It may be light, robust and made to a high specification, but the new Lumia 925 smartphone from Nokia (NOK) has failed to impress industry-watchers, despite its relatively low price; will Stephen Elop's latest shiny shiny toy help turn the tide against Apple [AAPL] and Google's Android empire?
[ABOVE: Nokia's ad for its new product stresses the phones impressive low light camera mode.]
Good, not great
To be fair there's a lot to like about the lightweight (139g) smartphone. Unlike Samsung's low-rent Galaxy S4, Nokia's flagship device emulates Apple with a robust aluminium body that's just 8.5mm thick (an iPhone 5 is 7.6mm thick) and is equipped with a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB Ram and 16GB of internal storage.
The 4.5-inch 1,280-x-768 AMOLED display is brighter than seen on any other Nokia phone while the camera deliver 8.7 megapixels, boosted by inclusion of a low light shooting mode. It runs Windows Phone and a slew of companion apps and sleeves that enable wireless charging of the device will also be available when it ships in the US this summer (after June).
Nokia has made an unfortunate decision in opting to ship the phone in July. If purchasing patterns follow the same track as last year, summer will see a decline in smartphone shipments as consumers delay purchase in expectation of the (late summer?) next-gen Apple iPhone.
That's not to say there won't be some fans for Nokia's new device. Windows fans will be likely to pick up one of the new Lumia's, solely because the phone appears to be excellent quality and is so well designed. These purchasers are likely to feel that at last they have a phone that delivers on some of the design charms of an iPhone and is way more substantial a gadget (at least in physical terms) than that old and fragile Samsung device they've been using which is now up for contract renewal.
The challenge of Nokia's latest Lumia is that its story ends around there.
It's a well-designed device that looks robust and fairly attractive and runs the latest version of its OS. It comes from a company that became the byword for quality mobile experience in the years before the launch of the iPhone.
The device is a peer player in the top-end smartphone race. Unfortunately, it's not a champion. It matches the current competition, but doesn't set down any new challenge. It doesn't expand expectation, which means it's unlikely to stimulate anticipation. Other than its brand and its OS, it doesn't appear sufficiently distinct and lacks a unique selling point.
[ABOVE: This morning's Nokia press conference in full. Duration: 27:36.]
Equal, not different
"There is nothing groundbreakingly new or different in the hardware or software design, and there is limited differentiation to the Lumia 920 or Lumia 928," analyst, Mikko Ervasti, told Bloomberg. The analyst added that he didn't think Nokia's smartphone chief, Jo Harlow, appeared very confident during her presentation.
An additional insight comes from Gartner analyst, Carolina Milanesi, who told the BBC that the metal frame and the limited grey, white or black colours were "a little more sober and it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think Nokia's going after a more corporate audience."
That observation has some substance, given OS partner, Microsoft, is struggling to maintain relevance in the enterprise market it has grown so used to dominating.
Unfortunately (for Microsoft/Nokia), the nature of enterprise technology has changed. The BYOD trend has ceased to be a blip afflicting only the most fashion conscious in business circles, and has become mainstream. That trend means that leadership in the enterprise space now depends on establishing leadership in the consumer space, while also being able to deliver the kind of platform security enterprise users need before adding devices to their network.
Samsung is aware of this, which is why it has introduced its enterprise-friendly Knox solutions; Apple meanwhile by virtue of its inherently more secure platform is already an easy shoe-in to corporate markets, as evidenced by its widespread use across Fortune 500 firms.
Great artists steal
Nokia's plan to introduce its product in summer also pits the company square against Apple's new wave of devices, which may even include a lower cost iPhone and, potentially, a connected iWatch. Adding to the pressure, Apple's likely to stimulate much interest on introduction of its fresh new mobile operating system, iOS 7, work on which has tied up a major chunk of Apple's in-house development resources.
This suggests Nokia's new device may quickly be eclipsed (at least in terms of public consciousness) by discussion of the merits of Apple's upcoming offering.
Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, is often quoted out of context when people remember he once said: "Good artists copy, great artists steal." Put in context he meant that the company will unashamedly steal good technological ideas, but will then strive to apply these concepts in an original and logical manner, (at the time he spoke he was referring to the Macintosh).
Nokia today has introduced a new device that stands shoulder to shoulder with the top tier of existing devices, but has failed to bring something that's shiny enough to capture public imagination to the extent the company must if it wants to turn itself around.
The latest Lumia also faces another wave of competitive intensification within the smartphone sector as market leaders seek to individualize their products in order to stand out within a sector so massively mass market that those solutions that do exist have already become commoditized. That's a shame as the Lumia doesn't seem to be a bad smartphone, though it does appear unlikely to become a device others seek to emulate.
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