Nokia and Motorola and the failed art of the soft launch

Nokia and Motorola and the failed art of the soft launch

Summary: Yesterday Nokia and Motorola created a stir with new smartphone announcements. Nokia showed off its latest Lumia phones and Motorola the latest in the Droid family of Android smartphones. They may have gotten you excited but you can't buy any of them yet.


The soft launch has become all too common in the mobile tech arena. A company hosts a flashy press event to get consumers heated up about the latest product. Features are detailed, demos are given and prospective buyers reach for their wallets. Then the company shares that the hot new product won't be available until "later this year" and at a price "to be determined later".

Nokia Lumia 820 and 920

Nokia was the first to throw a soft launch this week for its flashy new Lumia 920. This is the latest entry in the company's Windows Phone line, and it looks like a beauty. Nokia stuck with its innovative industrial design for the handset and poured a lot of effort under the hood of the 920.

Nokia 920 wireless charging
Image credit: Nokia -- Nokia Lumia 920 with wireless charging

The Lumia 920 will be packing Windows Phone 8 when it ships and Microsoft shared the stage with Nokia to show off the main features of this new version. The live tiles and People hub were demonstrated, along with some cool new camera functionality called "lenses".

Lenses are essentially camera extensions, apps if you will, that can be invoked to interact directly with the phone camera. One of the coolest lenses has the ability to sense when people are moving in the background of photos taken, and let you remove them with a simple tap.

These extensions go hand-in-hand with the camera in the Lumia 920, no doubt one of the best on any camera to date. Nokia has long been producing good cameras on its phones, and the one on the 920 is the best of the lot. It's clear Nokia's focus was to set the Lumia 920 apart from the crowded smartphone field with this camera.

Wireless charging first to market with the failed Palm Pre is making a comeback with the Lumia 920. Nokia showed off several chargers including the "FatBoy" which makes it easy to just set the phone on the mat and charge away.

Also on the hardware front Nokia is pushing NFC to use it for things others than paying for stuff. The Lumia 920 will have accessories available that are activated by simply tapping the phone on the accessory. A cool boom box was demonstrated that is turned on by NFC with a tap and then music is streamed from the phone to the boom box over Bluetooth.

nokia-lumia-820 CNET
Image credit: CNET

Nokia also showed off a Lumia with less features than the flagship 920. The Lumia 820 will obviously carry a lower price tag than the 920, aiming it at the cost-conscious smartphone buyer. While the hardware features of the 820 are limited compared to the 920, the Windows Phone software will go a long way to level the two handsets. The 820 also has interchangable back shells for those who like to change the color of the phone to match their mood (or outfits).

Nokia is also pushing its range of location-based services to set the Lumias apart from the competition. The demos given of the augmented reality features of the mappping and navigation apps were really good.

Both the Lumia 820 and 920 are solid entrants in Nokia's Windows Phone line, but the excitement generated at the soft launch was dampered by the lack of availability for them. That's the downside of the soft launch, you make people want your product and then snatch it away from them.

Colleague Mary Jo Foley has details about both Nokia Lumia phones.

Motorola Droid RAZRs

Shortly after the Nokia event both Google and Motorola took the stage to showcase the new handsets coming. The first part of the event was intended to show that Google has taken over Motorola since the purchase, and let folks know they were in charge.

Eric Schmidt of Google shared the latest distribution figures for Android. A whopping 1.3 million Android devices are activated every day. Android is still dominating the smartphone space, but only 70,000 of those daily activations are tablets. That number should go up with the Nexus 7 on the market.

Motorola and Google chose to stick with the popular Droid RAZR branding, and three new handsets were launched at the event.

Image credit: Verizon

The Droid RAZR HD has a 4.7-inch display housed in a thin handset that looks similar to earlier Motorola handsets. It packs a 2,530mAh battery to help owners get through a whole day of heavy data usage with the 4G LTE connectivity.

