Lumia 520 and 720 gives new (old) confidence to Nokia. Getting their groove back edition #MWC13

In one way, Nokia’s Mobile World Congress announcements were a disappointment. Especially for us, gadget junkies.

Where the heck was that 41 megapixel true Pureview Lumia Windows phone – Nokia EOS? Who caries about those low to mid end smartphones, we need something big!

On the other hand, looking from the company strategy and execution POV – it is actually a good thing that we haven’t seen a new Nokia flagship at MWC. After all, their old flagship –Lumia 920 – is still in the ramp up stage, unavailable in many markets and with supply shortages even in those places where you can buy one. Announcing a new flagship at this point, just for the sake of making some PR splash, simply does not make sense. And, thankfully, Nokia understood it this time.

It was not always so.

If you look back at the late 2011 and most of 2012, it was one PR/execution mess after another. Building up huge Nokia Windows Phone/Lumia launch expectations, then falling short. Announcing a flagship Lumia 800 in October. Then, two months later – another flagship, Lumia 900 for U.S and in February, the whole world.  And not shipping it for months. After that, in June 2012, we got Windows Phone 8 announcement, and learned that all Lumias are dead end devices and will not be upgraded to WP8. But Osborning all Lumias in June wasn’t enough. In early September Nokia held their own event to announce next generation Windows Phones – Lumia 820 and 920, which then didn’t ship until mid November.

All through the 2012 I’ve had an impression of a company desperately trying to impress the world by doing something, anything to prove that they are doing great in transition. And failing miserably at everything. The end result of all this frantic activity was a hugely disappointing Lumia sales, billions in losses, and piles of old smartphone inventories before new Windows Phones shipped.

But things started turning around in Q4. With heavy discounts on old Lumias, new WP8 device portfolio, Nokia’s Windows Phone growth resumed. Smartphone sales came in better than expected, the first signs of improvement appeared.

And yesterday, during MWC press conference, the old, self confident Nokia – a company with a plan and a vision, who believes in itself and knows what it’s doing – showed up. It didn’t feel the need to impress the crowd with a new splashy device that is months from shipping. Nokia confidently presented a much needed expansion of its Lumia portfolio, with a couple of low to mid range Lumia devices, and explained why they matter. And it all made a very good sense.

With Lumia 520, 620 and a bit of 720 Nokia may finally have some serious Windows Phone volume growth

It is important for Nokia to have a top of the line aspirational device like Lumia 920 in its portfolio. But at this point in time, it is impossible to significantly break in to the high end of smartphone market, dominated by iPhone and Android. Especially if you want to make money doing so, when Samsung  profitably retails its flagship – Galaxy S III – for 450 EUR (taxes included).

But the lower, high volume low end of the market is another matter. Apple is not playing there yet, while quality and user experience of cheap Android devices leave a lot to be desired. Nokia already has a potential hit there – 250 EUR Lumia 620. It is too early to know how its sales are going, but every review I read says that 620 is an entry level smartphone with overall user experience miles ahead of everything else out there.

And now Nokia moves even lower down market, with $180 Lumia 520 – slashing $70 (almost 30%) from 620 price, with only very slight reduction in specs. And, it seems, no noticeable reduction in UX. If Windows Phone has any chance of making it anytime soon, it will do it with these two Nokia devices.

Nokia Lumia 520 Lumia 720 live MWC

Lumia 720, another Nokia Windows Phone announced yesterday, is also an interesting handset. Its camera promises an improved low light pics thanks’ to a large f/1.9 aperture and Carl Zeiss optics.Wide angle HD front facing camera looks cool too.  But at $325 before taxes and subsidies, Lumia 720 will have to compete with a lot of good quality Android phones. I’m not sure how well it can succeed there. Nokia is still in the smartphone brand rebuilding business, and going head to head against good quality Androids could be really tough.

Nevertheless, Nokia mentioned that there is a lot of operator interest in both Lumia 520 and 720. If it can get just a few big carrier groups to really commit to new Lumias, the sales volumes will come. And, Nokia said that they already have the biggest of them all – China Mobile – strongly on board.

All in all, my takeaway from Nokia’s presence at MWC is that it may finally be getting its groove back. Nokia now has a very well balanced Lumia portfolio. There also are some early indications that Windows Phone shipment volumes are picking up too.

Of course, most of it are just words for now, and Finnish company sounded very optimistic in their public pronouncements all the way through the crash of 2011-2012. But overall tone, Nokia’s approach to what and how to announce at MWC, attitudes of staff here in Barcelona, makes me cautiously optimistic.

We’ll see whether my impressions are correct in about 6 weeks, when Nokia will announce Q1 numbers and give guidance for Q2.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Diffraction

    Who cares about a 41 megapixel pureview? That’s so 2012. I need at least 500 megapixels. I don’t care about the poor highlight dynamic range or that the lens can only resolve 10 megapixels, I need 500 megapixels.