Nokia has scheduled a Sept. 5 event in New York City, where the Finnish phone company is expected to show off its newest Lumia phones running Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system. At Nokia’s home turf in Helsinki the same day, the company plans to show off the new smartphones at its Nokia World event.
As invitations went out and rival Samsung introduced the Note 10.1, saying it will redefine the tablet space, Chris Weber, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Tweeted: “Samsung take note, next-generation Lumia coming soon.”
Likely just a bit of chest-puffing before an event greatly in need of some hype, the comment has prompted the Twitterverse and beyond to read into the Tweet. Was Weber saying Nokia has a phablet planned? A stylus?
All that’s clear is that Nokia needs to close the market-share gap between its devices and those of Samsung, which earlier this year ended Nokia’s 14 years of market dominance.
The devices likely to be shown off Sept. 5 will follow sales of more than 10 million Samsung Galaxy S III smartphones, precede the introduction of the iPhone 5 (or whatever Apple decides to call it) and have the onus on them to seriously wow all of us.
In April, Nokia began selling the Lumia 900, the first fruits of its partnership with Microsoft. While the smartphone was generally well-received and well-reviewed, it wasn’t a show-stopper so much as-as Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said it needed to be-a beachhead in Nokia’s fight to regain market share, brand appeal and steadiness.
Presciently, Gartner Research Vice President Carolina Milanesi told eWEEK at the time, “I see Lumia 900 as the first step for Nokia. This is not the device that will make Nokia, but it will be the device that gets Nokia back into the game. There will be other devices before the end of the year, and Nokia and Microsoft need to build momentum in time for the holiday season …”
If modestly, Nokia and Microsoft have been building momentum. While Apple’s market share fell from the first to second quarters (likely as Apple fans wait for the next iPhone), Nokia ever so slightly grew its share, selling 83.4 million phones, compared with 83.2 the quarter before, according to Gartner.
Meanwhile, Samsung sales continue to swell, from 69.8 million a year ago and 86.6 million last quarter to 90.4 million most recently.
Nokia’s small rise, however, is particularly notable given that it follows Microsoft’s announcement that current Lumia phones running WP 7.5 won’t be able to receive the upgrade to WP 8. Nokia has insisted, however, that the phones haven’t reached a dead end; they’ll be able to enjoy the new WP 8 start screen, and a few other perks of the upgrade.
On Aug. 15, as part of its “ongoing commitment to Lumia owners,” Nokia released also an update for Lumia 900 devices in the United States and Canada. While the update requires a minimum of 30 minutes to install, it offers improvements to flip-to-silence features-the ability to quickly mute the phone by turning it over- better battery and camera performance, and improvements on the startup sequence.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has talked up the arrival of WP 8 and the phone maker’s goal to regain its former glory. “We have learned that it takes a tremendous amount of work to break through as the third ecosystem, and we are viewing the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 as an important moment in this journey,” Elop said during Nokia’s second-quarter earnings call.
Also raising the bar during the Lumia’s introduction at last year’s Nokia World, Elop spoke about craftsmanship and how Nokia shares the Nordic design roots of famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, who sought to make “beautiful, easy-to-use things and to make them accessible to more people.” He talked about Nokia’s care and attention to detail-its two-shot molding process for the device chassis and the individually milled speaker holes that allowed the holes to be as tiny as possible.
“We’re playing to win,” Elop told the audience.
Nokia, take note. We’re ready to be impressed.