Nokia's focus on features and services with Windows Phone 8 Lumias puts challenge to rivals

Nokia's focus on features and services with Windows Phone 8 Lumias puts challenge to rivals

Summary: Nokia's newest handsets do a good job of introducing the Microsoft Windows Phone 8 operating system, as well as adding the company's own core strengths to the devices - which should put Android and other Windows Phone 8 makers to the test.

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Nokia's newly launched Windows Phone-8 based devices, unveiled on Thursday in New York, will force other mobile makers to more distinctly differentiate their handsets with features and services, or suffer blending into the background.

Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 820. Image credit: Sarah Tew/CNET News

At the launch event for Lumia 820 and 920, it was clear that Nokia was playing to its core strengths in services, with Nokia Maps, Nokia Transport and Nokia Drive all upgraded with new features for the two devices.

The evolution of Nokia's services should worry rivals. While companies such as Samsung differentiate through the use of things like voice commands (S Voice), Nokia has chosen to improve the core experience of Windows Phone 8, which seems a more sound use of development time than adding additional but somewhat limited features. The developments shouldn't only worry Android makers though; it sets the bar for other Windows Phone 8 handsets from other manufacturers.

Francisco Jeronimo, mobile analyst at IDC, concurs.

"What makes it unique from competitors, however, are the range of services that Nokia developed to create additional value to its clients and to compete with other Windows Phones that will come to market in the next quarters," Jeronimo said. "Nokia Maps is probably the most noticeable service. The maps offer is a lot more advanced than any the other mobile maps offering on the market."

Given that both of the new devices have essentially the same feature set, the buyer's choice will likely be made on pricing, which hasn't yet been announced. However, with the devices likely to be priced competitively (particularly in the UK, where contract-subsidised handsets are the norm) to help both Nokia and Microsoft win back market share, other manufacturers will need to up their game - or lower their prices - in order to compete.

And launching the handsets with almost the same feature set also means Nokia retains a consistency of user experience across the range – a boon for those who want the full-fat smartphone experience without the full-fat price tag.

Enterprise appeal

Similar feature sets with differing price tags will also help the Lumias win hearts and minds in the enterprise: lower price-point handsets can be rolled out to the masses, while higher-end devices are given to the execs - yet both user bases will be able to use near-identical apps and features. Of course, the Windows Phone 8 operating system is a platform likely to appeal IT departments, both in terms of playing to those companies that are Microsoft shops as well as easing support concerns for firms that have gone down the BYOD route.

Nokia Lumia 820
The Nokia Lumia 820 comes in a range of colours. Image credit: Nokia

The other area of development in Nokia's favour is the growth of the Windows Phone Market, which has gone from around 7,000 apps at launch to more than 100,000 now. While that's nowhere near the scale of the Android or iOS app stores, it does show a shift in developer support for the Microsoft platform, which is crucial to the success of Nokia.

However, despite the positive initial reception at the event, the soundness of Nokia's strategy will not be proven until it starts selling the handsets, and even then it will take between three and six months before it can be established as a success or failure.

"The next two quarters will define Nokia's future. The company took a long-term strategy and a bold decision to invest in the new operating system. This is a marathon and will not give Nokia a short-term boost on sales, but it is important that Nokia continues quarter over quarter to grow its volumes steadily," Jeronimo said. "The time has come for Stephen Elop to prove his strategy was right."  

Topics: Nokia, Mobility, Smartphones

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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31 comments
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  • Windows Phone 7 and 8

    Windows Phone 7 is hands down the best Smartphone I have ever used. I have used IPhone and Android devices as well. Windows Phone 8 will be even better from the looks of the new Nokia phones and features.
    !BloodThirst!
    • "The next two quarters will define Nokia's future"

      I agree with that statement. My gut feeling is its NOT going to be a great outcome.
      JeveSobs
      • VZW is KEY

        If VZW comes through the way they're suggesting they will, MS has a chance to double it's U.S. market share in six months and to push up to around 10% by the end of 2013, which would be the start of a solid turn around. If MS gets WP into the hands of the 3-4 major pre-paid carriers, then they could increase their market share by another 5%. In the grand scheme of things, MS is barely addressing 40% of the U.S. market.
        jjworleyeoe
        • Finally

          I am an Android user and have been for a while. I really do like my Droid 2 Global but I really want a Windows Phone. I am glad that Verizon will finally get a new one.
          Zheldon
    • Opinions Differ but ....

      It has the potential to be a differentiator providing NS phones ever get off the ground far enough to be effective.
      rhonin
      • We need edit......

