It was glitzy (ish), it was glamorous (ish) but now that Nokia’s much-publicised launch of its latest smartphone has been and gone, will the troubled telco see the bounce it so desperately needs?
Lest anyone forgets, the Finland-based telco made a loss of €1.4 billion in Q2, is cutting 10,000 jobs, has lost its title of largest global mobile phone manufacturer to Samsung and is regarded as a takeover target should its latest Windows Phone 8-based device fail.
It was against this backdrop that president and CEO Stephen Elop took to the stage in New York on Wednesday to unveil the flagship Lumia 920 and mid-range 820 phones.
The Lumia 920, began Elop, “is most innovative smartphone in the world".
So what was there to back that statement up?
The company has focused on making it a photographers phone with PureView technology such as a floating lens enabling pictures to be taken in low light and reducing the effects of shaking hands.
Augmented reality made its debut thanks to a City Lens feature that enables information about restaurants, shops and hotels to be overlayed on the screen when you point your camera at a street.
Coupled with advancements to mapping – such as making them available offline – and its Drive and Transport features, Nokia said it offers the most comprehensive, integrated mapping experience of any smartphone.
Other features include built-in wireless charging, a battery that is 30 percent more efficient than its rivals, a super sensitive touch screen (you can use it wearing gloves) and integrated NFC technology.
“As a device it's pretty feature complete,” Ovum’s Jan Dawson told European Communications.
“The problem is the overall challenge presented by trying to market the WP8 when it seems so unfamiliar and foreign compared with the much more familiar 'screens of apps' UI on iOS and Android.”
WP8 OS spokespeople trumpeted the ability to personalize your screen and said 100,000 apps were now available.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also took to the stage to talk about the potential provided by an ecosystem of 400 million WP8 devices, including PCs and tablets: “It is the largest single opportunity available for software developers today,” he said.
The Lumias will be available in LTE and HSPA+ versions once launched, but herein lies another problem – Nokia said this would be some time “later this year” and did not specify which markets would get them.
KPMG’s Milan Sallaba told European Communications this had “irritated” the financial community – shares in Nokia were down 12 percent in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.
“Without short-term availability and significant sales in the all important Q4 run up to the holiday season, market share obviously cannot be won quickly,” he said.
Infonetics analyst Stéphane Téral believes Nokia should focus on emerging markets.
“Most early smartphone markets are saturated and the next big game is in places like China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa where the iPhone is not going to fly for various reasons,” he said.
Whichever markets they choose, Dawson said Nokia would be heavily dependent on what operators do.
“Nokia needs to find ways to get devices in consumers' hands so they understand the value proposition; carrier support is crucial, but they haven’t been putting in the investment,” she said.
Without knowing when they are to be released such antipathy is unlikely to change.
Consequently, Dawson said Nokia needed to “keep up a drumbeat of announcements over the coming months” to maintain momentum.
She explained: “The company seems to recognise that its turnaround will be a long-term project and not a quick fix. I think they are well positioned to do that.”
Sallaba agrees that Nokia has shown the necessary sense of urgency.
“It is pretty clear that Nokia has been trying really hard to produce a premium device that ‘matters’ in the market place,” he said.
But, like investors, he is less sure they can pull it off.
“The Lumia 920 promises to be a convincing device and may have intrinsic potential to at least start to turn around Nokia’s fortunes, but in order for this to happen the handset has to ship and be widely available in retail outlets, sooner rather than later.”