Droid RAZR Maxx HD
Image credit: Verizon

Battery life with LTE is always an issue, and Motorola has perfected the technology to cram ever larger batteries in thin phones. The Droid RAZR Maxx HD sports a whopping 3,300mAh battery in the phone to provide an estimated 32 hours of normal use per charge.

Droid RAZR M
Image credit: Verizon

On the economy front, the smaller Droid RAZR M will be available (yes, actually available) in white and black for Verizon customers in September for $99.99 with a new contract.

No availability nor pricing was confirmed by Motorola for either the Droid RAZR HD nor the Droid RAZR Maxx HD. The soft launch effect raises its ugly head yet again.

Strangely, none of these three new phones from Motorola/ Google will ship with the latest version of Android, Jelly Bean. Motorola proudly announced at the launch that they would ship with Ice Cream Sandwich but receive a Jelly Bean update "before the end of the year".

The fact that not even Google can get its own phones shipping with Jelly Bean out of the box indicates there is something inherently wrong with the Android update process.

Related posts:

Topics: Smartphones, Mobile OS

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  • Nokia and Motorola and the failed art of the soft launch

    It didn't fail at all. Look how many websites covered the Nokia event. You even wrote a blog about it. That sounds like success to me. The reason you can't get it is because Microsoft has not made Windows Phone 8 available yet. People that I've talked to who have seen the phone still want it when it becomes available, again a success. I know several who are holding out for its release and will not buy anything other than these Nokia phones.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Agreed

      I'm in the same camp, waiting for the Nokia 920. I'm disappointed that I have to wait until the end of October or so, but it's not a big deal. I really don't need to have everything right away.
      • I skipped WP7 for WP8

        I'm in old school "wait til 3.0" camp.
        • If you're a "wait til 3.0" guy

          Then you'll want to wait for WP9. Me, I waited until the iPhone 3GS (third iPhone iteration) to buy an iPhone, and wasn't disappointed. I then moved up to the 4S, when it came available. Will not buy the iPhone 5 (or whatever it is they call it) unless one of the phones in my family breaks and it costs more to repair than paying the price for a new one.
    • I want a Lumina, but... problem is that I am on Verizon, who said they will be offering WP8 phones, but they probably won't have the Lumina phones, at least not at launch. Really don't want to have to switch to AT&T. Come on Verizon, get these phones!
  • Ms Nokia announced for one reason

    To try to get people to hold off purchasing an iPhone5.

    Their phone looks great, but we will see if Verizon ever sells them.
    • Don't hold your breath...

      Drodizon is fully invested android. They don't even like selling the iPhone. At my local Droidizon store only half of one wall has apple gear. The other half of the wall, feature phones. The entire rest of the store was android phones and tablets. Windows phone is persona non grata. They didn't even have a battery for my HTC Trophy.
      • Not when it comes to a Droid...

        Agree completely and my problem with Droid relates to lack of service and support for newer Android software. James, you got it completely right on your two articles and even Google can't put out phones that come pre-installed with JB or simply gets regular updates. Not sure how updated process if effecting JB, but it can't be all that different then ICS or can it???

        Thank God I bought my Droid Bionic after market and did not have to sign a contract extending its life for two years. I'm now running ICS (a pre-build leaked by Verizon) and thankfully it is doing very Very well. My Bionic was up and down for over 6-months and thankfully ICS has been a huge blessing and only a few bumps in the road.

        Sadly though, I'm not expecting any love from Motorola, Google, or Verizon (I think they are really the big problem when it comes to Bionic phones) and should be getting a $100 credit toward a new phone later this month (just in time for Apple's announcement next week). Sorli...
      • LOL

        Yea how much wall space do you really need for one phone; with a 3.5" screen? Oh wait the 4 and 4s, display them both because they are SO different.

        I've seen a few peeps with Razr M already so not really vaporware.
      • Good luck with that.

        They show a vapor-phone hoping that people will hold off from buying an iphone 5 which will be available months before the Nokia with a wildly popular (and better) OS, superior application base, most likely industry setting technology and in all likelihood a very good phone.

        Nope, can't understand why Nokia is on death's door step.
    • Except If Apple Has a Rabbit in Its Hat...

