they have signed a business collaboration agreement and a multi-year patent agreement, including a cross license to each company's cellular standard essential patents. 5GTF

On 19 January 2018, Nokia signed a deal with NTT Docomo, Japan's largest mobile operator, to provide 5G wireless radio base stations in the country by 2020.

On 29 January 2018, Nokia introduced the ReefShark line of 5G chipsets, claiming that it triples bandwidth to 84 Gbit/s. It will be released by Q3 2018. It also incorporates artificial intelligence technologies from Bell Labs.

On 13 March 2018, Solidium, the investment arm of the Finnish government, purchased a 3.3% stake in Nokia valued at €844 million.

On 7 May 2018, Nokia announced that it has acquired a California-based IoT startup, SpaceTime Insight.