The Lumia 920 is without a doubt one of the best looking smartphones on the planet and probably the best design to come out of the Finnish smartphone maker. So it’s interesting as to why Nokia has decide to purposely stub their own toe before the big race, essentially taking themselves out of the competition. You may ask yourself, what does he mean with this odd metaphor, please, allow me to explain.
When Nokia was looking to get back into the smartphone game, they decided to choose Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS as their “lifeboat,” maybe because they believed it was the future of smartphones or because Microsoft paid Nokia a boat load of money. Whatever the case may be, Nokia bet their company’s success—and future—on a mobile platform that has failed to reach more than 4% marketshare in two years (as of September 2012). So you’d think they’d want to get their device into the hands of as many people as possible. But, when they launched their first flagship Windows Phone, the Lumia 900, they decided to give AT&T the exclusive deal. This move crippled any potential Nokia had at gaining the masses. First, AT&T, despite having millions of customers, is still second to Verizon and their massive LTE network. Sure, Nokia may have pocketed a few extra million (dollars), but that won’t help them gain marketshare or customers loyalty, something that already belongs to Android and iOS. Now granted, part of the problem was that carriers like Verizon and Sprint weren’t too keen on Windows Phone and didn’t want to back another device running the OS until they saw some increase of sales of their current WP devices and they also waited for the release of Windows Phone 8.
When the Lumia 900 launched, it was marred with a barrage of screw ups, from launching on Easter Sunday to the data connection problems that saw AT&T refunding the entire $99 purchase price to anyone who bought one. Needless to say, things could have gone better. But by launching on AT&T, and only AT&T, Nokia crippled their flagship device, before it was even out of the gate.
Here we are, a year from the announcement of the Lumia 900 and we have Windows Phone 8 and the Lumia 920, ready to go. This time around, in addition to AT&T and T-Mobile, Verizon is backing Windows Phone. Microsoft has a lot going for it, they just launched Windows 8 for the PC and heavyweights like HTC and Samsung are also prepping Windows Phone devices, so competition in the space is picking up, as is the interest in the OS. When Nokia revealed the Lumia 920 to the press and public back in September, it debuted a device that is thicker than the 900 as well as being heavier. But the tradeoffs were for a better camera and wireless charging, however, the device looked nearly identical to the 900, except for the fact that the internals had all been upgraded.
So, with increased competition from HTC (who’s Windows Phone devices look very Lumia-ish, only thinner) and Samsung, Verizon is now playing along and people’s interest in Windows Phone is growing, you’d think Nokia would have been smarter and taken a page out of Apple and Samsung’s playbook, by releasing their flagship phone on as many carriers as possible. Nokia however didn’t do that, they decided instead to give AT&T the exclusive once again and left their mid-level device, the Lumia 822, to represent the company and its Windows Phone efforts on Verizon and T-Mobile. While some customers may love the look of the Lumia 920, millions of them aren’t willing to depart their carrier of choice, be it for costs or reliability, simply for a look, they just don’t have that type of clout yet, unlike Apple or Samsung.
So far, despite critics praising the Lumia 920, sales have been flat from what we’ve heard. With AT&T stores reported as the only locations were would be buyer can pick up the device, while big box retailers like Best Buy and Target have no stock at all. Meanwhile, the HTC Windows Phone 8X—again, which looks like a Lumia—is now available on AT&T and Verizon, as of tomorrow and T-Mobile will be adding it soon. Unless Nokia rethinks its marketing strategy, it won’t matter how gorgeous its display is or great the camera takes pictures, if not enough people can buy one, it’s all for naught. We’ve seen the Lumia 900 fail and Nokia has been losing billions of dollars since, if history repeats itself, we may be seeing the end of of the once great smartphone giant. Hopefully, for Nokia’s sake, they have good lawyers who can find a way out of their exclusive deal with AT&T so they can get the Lumia 920 on more carriers.