Nokia’s introduction of the Microsoft Windows Phone 8-based Lumia 920 and 820 was what has become a typical product launch in the wireless business-with lots of hype, speeches from CEOs, tantalizing details about new features and breathless commentary from company executives. None of this is surprising. But unlike Apple’s upcoming iPhone 5 introduction, it’s not the only such launch.
Samsung quietly showed a few reporters their new Ativ phone running Windows Phone 8 during the IFA show in Berlin at the end of August. This super-thin device with its 4.8-inch display and 2,300mAh battery will feature near-field communication (NFC) and Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+), but unlike the Nokia Lumia, it does not support Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) or Long-Term Evolution (LTE).
HTC, meanwhile will be launching its 8 series of phones, which will run Windows Phone 8 probably on Sept. 19. The company is planning at least three Windows 8 phones, 8X, 8S and 8V, using the same numbering concept as it uses for its One series of Android phones. The HTC 8X will be the Windows Phone flagship.
Huawei plans to be next in the line of Windows 8 phone announcements with a line of prepaid Windows Phone 8 devices. Chinese manufacturer ZTE has also said it will be releasing a series of Windows Phone 8 devices in 2013, but the details of the device and the date of introduction are still unclear.
Missing from this list is current Windows Phone 7 maker LG. There are rumors that LG will eventually launch a Windows 8 phone, but right now those are just rumors.
The list of U.S. carriers planning to sell Windows Phone 8 devices isn’t surprising. AT&T and Verizon Wireless have already confirmed that they will be selling the Nokia 920 and probably the 820. It wouldn’t be surprising to see T-Mobile, which already sells Nokia Windows Phones, get one or both these devices. Sprint, which only sold one Windows Phone 7 device, which has been discontinued, remains a question mark.
Meanwhile, TMONews is saying that T-Mobile will get the Samsung Odyssey running Windows Phone 8. T-Mobile has been selling Windows 7 phones from Nokia and HTC for some time. In addition, T-Mobile has had a very strong relationship with Samsung for years, so finding that the fourth-largest carrier in the United States, the one that doesn’t sell the iPhone, is making a strong push for Windows Phone 8 should be no surprise. What is interesting is the indication that the new T-Mobile Samsung Odyssey will support LTE, but then T-Mobile has been saying for some time that it will launch LTE nationwide in 2013.
Of course, all of this Windows Phone 8 activity is taking place under a shadow from the looming introduction of Apple’s iPhone 5. That device will be announced by Apple Sept. 12, and will begin selling on or about Sept. 21. For the Apple faithful, this is an event of critical importance.
Windows Phone 8 Isnt an iPad Killer, but Rather an iPad Alternative
And there’s no question that Apple will sell a couple million iPhones on the first day they’re available. The iPhone 5 will be a very popular phone. For a few days, at least, it will eclipse everything else. But after the hype dies down, the iPhone 5 is still an iPhone. It will have a slightly larger screen and it will be faster than current iPhones, but it will not be a departure from the iPhones of yore. The iPhone iFans depend on Apple’s conservative rate of change. They want their changes to come slowly and predictably, and Apple accommodates them.
This is where Microsoft offers a real alternative.
Windows Phone 8 is not a continuation of the design created by Apple and a slew of predecessors. It’s something new. And unlike the iPhone, which comes in basically one flavor, Windows 8 phones will be available from several makers with a variety of features and a range of price points. While Windows Phone 8 will be standardized, the hardware won’t be. This means you will be able to get a phone with a large screen, a phone that supports LTE, a phone that has a seriously good camera or some combination. You aren’t stuck with one configuration and one manufacturer.
But it’s important to note that Microsoft isn’t positioning Windows Phone 8 or the devices that support it as iPhone killers. They aren’t. What they are would better be described as iPhone alternatives. Despite its popularity, Apple’s iPhone is not universally loved. Far more people buy devices other than iPhones than buy iPhones. Right now, most of those people choose Android devices, but that’s because it’s the only other viable alternative.
What this means is that the majority of buyers are looking for something that offers a wide range of features and price points, but that isn’t an iPhone. That’s the place where Microsoft wants Windows Phone 8 to be, and considering that previous Windows Phones have sold very well, there’s every reason to believe that they will sell in even larger numbers once there is more choice and a better alternative.