The Lumia Is Back for Windows Phone 8
John is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Editor's Note: The post initially stated the Lumia 820 and 920 have different processors. They do not; this post has been corrected.
Back in the spring, Nokia's (NYSE: NOK) Lumia 900 smartphone was believed to be the product that would bring the Finnish phone maker back into the limelight that it had enjoyed years ago. It was the largest product launch for Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, and was an AT&T (NYSE: T) exclusive. Unfortunately, a serious bug at launch made a pretty major dent in its momentum, and despite a very fast response time in getting it fixed the phone didn't sell quite as well as any of the involved partied had hoped. Everyone said that they were happy with the sales volume of the Lumia 900, but it certainly didn't end up being an iPhone killer.
Flash forward to the present, and AT&T has announced plans to make the Windows Phone 8 successors to the Lumia line AT&T exclusives. The Lumia 820 and Lumia 920 both pack reasonably impressive stats, though the 920 is obviously the powerhouse of the two; it features a slightly larger screen capable of displaying HD graphics and features more camera options including an 8.7-megapixel camera capable of recording video in 1080p HD quality. The 820 isn't exactly a slouch, of course, but is intended to be a mid-range smartphone option while the 920 takes the spotlight.
Despite the exclusive nature of AT&T's announcement, though, it may not actually be the only cellular provider that will have a Windows Phone 8 Lumia available. It's been rumored since August that Verizon (NYSE: VZ) could be introducing its own variant of the Lumia 820, which would be sold as the Nokia Lumia 822.
This actually speaks well of the Lumia line's popularity if Verizon is interested in offering a variant of one of the new phones as well; it's similar to Verizon beginning to offer iPhones on its network last year, and would provide Verizon with a phone that will likely be popular among Windows Phone users while also giving those users an option other than AT&T as their carrier. Though the Lumia 822 is simply a rumor for now, pictures of listings in Verizon's device management system lead many to hope that a Lumia announcement from Verizon isn't too far off.
The big question, of course, is how popular these phones will be when they finally get released. Though Nokia isn't the only company planning Windows Phone 8 releases, the Lumia phones are likely to be some of the most-desired smartphones released for the OS when it debuts. Microsoft has only a small portion of market share for Windows Phone devices, but that market share is slowly growing, and Windows Phone 8 could be the most popular version of the mobile OS released to date.
Featuring integration with Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud service, Microsoft Office apps and account connectivity with both Windows 8 and the Xbox 360, WP8 could draw in users of other Microsoft products who were looking to upgrade their existing phones and wanted to take advantage of the increased connectivity that was available with the new OS. This draws a bit of an assumption that Windows 8 is popular enough among users to warrant a significant number of people wanting that connectivity, but the success or failure of the new version of Windows is an entirely different subject.
So with Windows Phone 8 potentially having a larger draw than its predecessor, Nokia and AT&T (and possibly Verizon at some point) could have a decent-sized hit on their hands once the new Lumia phones are available. There are several "if's" to take into consideration here, including whether the companies can draw in people who were interested in the previous Lumia release but were turned off by the bugs out of the gate, and whether those who are currently happy with their WP smartphones will want to upgrade... especially those who purchased Lumia phones earlier this year at a discounted price. Windows Phone devices don't have the same appeal as iPhones, where you can anticipate a large turnout for new phone releases from people who own the previous model; but WP8 does offer enough new features that at least some turnover is likely.
In the end I'd say that the Lumia 820 and 920 are likely to be at least moderate hits, provided that there aren't any major problems at launch. I'm even considering buying one myself (likely an 820, though it will depend on the price of both phones at launch and whether there are any major problems with either the phones or Windows Phone 8 in general.) I don't think that the phones will break smartphone sales records in general, but they could very well break records for Windows Phone smartphones (at least until the rumored Microsoft Surface smartphone is released.)
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