Two ways the Windows Phone war is heating up

Chase Bonar
 from  Winter Springs, FL
| May 10, 2013

The mobile market has heavily favored high-end specifications the past three years, but that's not to say it's been in vain. Consumer demand for these devies has urged manufacturers to bring them to the masses in the first place. Yet not all consumers are seeking the latest, or greatest - some people simply want a smartphone because they've never had one before. Others want a device with a certain feature that takes precedence over the rest, Like a large screen or an elaborate camera. So, what do these consumers have to choose from in this day and age?

Well, the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS camps each have their respective advantages, but the off-contract pricing (and even subsidized pricing of most carriers) exceeds the budget of many. And if you're simply looking for your first smartphone, I find it very hard to ignore what a few budget Windows Phone 8 devices have to offer.

It's no surprise that Windows Phone 8 devices are as smooth (if not more fluid) in day-to-day functions than many more smartphones demanding twice your dollar. Maybe this is why I find it hard to ignore the resurgence of affordable Windows Phone 8-powered smartphones and the role they may play in making feature phones a thing of the past.

Nokia recently launched the Lumia 521, a smartphone with a 4-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, and dual-core processor all for around $130 off-contract…if you can find it. The device has nearly sold out at every storefront, and it hasn't even launched on any carriers yet. Similarly, our own Alex Wagner recently uncovered Huawei's plans to launch the W1, a similarly specced Windows Phone 8 device, by the end of this month. Both smartphones are currently, or scheduled to be sold at Walmart, everyone's favorite rollback retailer.

Windows Phone handsets like the Huawei W1 and Nokia Lumia 521 have attracted my attention as viable alternatives to the likes of more premium devices on the basis of fluidity. It also can't be ignored that they're smartphones running a relatively simple operating system compared to Android. No matter your opinion of Microsoft's mobile OS, or its app selection, to many, a smartphone is a smartphone. If there's anything left to be desired, it would be in the app selection, but even that is growing and likely to exceed your expectations if you're new to the smartphone game.

But most importantly, these devices are affordable selling for less than $200 without signing a contract. In essence if you're looking for your first smartphone, it's hard to pass on such a wallet-friendly device with a respectable build, display size, and camera.

About a month ago, I wrote about the space in the mobile spectrum where a fourth mobile operating system could capitalize on market share yet to be attained. Yes, there are many up-and-coming mobile operating systems that are looking for any sort of traction. However, Windows Phone has been on a resurgence according to Kantar World Panel ComTech reporting a jump to 5.6% market share in the U.S. And budget devices will only help Microsoft gain more traction with the likes of Huawei and Nokia. 

But it's no surprise really. I've grown accustomed to Android and iOS devices. Manufacturers have managed to pack Android with the bleeding edge of technology and specifications. And Apple's iOS simply "is", which, for many is plenty. Yet Microsoft's counterargument is becoming more and more obvious by the day. It never has been an argument about specifications - the Windows Phone 8 experience is nearly identical on every smartphone running the OS - Windows Phone devices are about competitive advantages.

Among Huawei and Nokia's foray into the budget smartphone market, Nokia has also been on the attack with numerous ads highlighting the new Lumia 928. These ads have covered audio quality, camera and video recording performance, and their optical image stabilization (for those times when you plan to attach your smartphone to a robotic helicopter). 

Yet it's likely that the rumored specifications of the Lumia 928 may deter potential buyers: a 4.5-inch display, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and an 8.7-megapixel camera. Is that it? (Cue fanboys.)

The Finnish company's PureView camera technology seems to be their wager against the influx of devices seeking the crown of "best-selling smartphone" in the mobile market. I recently asked you if a leaked billboard sporting the tagline of "best low-light smartphone camera" was enough to attract new users to the Lumia 928. Today, I'm slightly more convinced of the Lumia's capabilities after watching that PureView camera in action with its Xenon and LED flashes. It's clear that camera technology is the competitive advantage this Windows Phone device may hold, and it's only a matter of time before consumers notice.

As for me, I'm itching for Windows Phone-powered phablet with a stylus that doubles as a headset…in Nokia yellow. If that doesn't get Windows Phone smartphones noticed, then maybe some OEM's have truly managed to brainwash their fanbase.

I'll leave you with that, commenteers! Are affordable and specialized smartphones the way to outline Windows Phone 8's advantages in 2013? Sound off in the comments below!

Image via Venture Beat.

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