AT&T will start selling the Nokia Lumia 900 in its stores on April 8. This smartphone will be slightly less expensive than the 2-year-old Apple iPhone 4, which the carrier already sells.
However, while the price is nearly the same, the differences are significant. Perhaps most important, this version of the Lumia supports Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G data communications, along with AT&T’s HSPA+ and 3G. The iPhone 4 cannot work with 4G.
The differences grow as you dig deeper. The Nokia Lumia 900 has twice the memory as the iPhone 4, a vastly better camera with a much better lens system, a larger 4.3-inch AMOLED screen and a faster processor. And while it’s true that the interface on Windows Phone is different from what you’ll see on Apple iOS or Google Android, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In fact, during my initial testing of T-Mobile’s Lumia 710, and in my use of the device since that time, I’ve found the Windows Phone interface to be highly responsive, very intuitive and very well-thought-out. It’s clear in developing the Windows Phone interface that Microsoft started with a clean slate instead of offering a slightly warmed-over version of iOS like what you find with Android.
What’s also important is that the current version of Windows Phone is very much like the experience you’ll have on Windows 8-based tablets.
I used the first of these at CeBIT in the beginning of March. In much the same way that you have probably found the transition between iPhone and iPad to be nearly seamless, the same is true between Windows Phone on a smartphone and Windows 8 on a tablet. Yes, these interfaces are very different, but that’s not to suggest that the Windows interfaces are somehow worse. In some ways, I think it’s a little easier to use and more responsive.
Nokia also brings some apps along with apps that already come with Windows Phone. For example, there’s Nokia Drive, a turn-by-turn navigation system that actually works quite wellsomething I found out when trying to navigate Baltimore in a rental car after finding out that the navigation on my other phone would make me pay for a subscription.
Windows Phone gives you SkyDrive, which is a cloud storage app that lets you use it for backup, much like you can do with Apple iCloud, but you can also make items in the SkyDrive sharable, so you can do things like share photos.
Nokia Lumia Wont Enter the World Quietly
AT&T, meanwhile, is making sure that the Nokia Lumia doesn’t enter the world quietly. The company plans a launch that will supposedly exceed the hype surrounding the launch of the iPhone. That’s a lot of hype.
The next question is, will it matter?
After all, the conventional wisdom is that the iPhone is the King of the Phones, and nothing else will ever challenge it. But the fact is that there are many more people out there who don’t use iPhones than those who do. As popular as the iPhone is, it’s still in the minority.
What AT&T is doing is giving people a real choice in high-end phones, offering it at a significant price break, and it’s aiming at the audience that wants a very good smartphone at a reasonable price. The choices now are the iPhone 4, a more expensive Android device or the Lumia, which costs nearly the same as the iPhone 4 but is by all accounts a better, faster device.
Does this mean that the iPhone will be knocked off its perch? Probably not.
The iPhone 4S and eventually the iPhone 5 will still be the cool phones to have, and if the coolness factor is what matters most to you, then there’s no substitute. In reality, the Lumia 900 is competing with the dozens of Android devices out there, all relegated to slightly different niches due to the irreconcilable fragmentation that has overtaken Android.
Of course, Android phones are still selling by the gazillions every day, but unless something is donesuch as Google getting a handle on fragmentationthe future is a sort of smartphone Tower of Babel. This helps Microsoft a great deal, since Android is the real competition. But it’s not enough to make Nokia and Windows Phone the 500-pound gorilla in the smartphone business.
The real answer to dominance by Nokia is the unassuming Nokia 400 series phones, which will probably never see the light of day in the United States. The 400 series devices are decidedly low-end smartphones that are aimed at markets Apple will never see. As popular as Apple is in the United States, Western Europe and some parts of Asia, it’s simply too expensive for the rest of the world. But the rest of the world is Nokia’s strength.
There’s no question that the Nokia Lumia 900 will sell well. T-Mobile appears to be selling a lot of the less expensive Lumia 710, and with time Windows Phone 7 will become an accepted alternative in the smartphone market in the United States.
It will probably never dominate, but it will be an important player.