Can Nokia surprise us with Lumia 920/820 Windows Phone, Q3 sales? With expectations so low, maybe they can
Nokia is in a really bad place right now.
Their initial bid for a turnaround with first generation of Lumia Windows Phones failed. Microsoft is pissed at them, and might be working on their own smartphone. Symbian smartphone sales fell off the cliff and are rapidly approaching zero. By giving up on Meltemi and “Qt for the next billion” Nokia abandoned the most important part of their low end strategy, and now has to resort to marketing S40 Asha feature phones as smartphones. Credit agencies are openly contemplating company break-up scenarios. And a consensus is forming in tech media that the second generation Lumia 920/820 Windows Phone 8 devices won’t be a hit Nokia needs.
It’s gloom and doom all around. Well deserved due to the mess Nokia made of the whole transition, the negativity is palpable.
With expectations so low, could Nokia be setting us up for a positive surprise? Let’s take a look at what could go right for Nokia in the next few months.
Third quarter sales. The expectations for Q3 results which Nokia reports next Thursday are extremely low. On June 20th Microsoft announced that Windows Phone 7.x devices will not be upgradable to WP8. Effectively telling all potential Lumia buyers that their handset will be obsolete come November and Osborning Windows Phone sales for July-September. With a month to go in the third quarter Nokia added to the misery with premature Lumia 920 and 820 WP8 device announcement. Nokia WP smartphone sales must have gone into the crapper since then.
Except, maybe, they have not. During Q2 earnings conference call on July 19th, Stephen Elop said that they did not notice any significant drop in sales since June 20th WP incompatibility announcement. And Nokia did not issue another profit warning about precipitous decline of its smartphone sales in Q3. Which, I believe, they would have had to do, if Lumia sales dropped way below 4 million they sold in the second quarter.
So if Nokia somehow managed to ship anywhere near 4 million Lumias in July-September – that would be very good news. Even if they’ve lost a bunch of money doing that. Then, if Nokia can report that they are starting to get some traction on the new Asha phones and deliver some growth and profits in the mobile phones division – it’ll make for a nice Q3 surprise.
Well executed Nokia 920 and 820 launch. So far the signs are not encouraging. We only know about few operators who will carry new Nokia Windows Phones, and what we know so far is not encouraging. Official Lumia 920 pre-order prices in Europe are also sky-high, especially when you compare them to Samsung Galaxy S3.
But at this point we don’t really know how Nokia plans to push Lumia 920 and 820. How many operators, what kind of subsidies and promotions are on the way.
And we also don’t know how Nokia’s new sales strategy, focusing on one or two operators per country for the exclusive concentrated push, will work. They’ve only tried it with AT&T in the U.S. for now, and first results don’t look too good. But this summer Nokia decided to adopt the U.S. approach worldwide, and promoted U.S. head of sales Chris Weber to implement it. So there should be something in the internal North American numbers to prompt Nokia into such a radical change.
One thing’s for sure – the old approach to sales that Nokia had from its days of mobile dominance, wasn’t working anymore. So there’s nothing much to lose in trying new things.
Both Nokia and Microsoft have allocated tremendous amounts of money for Windows Phone 8 launch. It is a make or break point for both of them, and they must be doing everything they can behind the scenes to make it a success. And, at the very least, Windows Phone 8 hardware support is more or less on par with competition this time. So there is a chance we may see a significant uptick in Windows Phone and Lumia sales in November.
Pureview. When Nokia announced Lumia 920 with 8 megapixel camera and slapped a Pureview label on it for some image stabilization/low light performance improvements, I thought – what the heck! Going from 41 mpx sensor down to 8 mpx, doing away with pixel oversampling in favor of some image stabilization gimmicks? They are destroying all the goodwill and buzz created over last year!
But after thinking a bit more about it and seeing the sample images taken with Lumia 920, I’m starting to think that this image stabilization/low light stuff is a really big deal. Maybe even bigger than original 41 mpx Pureview.
I had a chance to try Nokia 808 for a few months, and I really loved the quality of pictures I took with it. But for those of us not obsessed with photography, in good light, the quality pics we can take with Samsung Galaxy S3 or iPhone is already good enough. Lossless zoom, pixel oversampling – cool. But so what? All I usually need is to take a quick shot, that will be viewed on my phone or PC. Pureview or not – 95% of the time I won’t really know the difference.
But blurry noisy pics I get after sunset and at all those parties? That’s probably one of the most, if not THE most annoying thing about smartphone cameras today. I’ll have to try Lumia 920 myself to make a definite opinion, but everything I already saw makes me drool about getting one.
And if, as Elop told Wired yesterday, they’ll be able to get special setups/enclosures in retail stores to demo Pureview 2.0 low- light camera advantages, if they can persuade sales reps to actually do that – Nokia 920 may have one really strong selling point.
These are some bright spots where, with expectations already so low, Nokia has a room for surprise. I really hope they deliver.
After dropping the ball in 2010 and losing almost everything in smartphones, the time is running out for Nokia. It has a chance to break through in Christmas quarter. If that does not work as expected – Nokia may have one more go with Spring 2013 Lumia line-up. But if they do not get their act together and start showing some serious Lumia growth before the end of Q1 2013, the game may be over before next summer.
I do hope those surprises are coming soon.