Nokia appeases angry mob, gains life-long loyalists

Each vendor handles widespread bug reports in its own unique way. Some companies do their best to avoid acknowledging issues unless coverage spills over into the mainstream media. Other companies try to communicate with the public while they perform tests and attempt to fix bugs. Nokia on Tuesday took things a step further by taking escalating concerns about a serious Lumia 900 bug and turing the situation into a public relations coup.

Despite mixed early reviews and a quick round of whining from bloggers baffled by the logic behind an Easter-Day launch of a flagship smartphone — mystery solved: AT&T launches new devices on Sundays and Monday, April 9th marked the first day of the carrier’s spring promotion — Nokia’s Lumia 900 appears to have been well received by the public. Just one day after it launched, the sleek Windows Phone occupied the No.1 and No.2 spots on Amazon’s list of best-selling smartphones.

While the Lumia 900 certainly appeared to be selling well, a growing number of complaints arose from customers claiming their smartphones suffered from a serious bug. These users said that their phones were often unable to send or receive data over AT&T’s cellular network. BGR was not able to replicate the issue on its review unit, but a new Lumia 900 purchased by BGR on Tuesday did exhibit data connectivity issues.

In a blog post, Nokia executives Chris Weber and Jo Harlow acknowledged the problem, stating that it is being caused by a “memory management issue.” To speculate briefly, this issue could be spill-over from whatever problems prevented the smartphone from gaining technical acceptance and launching on schedule.

Customers were aggravated of course, but Nokia seized an opportunity to spin the issue in its favor. The company announced that a fix is in the works that will become available on or around April 16th. Customers who don’t want to wait a week have the option of swapping out their affected devices free of charge.

Beyond these customary gestures, however, Nokia also announced that any customer affected by the bug will receive a $100 credit on his or her AT&T bill, making the Lumia 900 free. Going one unprecedented step further, Nokia has offered the $100 credit to unaffected Lumia 900 users as well, and even to customers who haven’t yet purchased the phone — the credit will be available to anyone who buys a Lumia 900 through April 21st.

“We believe the Nokia Lumia 900 is unlike any other smartphone on the market,” Chris Weber and Jo Harlow wrote on a company blog. “It represents an exceptional balance of power, ease of use and value, all wrapped in one of the most stylish, striking designs ever. At $99.99 at AT&T, we think the Lumia 900 is already a fantastic deal. And now, it’s unbeatable.”

BGR has spoken to a number of Lumia 900 owners, some impacted by the data bug and some unaffected, who have said that this gesture has converted them into life-long Nokia customers. A number of similar claims have been made on various forums. While the gesture will likely end up costing Nokia a hefty sum in addition to the firms marketing efforts and its initiative to put Lumia 900s in AT&T salespeople’s pockets, the long-term gains as Nokia tries to gain ground in the historically elusive U.S. market may be substantial.

BGR reviewed the Nokia Lumia 900 last week, and we called it Windows Phone’s best chance yet to make substantial strides in the mass market.

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