      The iPhone 5 launch is poised to be the most unispiring Apple had in a long time.

      Chances that the leaks covered everything from this phone are high. The battery capacity indicates that the power envelope is similar to the iPhone 4S. Basically, there won't be surprises and the phone, aside its nice engineering, will have nothing outstanding.

      As for iOS 6, few surprises are expected considering it has been available to developer for a fair amount of time now.

      Finally, consumers that plan to buy the iPhone 5 early are unlikely to switch to Windows Phone anytime soon and Nokia knows about this.

      I hardly see how yesterday's launch could have been directly aimed toward Apple consumers. No, I don't buy that.
  • Moto-Google

    I think theirs was a boring announcement. I have the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and it has everything the new ones have except for the fancy new screen and improved battery life.

    The Google bureaucracy now rivals MS. They really need to take charge of this upgrade issue and take it off the table once and for all. The constant flood of Android devices is getting old. You buy an android phone and 2 days later one with slightly improved specs comes out.
  • Like a Cake You Take Out of the Oven to Soon

    Pfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff...that's what happens with ALL these soft launches. Wow, wow, wow, it looks so cool...but we can't tell you when, how much, or even where. It's been an epidemic this year with Surface, Lumia, Droid, Galaxy Note II, etc.

    Now watch next week - here's the iPhone 5; pre-orders same day or within a few days; shipping and in your hands within 10 days or less. And watch them rack up nearly 10,000,000 in sales before the Lumia 920 or Motorola HD are available to be ORDERED.

    Sure, they are trying to take some of the wind out of Apple's sails - but more like the wind dropping from 20 knots to 19 knots...won't even feel the dent.
  • Worth a purchase for its Navigation software and camera

    Hopefully these phones will be available before end of October. MS has spared some last minute tricks of WP8 to be revealed at a later date, so these phones will another soft launch again.
  • Nobody knows

    Maybe the salient fact about the soft launches is that no one outside the tech community pays any attention to them. That's why Nokia and Motorola can be so cavalier about showing products that put their current offerings to shame.

    I don't know the secret of Apple's hype machine, but they sure do have it nailed. The local 5 o'clock news carried the upcoming iPhone launch, just as they would actual news. Nokia? Google? Motorola? Nada.

    As for the pricing, I get the sense that all these guys are playing a giant game of chicken: you go first. Microsoft doesn't want to price the Surface until they see what Amazon has and whether Apple has a 'mini,' Samsung and Dell are waiting on Microsoft, and so on down the line. On the phones, they're all waiting for Apple to price the iPhone, and then they'll come in under it. By October it should be raining prices.
    Robert Hahn
  • Great phones I won't buy

    I can get around the Droid HD line not coming with Jelly Bean. Should they? Probably, but it isn't a deal breaker for me.

    Now the fact that we have four nice phones, probably the best Windows phones and Android phones announced to date, and none of them even have release dates is a major pain. During the Nokia announcement yesterday, which I followed via a live blog, I kept thinking that I really wanted the Lumia 920. Then it became obvious that these wouldn't be available for close to 2 months and I thought, "Just as well, since I am still in my contract on my current phone for a while." All my excitement was gone.
    • The windup... And the punch

      The other thing is that two months is a little tight, but not impossible, for guys like Samsung and HTC to round up comparable-sounding features and get them in before launching some new phone they have on the way. Telling the Other Guys what features to include months before you'll have them yourself has limited utility.
      Robert Hahn
  • "One of the coolest lenses has the ability to sense when people are moving"

    A feature that was demonstrated first on Android by Scalado, but then Nokia bought Scalado and now it's on WP8, haha. Oh well, at least someone gets to use it. :|
  • Windows Phone and inking

    Why do the new windows phone disregard the inking experience? As a tablet user since the TC1100, I am waiting for a smartphone that lets me take notes in one note that sync with my tablet. Why is this not a feature that the manufactuers include in the devices?
  • If these guys keep having non-events

    people will stop paying attention and focus Apple even more.