Nokia's Smartphone Beta Test campaign backfired

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| April 11, 2012

In an attempt to re-enter the U.S. mobile market and regain the fan base they once had, Nokia has made some great friendships as of late. They have partnered with Microsoft to help thrust Windows Phone into one of the most vicious markets in the world. Over 18 months after its induction, Windows Phone is still struggling to gain the adoption and interest it needs to be in the running for the third smartphone ecosystem here in the States. More recently, though, Microsoft and Nokia have grown tight with AT&T, in hopes of storming the U.S. market and finally having the breakthrough they both need.

Despite big marketing plans from their partners, however, Nokia also launched their own marketing strategy, calling out the shortcomings of some of their competitors into question. Last Monday, Nokia launched the Smartphone Beta Test campaign. It was a hidden camera, behind-closed-doors-style slight at its unnamed competitors.

"Say someone drops the phone. Bingo! We just sold another phone," says a man sitting at a table with two others in a video titled Fragile. (The videos have since been removed from YouTube.) One other video was aimed directly at the death grip (antennagate) issue we all remember from the iPhone 4. And the third video was aimed at competitors' phones which are difficult to see outdoors. One of the characters in the video states, "The screen is fine ... people can just stay inside."

While Nokia does have a point, one that many of us have likely wondered before, they probably weren't the best to be blatantly calling out the competition. Nonetheless, the campaign ended and surely left a handful of people chuckling in its wake.

However, just three days after the Lumia 900 became officially available in the States, the only ones no longer laughing are the brains behind the campaign at Nokia.

Monday morning (not the device's actual launch day, AT&T was closed for Easter Sunday), reports surfaced of data connectivity issues on Lumia 900 units. According to Electronista, "[Lumia 900 owners] have complained of the Windows Phone losing all data connections if the cellular link is restarted at any point." Despite having adequate data coverage, users have reported not being able to connect to the network.

Luckily, a temporary bug fix has been has been discovered. Taking the SIM card out, rebooting the device without a SIM, reinstalling the SIM and booting once again seems to solve the issue. That said, the problem seems to reoccur in due time.

I have to commend Nokia, though. They're not about to let something like this tiny connectivity bug ruin their big re-entry into the U.S. market. Late last night, Nokia issued a statement claiming they are putting people first. They have discovered the cause of the bug – which is apparently a memory management issue – and plan to issue an update to fix it in the near future – April 16th to be exact. The icing on the cake, however, is what else Nokia is doing. From Nokia's blog:

"We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. As a gesture of good will, every individual who has already purchased a Nokia Lumia 900 — or who will purchase one between now and April 21st – will receive a $100 credit to their AT&T bill from Nokia."

Effectively, my Lumia 900 is now free. Or my next bill is ... I guess. That's a far cry from what Apple and other companies have done in similar situations. Apple's answer to the antennagate issue wasn't a credit for the contracted price of the phone. Instead, Apple opted to give any buyers the option to get a free bumper – a barely protective wrap for the outer edge of the device that probably cost pennies to make – with their purchase of the iPhone 4. I have no doubt Apple still lost money on the bumpers, but Nokia's attempt to smooth this bump over with consumers speaks volumes. It was a software issue, which will be fixed in a matter of days. Yet they're forking out $100 per sold device to make it right.

That said, it's too late to avert the criticism and any backlash. After bleak Q1 earnings report, which contained a warning about margins for the current quarter, Nokia's stock prices have hit a 16-year low.

I wouldn't count Nokia out completely yet. They have a lot going for them, particularly in their R&D department. The love and interest for Nokia is there, but I'm not sure sticking exclusively to Windows Phone in the States was the be best decision they could have made. The Lumia 900 is a fantastic device – I've had one since Monday and I'm actually surprised by how happy I am with it. But seeing other platforms featured on Nokia's hardware would make a lot of people happy.

Tell me, readers. What do you think of the way Nokia handled this software bug? Was it karma for their bold marketing campaign? Could it negatively affect the future of both Windows Phone's and Nokia's presence in the U.S.?

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