All eyes were on four major tech companies yesterday in New York: Nokia, Microsoft, Motorola and Verizon Wireless. Both Nokia and Motorola had an arsenal of new handsets to unveil. As per usual, the media flocked to the events with bags full of cameras, computers and other gadgetry to bring the latest to readers within seconds of each unveiling.
In the mobile realm, rocky press events are all too common. Cheesy, poorly planned, full of technical difficulties, few companies seem to have the capacity to put together a public announcement with true finesse. Unfortunately, yesterday was no different.
Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit.
Nokia live streamed its announcement (though I'm not sure of the quality of said stream) and kept things moving along quite smoothly. Everyone who took the stage was calm and genuinely proud and excited for the new Lumia family. There was an air of confidence, despite Nokia's ongoing struggle and recent earnings reports. The event itself was a bit drawn-out and Nokia rehashed the same bit about PureView and the PureMotion HD+ display technology several times. But, in the end, it was a solid event.
Motorola had a nice set-up, too. I was running a bit late to the event and came in as the band was playing their last song. (I never caught the name, I was too busy bumping into Eric Schmidt. But they were catchy and energetic, a perfect fit for such an event.) Schmidt and Motorola kept things concise and swift. Verizon was a bit of a downer at the end – it took the stage just to hype its LTE network. (We love your network, Big Red, but we were there for the phones.) Throughout the event, there were several hiccups, which we won't hold against anyone too much as wireless networks always fail at these gatherings. No less, the spiel of how yesterday marked the new Motorola was interesting, yet slow. Then ... boom! Three new devices were unveiled in just a couple minutes, then it was over.
The best description I can offer is that both events were kind of sporadic.
Honestly, I don't care about how smoothly or rocky the events were, though. Neither will stick in my mind for more than a few days. All I will remember are the devices and the finite details that will ripple around the Internet for the next few months. We now have the Nokia Lumia 920, Lumia 820, Motorola DROID RAZR HD, DROID RAZR MAXX HD and DROID RAZR M to look forward to. Of the five new devices, specifics can be found at each of the respective announcements brought to you by our own Alex Wagner (linked above).
But there's a piece of the puzzle none of us will recall: pricing and availability. That's because neither were given – not even rough approximations – for most of the devices unveiled yesterday. Of the five, only the DROID RAZR M was given a firm date and price. Pre-orders started yesterday at 5:00 PM, the launch will follow on the 13th and it will cost $99 with a two-year agreement.
For the first time in long while, I am thoroughly impressed with both Nokia and Motorola. I am seriously looking forward to the Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8. And the DROID RAZR MAXX HD isn't a bad entry from Moto either. (The battery is most of its appeal.) Both are certainly noteworthy devices. However, I have no clue when I can buy either of them or how much they will cost. And for Nokia's devices, we don't even know where exactly they're headed yet.
How tech companies are okay with this is beyond me. The fact that a company (or in this case companies) can announce a product in confidence and not reveal approximately when it will come to market rubs me wrong. And its more and more frustrating every time it happens.
For contrast (and I really hate to make this comparison), each time Apple announces a product, consumers and reporters know when new devices will be available and how much they will cost by the end of the announcement. Apple is one of the few companies – if not the only company – capable of piecing together a great press event. They hit all the high points, explain no more than what is needed and give all the necessary pricing and availability information.
I already know that, following Apple's press conference next week, whatever new devices are announced will be given a solid date and price, and they will also be readily available in no more than a few weeks. These new Lumia devices and DROIDs may have impressed us all, but I don't even know if the Lumia 920 will make it to AT&T, and if it does, I don't know when or for how much. Motorola at least gave us until Q4 for the DROID RAZR HD and DROID RAZR MAXX HD. But that gives Motorola nearly a four-month window to launch and consumers entirely too much time to be swept away by another phone.
The point is, all Nokia and Motorola did yesterday was confirm to us that they were trying to beat Apple to the punch, rush the announcement of a product that is not sitting in a factory, ready to go in a few weeks. Effectively, that's useless. While some people will wait, there are literally thousands upon thousands of people who might have bought the Lumia 920 or one of the DROIDs if they were available soon after the event. But by the time these products hit shelves, much of the hype from general consumers will be gone. They will have purchased a new iPhone instead, regardless of all the hubbub yesterday.
To all manufacturers, not just Nokia and Motorola, it is not at all classy to announce something without a general launch date or price. It shows true color, weakness to the staggering amount of control and mind share Apple has over the market, competitors and consumers. Rushing a press event for a device that is still months away comes off amateurish and no one gains anything from it.
Simply put, if a product will not be ready to go shortly after an announcement, wait to announce it. As long as it's before the holiday season, you aren't going to miss anything significant, especially if your projected launch date is after the next iPhone anyway.