AT&T, Verizon Offering Windows Phone 8 as Nokia Hits New Low

AT&T began selling the Lumia 920 and 820 Nov. 9, and Verizon made three new Windows Phone 8 smartphones available for preorder.

The Nokia Lumia 920 and 820, the first Lumias to run Microsoft's new Windows Phone 8 operating system, became available on the AT&T network Nov. 9. The same day, Verizon Wireless began taking preorders for three new Windows Phone 8 devices, the Lumia 822, the Windows Phone 8X by HTC and the Samsung ATIV Odyssey.

Nokia has been in desperate need of Windows Phone 8's arrival—which happened Oct. 29—so that its newest smartphones could go on sale. The phone maker's market share has been plummeting in recent years, precipitating its February 2011 move to fade out support for Symbian and get behind Microsoft's Windows Phone. Nokia's need for the new phones' release became particularly desperate after Microsoft announced June 20 that the pair's original crop of Lumias wouldn't be able to receive the upgrade to Windows Phone 8, essentially killing on the spot Nokia's chances at decent summer sales.

Canalys, reporting global smartphone shipments for the third quarter of 2012 Nov. 8, revealed the extent of Nokia's suffering. The long-time leader of the market failed to make the top-five list.

Samsung led the market, with sales of 55.5 million smartphones, followed by Apple with sales of 26.9 million iPhones. Sony surprised industry observers by not only jumping onto the list for the first time since 2006 but rising to the No. 3 spot, with sales of 8.8 million smartphones. HTC finished fourth, with sales of 8.4 million units, and RIM, with sales of 7.3 million BlackBerry devices, held on to fifth place.

A year ago this quarter, a troubled Nokia still managed to retain third place—behind Samsung and Apple, respectively—with sales of 16. 8 million units. In a still more painful example of how quickly the market changes, during the third quarter of 2010, Nokia led by a considerable margin, holding 32 percent market share to second-place Apple's 17 percent, according to data from IDC.

AT&T has talked up its new Lumias as offering a "fantastic experience." It's now selling the Lumia 920 for $99.99 with a new two-year contract and the Lumia 820 for $49.99, by the same conditions.

Between now and Thanksgiving, it will also begin selling a 16GB version of the HTC Windows Phone 8X for $199.99 and an 8GB version in California Blue and Limelight for $99.99. Limelight, a shade of yellow, will be exclusive to AT&T.

Verizon has also grabbed a few exclusive deals. Again, by Thanksgiving, it will sell the Windows Phone 8X by HTC for $199.99 in choices of blue, red or black, with the latter two colors unavailable elsewhere.

The Lumia 822, a Nokia model exclusive to Verizon, will come in black, white or gray and sell for $99.99 with a two-year contract, while the Samsung ATIV Odyssey, also exclusive to Verizon, will be available by the end of the year, with pricing and other details to arrive before then.

Samsung introduced an ATIV line of devices at the IFA 2012 trade show in Berlin Aug. 29. The ATIV name is vita, the Latin word for life, spelled backward.

Analysts have expected the carriers to get behind Windows 8, as they're "looking for leverage over Apple and Android OEMs, which dominate the marketplace and saddle carriers with high device subsidies," Technology Business Research analyst Michael Soper wrote in a July research note.

U.S. Cellular has also gotten behind the mobile OS, selling the ZTE Render, as has T-Mobile, which will also soon begin selling the HTC Windows Phone 8X.

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.