        ... providing MS phones ...
        rhonin
    • you're kidding

      I kept my Lumia 710 for two weeks. Love Nokia. They build the best instruments. But the OS??!! How can it be the greatest without speech to text keypad; without swype keypad; without total google integration. Ended up back on android; it's just so much more mature. Next time I'll look before I leap. But I'm still tempted, cause I love Nokia phones. They should do like the other company did ("Ativ") and turn out some android models under the "Aikon" brand.
      bikerrich
      • If you like the way, Android works

        just stay with Android devices. perceptions are different, I like WP7.5 more than Adroid but then I could also live with Android...at least my kids do very well. Me and my wife and some of my firends just like WP better.
        Andrej.G.
      • True, but

        you're forgetting that Windows Phone 7/7.5 run on the CE kernel. A lot of the Android and iOS features you listed were simple out of its range. With Windows Phone 8's adoption of the NT kernel, a more advanced feature set will potentially place it on equal standing with iOS and Android OS. The main determinant now is its app ecosystem because let's face it, nobody wants to use a platform without feasible (or at least comparable/alternative) "essential" applications.
        G'Dammit!
      • I love my WP7.5

        It put my previous droid to shame. The interface is nicer, smoother and far more intuitive than my droid ever was. The lack of google integration is a PLUS for me as I am not a fan of google and certainly don't trust them with my data.
        hopp64
        • Yet you trust the very same data to Microsoft?

          It has been shown that Microsoft tracks your location, what you type, where you surf, etc on these phones. Even though they swear they don't.
          Troll Hunter J
  • what is 'launch' ?

    Does it mean I can buy it from a carrier in US? Or it means I can enjoy live coverage of the launch event on web?
    ForeverSPb
    • Re:

      The former
      G'Dammit!
  • Verizon Availiability!?

    These phones need to be on all networks or they will massively flop. I would have looked at Nokia win7 phones if they were on verizon.....
    Bruce Banter
    • According to an Engadget arcticle today.

      Verizon will be carrying Windows Phone 8 before the end of Q4 2012, and possible Nokia offerings in the future according to VZW COO Marni Walden.
      TechNickle
      • Nokia needs Verizon

        Because their prior U.S. efforts were limited to AT&T. Yeah they had other phones on other carriers, but they weren't the higher end devices.

        The U.S. isn't the center of the universe. But as proven by iOS and Android (and Nokia's fall from dominance), you have to make a splash in the U.S. if you want it to be a success. Nokia failed to do that. Blackberry is huge around the world but also is failing in the U.S. and look at the job loss as a result.

        To quote and old Blue Eyes Tune: "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere".
        tallbruva
        • Nokia isn't making "High-end" phones

          Well according to the Apple haters on here (Will Farrell/toddbottom3/palmsolo, etc). They don't have user replaceable, or upgradable batteries, or Micro SD card slots, and HDMI out.
          Troll Hunter J
  • The Nokia Lumia 920 is my next phone.

    I was undecided which phone to buy: Galaxy Note 2 or the new Lumia.... .... the winner is the Lumia 920. I want to try out Windows Phone 8 and Nokia's phone has a lot of good features on top of being beautiful!!
    OpinadorObjetivo
  • This Lumia 920 will be Best sync with my laptop

    I wish to use the Lumia 920 soon . Hope to see the convinient sync with my Windows 8 Laptop and continue my work at everyplace easily. How soon can I buy it ?
    ookbaeji
  • Seems to require a lot of selling

    Having all these nifty (and costly for Nokia) proprietary features is an interesting strategy. The hard part is getting buyers to understand that the features are there, and that they have marvelous benefits, in the time allowed.

    Nobody is gong to spend five hours in a Verizon store pushing every button on every phone to see what each button does. We don't know pricing yet, but odds are these will be $100 or $200 decisions. People will spend 15 minutes on that, but not a lot more. The Verizon salesman has the same goal: get you into a phone and out the door in fifteen minutes or less. I just don't see a lot of "quality time" being spent discovering and exploring complex, feature-rich services before the time comes to pick a phone and leave. I think the competitive strategy of "screw the expensive-to-provide features, let's just cut our price" could be a lot more effective at selling phones. "It's cheaper" is easy to say, easy to understand, and it forgives a lot of sins.

    To make this strategy work, Nokia will have to spend heavily on ads of the sort that can go into detail about these features and why a customer would want them. They will also have to spend heavily on an ongoing sales training program in the phone stores. The turnover in those places is very high; you no sooner train one than she's gone. But if you don't get the salespeople excited about the features, they won't learn them or demonstrate them or even mention them... which makes them useless as 'advantages'.
    Robert Hahn