Nokia was once one of the most recognizable brands in mobile phones in the States. Everyone had a Nokia. And everyone knows the Nokia jingle. (I hear it once and I whistle it all day!) Over the years, however, Nokia's presence in the U.S. slumped – almost completely dissolving due to carrier relations and disagreements over subsidies.
This year, though, will be Nokia's turning point, their return to fame. That's the plan, at least.
Microsoft, in an attempt to reclaim its lost mobile market share and to grow their infant mobile platform Windows Phone, has teamed up with Nokia. They needed a differentiating factor, something that set them apart from the sea of Android phones and the lone iPhone. Nokia was a perfect fit. Their hardware is topnotch and they have a keen eye for beauty in design. In other words, their phones stick out in a crowd; you know a Nokia when you see one.
Later, we learned that AT&T would be the launch partner, and they, too, were a perfect match. For just shy of a year now, AT&T has been looking to loosen its grip and dependence on the iPhone, looking for a more well-rounded smartphone lineup. They have offered their fair share of Android devices to limited success (not nearly as much as Verizon with its DROID line or Sprint with EVO). Being the first carrier to fully back Windows Phone, while a bit risky, could prove wildly successful if the platform finally starts to gain traction.
The collaborative, blitzkrieg marketing campaign and sights set on success and revitalization in the U.S. couldn't save Nokia from poor Q1 earnings, though. The Finnish company faced $1.7 billion loss. Mobile device sales slipped 24 percent and smartphone sales dropped a staggering 51 percent year-over-year. But their is some silver lining to today's bleak news. As our own Alex reports:
"Nokia reports that it sold 1.9 million Lumia smartphones in the first quarter but that overall sales results 'have been mixed,' adding that sales 'exceeded expectations' in the U.S. but that gaining momentum in other markets (like the U.K.) 'has been more challenging.'"
Despite a rocky launch for Nokia's flagship, the Lumia 900, the device has, more or less, been a success. AT&T's Paul Roth, president of retail sales and service, claims the Lumia 900 has exceeded expectations. The Lumia 900 has since sold out on Amazon.com, AT&T's site, and at many brick and mortar locations. And much to our surprise, it has even topped the Galaxy Note in our Official Smartphone Rankings to be the number one device.
I have a feeling this is just the very beginning for Nokia. Aside from a slow start, their re-entry into the U.S. smartphone market could be a major hit ... after the initial turbulence, that is. As John Biggs of TechCrunch said earlier this morning, "Nokia May Be Down, But They’re Not Out."
Biggs recalls the lull Android sat in after the G1 launch and how it took manufacturers several attempts before Android exploded. Over time, manufacturers gained the knowledge and skills necessary to knock a few marketing campaigns and devices out of the park: DROID, EVO and even the Nexus line (although Nexus marketing is still amateur at best). Biggs parallels Android's big break with what Nokia is undoubtedly capable of. "An outside software product is trying to take market share and will probably flounder for the first few months." But with two recognizable and dependable brands such as Nokia and Microsoft teaming up and launching a beautiful product, the propensity for success is waxing at every turn.
I have been an off and on user of Windows Phone since it debuted in the U.S. I was ready for a refresh and some much-needed time away from BlackBerry, Android and iOS. But all of the first-round manufacturers were copping-out, doing exactly what they've done a million times with Android. Most Windows Phones felt and looked like Android phones with a new OS slapped on. Nokia changed that in a big way. The Lumia 900 is the first Windows Phone I have been able to enjoy, both in terms of software and hardware (AMOLED displays are a must on Windows Phone, solely for the colors and contrast).
They've planted that seed and all eyes will be fixed on what's next. What halo device will Nokia launch with Windows Phone 8? (And will the current Lumia devices even receive Windows Phone 8?) Will we see a PureView Lumia? (Hopefully not this one.)
The facts are simple. Windows Phone is maturing in both software and hardware. Interest and mind share are growing. Marketplace is growing. And Microsoft and Nokia are in this for the long haul. The numbers may not show it yet, but Nokia will be what finally sets Windows Phone off. In fact, it may already have.
What do you make of Nokia's performance, ladies and gents? Has Microsoft struck gold with Nokia? Or are Nokia's earnings and past performance a telltale for their future in the U.S. market?