When it comes to smartphones I find that lately I’ve been somewhat consumed by Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft’s latest development on the mobile front. I have to admit that I’m extremely intrigued by its development, and mostly hopeful that it will be a success rather than a flop. The odds are largely against Microsoft given their track record in mobile, but since they’re unifying their platform (Windows 10) to work almost the same way across all devices it would seem like Microsoft has something really good here – at least in theory.
Another big thing that has recently occurred for Microsoft is their adoption of the Lumia line from Nokia. By having access to many of Nokia’s patents, Microsoft has been able to continue making new Lumia phones (the most popular line of smartphones for Windows Phone) on their own. However, it’s been quite a while since we’ve seen any new Lumia flagship devices. Since the switch, Microsoft has only released low to mid-range Lumias.
I’ve already discussed in previous articles how I thought that making Lumia flagship at this point in time wouldn’t be a great idea. Flagship or not, there aren’t a lot of people interested in Windows Phone right now. Windows 10 Mobile, on the other hand, has the potential to draw people in. A flagship release at the same time – or around the same time – as the release of Windows 10 Mobile would be more opportune. According to rumors, this appears to be Microsoft’s plan with the Lumia 940 (950?) and Lumia 940 (or 950) XL.
But accompanying the upcoming release of flagships also come rumors that Microsoft plans to house their flagship Lumias in a polycarbonate casing. Sound familiar? Of course it does! It’s the same material that Nokia used to make their flagship Lumias. For the most part, the polycarbonate build of a Lumia has been regarded as a good thing because of how "tanky" they are. As a personal anecdote, my own Lumia 928 was pretty darn tanky even without a case.
There’s another rumor that follows up saying that the polycarbonate Lumias might actually end up costing more than an Apple iPhone. To put it into perspective, an off-contract Apple iPhone 6 is priced at $649 for the 16GB model.
Obviously there’s no way of knowing whether this information is true or not. While I wholeheartedly believe that the Lumia will keep its traditional polycarbonate housing (and think it’s a good idea), I don’t think that pricing it higher than the iPhone, already one of the most expensive devices on the market, is a good idea.
I think that the iPhone has been able to stay at its premium price for so long for a few reasons. Being one of the first and most expensive smartphones on the market, the iPhone has a certain amount of prestige that comes with it. They also have a reputation of having a stable operating system and using more “premium” materials for building their phones, which also helps justify the price jump for many people. Overall, though, I don’t think the Apple iPhone itself is actually worth $649; it's all about the brand that Apple has been successfully building on for years.
And if Microsoft, a company with less-than-stellar reputation in mobile currently, enters the market with polycarbonate ("plastic") Lumias that have a price tag higher than the beloved iPhone, I don’t see it going well.
There’s been a shift in the smartphone industry. Flagship phones aren’t always sold at steep prices. Phones like the Google Nexus (sans 6), Moto X, and OnePlus are all examples of smartphones that have nearly flagship performance with reasonable pricing. I think that Microsoft would be best if they took this route rather than diving right in; they should ease their way back into the hearts of consumers.
I absolutely think that Microsoft should keep the old polycarbonate Lumia style, but only if they can keep the cost reasonable. The actual style of Lumia flagships was really nice in my opinion, and most importantly it was durable (something you don't always see in smartphones these days). I don't want to see that change. But Windows 10 Mobile will have a lot to prove before people can start taking them seriously, and that starts with making sure that the handsets get in the hands of consumers in the first place. While I’m not saying they need to have the cheapest flagship handsets, they should probably stay a safe distance away from iPhone territory – at least for now.