Can the Lumia 900 exceed our expectations?

Published: March 29, 2012

On the plane back from Las Vegas in January, I wrote that the Nokia Lumia 900, which will be available on AT&T early next month, is the only Windows Phone I would buy. And I meant it. After having ample hands-on time with it (read: waved in my face at every turn, along with the Galaxy Note) at CES, I concluded that it is the perfect (and only) combination of specifications and hardware that would be able to convince me to take the Windows Phone plunge once again. Nokia's signature polycarbonate body, 8-megapixel wide angle camera with Carl Zeiss optics, 4.3-inch ClearBlack AMOLED display and LTE connectivity are enough to make most of us techies drool.

I've tangoed with Windows Phone at least five times now, each experience better than the last; the platform is growing, maturing and quickly becoming more well-rounded and refined. However, it has yet to break from its infancy. Developer support is unquestionably strong, especially for how young the platform is – just shy of 18 months old now. But big titles from some of the industry's largest and most popular game and app developers have yet to make their way over to Windows Phone. Instead of diving in head-first, the majority of them are waiting on the sidelines, ready to pounce as soon as Windows Phone makes its big break or, likewise, bail if the ship starts to capsize.

If AT&T and Nokia have their way, however, next month may be Microsoft's first big break for Windows Phone.

A report coming from CNET yesterday morning confirmed something we all have been anticipating for some time now. AT&T is pulling all stops for the Lumia 900 launch. "At all levels, this is a notch above anything we've ever done," said AT&T device head Jeff Bradley. Partnering with Nokia, a large scale television marketing campaign will launch around the same time the Lumia 900 will, April 8th. CNET's Roger Cheng explains:

"The Lumia 900 will be the centerpiece at AT&T stores, with massive signs and posters promoting the device. Nokia and AT&T spent considerable time training store reps, and a majority of them will be carrying one with them at all times. The phone will launch with a number of accessories, which Bradley said sends an indirect message to consumers that the device is unique and important enough to get significant support."

The campaign will last six to eight weeks and is meant to remove all doubt about which device is AT&T's current hero device.

What I find interesting about this story, though, is how AT&T promises the Lumia 900 will be the "biggest launch ever." AT&T clearly has some high hopes for this device. This is promised of a phone powered by one of the newest mobile platforms, one that has yet to really gain substantial traction or adoption in the U.S. market. Needless to say, there are quite a few hurdles to overcome for the "biggest launch ever" to be a memorable day or even a success.

That said, I have to commend Ol' Blue for being the first to really give Windows Phone and Nokia the chance and attention they deserve (and need to succeed). And I wouldn't totally write the Lumia 900 launch off or say that it's not capable of living up to AT&T's and Nokia's expectations. The blitzkrieg marketing campaign, as Cheng called it, and abnormally low price point could make all the difference.

The Lumia 900 will launch for $99.99 with a two-year agreement, so it's possible that the two companies are sitting on a perfect storm. Unlike most prior Windows Phone devices, interest in the Lumia 900 is swelling. For example, Laptop Mag is holding a Smartphone Madness 2012 voting bracket and the last face-off (voting ended this morning at 9 AM) was between the Lumia 900 and the Samsung Galaxy S II – currently one of the most popular line of phones with over 20 million sold worldwide. Of the 9,326 total votes, 73.6 percent (6,864) voted for the Lumia 900 while only 26.4 (2,462) voted for the Galaxy S II. Surprising, to say the least.

The Lumia 900 may be a huge breakthrough device and vehicle to success for both Nokia and Microsoft. But while I want Windows Phone and Nokia to succeed in the States, I have a feeling that AT&T may have their sights set a tad high.

Promising the "biggest launch ever" could certainly mean more than one thing. But, immediately, I wanted to compare this to all prior iPhone launches, and I just can't force myself to believe that will happen. On AT&T's side, sure. They're putting more effort into this launch than any other device launch in AT&T history. But they wouldn't do that without expecting a big payoff. I would go as far as to assume they are anticipating mass adoption of Windows Phone, possibly rivaling that of Android or the iPhone. But Android has the smartphone market in the palm of its hand and the iPhone is a different beast altogether – Apple and AT&T always sell millions with or without heavy marketing campaigns. People hold off and save their upgrades for the iPhone launch. Thousands of people line up days in advance to get their new iPhone. It's going to take more than tossing up a few posters, setting up plinths in the center of stores and airing a few television ads to match that.

I'm not saying this launch will be a dud. The Lumia 900 is a fantastic phone at a very lustrous price. But if AT&T believes it will break records set by arguably the most popular phone ... ever, or that it will even come close, they might have a rude awakening coming.

Maybe (and hopefully) I'm wrong, though. Here's to hoping the 8th will be a great day for Windows Phone, Nokia and AT&T.

Tell me, folks. Have you been dying to get your hands on a Lumia 900? Will you be picking one up on April 8th? Do you think this could possibly be AT&T's biggest launch ever? If I were an AT&T subscriber, there is no doubt that I would be at the local AT&T store bright and early on April 8th. But I'm not about to open up a third account. Two is enough.

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