AT&T will begin selling the Nokia Lumia 900 this Sunday, April 8, for $100 with a new two-year contract. Equipped to zip along on AT&T's growing 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network, the smartphone features a 4.3-inch display, runs Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.5, known as Mango, can access a growing Marketplace portfolio of popular apps and shoulders the hopes of a new partnership, in which each side has invested heavily.
Nokia, the longtime leader of the global mobile phone market, has slipped from its former glory, unable to compete at the high-end of the market, particularly in the United States, with the Apple iPhone and Android-running handsets like Samsung's Galaxy lineup. Microsoft, once synonymous with mobility, now has claim to barely a scrap of the market, and has been hard at work reinventing itself.
Given the smartphone's late arrival, The New York Times reported April 6 that Microsoft is courting and paying developers to create apps for its Marketplace, while Apple and Google happily take cuts from developers' efforts in their growing mobile storefronts.
It's a smart and necessary move in today's market, which analysts agree is as friendly as Nokia and Microsoft could hope for: BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is faltering, with no business-saving devices arriving in the near future; Palm and its WebOS are out of the picture; and some Android fatigue is fitting in.
According to Gartner Research Vice President Carolina Milanesi, Android-supporting vendors are struggling to differentiate their productsMotorola CEO Sanjay Jha and HTC President Jason Mackenzie have each said their companies plan to begin offering fewer but more-differentiated handsetsand that consumers only really choose Android as a default. "There is nothing else out there today other than the iPhone," she told eWEEK.
Going after Android users will prevent having to convince current feature-phone users to start paying for a monthly data planas would stealing those in RIM's BlackBerry base, who surely have wandering eyes by this point, as well as current Symbian users, as Forrester analyst Sarah Rotmann Epps has suggested the pair should.
While there's some strategy-makingand ad spendingto still be done by Nokia and Microsoft, for customers, things are hopefully simpler. There's a fast network, a low price, a growing app portfolio and, by most accounts, a good-looking, well-made device.
Milanesi calls it a "good value for the money in a very attractive form factor."
Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart is also enthusiastic about the phone and even its prospects.
"The Lumia 900 has a unique, attractive designespecially in cyan and white. Performance is snappy, and the OS is a pleasure to use. Microsoft's challenge is to get consumers to, one, realize that Windows Phones are a real alternative to an iPhone or Android phone and, two, look past the gap in total number of apps and buy a Windows Phone anyway," Greengart told eWEEK.
"AT&T and Nokia are certainly planning to make a big advertising splash, which should raise awareness. It is not clear yet whether the ads will be effective enough to push consumers to buy in large numbers," he added. "One thing is clear, thoughpeople who do buy the Lumia 900 should be happy with it."