Strange phenomena surround Nokia’s budget Windows Phone

Nokia Lumia 520 Price

The Lumia 520 is Nokia’s most important smartphone in 2013 — it’s the budget Windows Phone that is supposed to recapture low-end smartphone share in emerging markets. A bit of digging has revealed that India-based retailer ​Flipkart just hiked prices on the Lumia 520, which has been in and out of stock since launching in early April. The 520’s price had been 9,999 rupees since it first debuted, but has since moved to 10,299 rupees in late May. It is extremely rare for smartphone prices to bounce up two months after launching. Nokia’s Lumia 520 keeps selling out at Flipkart, India’s leading e-tailer site, even though its production should have ramped up strongly by now. Is this a sign of remarkably strong demand for the low-end Lumia, or a symptom of Nokia’s production bottlenecks?

Google Trends sketches out an unusual pattern; the global search volume for the Lumia 520 is still trending up. Search volume usually peaks soon after a new model launches — the Lumia 920 peaked in early December and the BlackBerry Z10 peaked on May 1st. But the Lumia 520’s search volume trend looks atypically robust two months after its launch in major Asian markets. Geographically, the Lumia 520 search interest runs high in Vietnam and India, demonstrating the Asian flavor that Nokia was clearly going for with its budget Windows handset.

It does look like the Lumia 520 is connecting in India, which is what Nokia really needs now that the more expensive models like Lumia 920 and Lumia 720 are fading rapidly.

The search volume trend at the two-month mark is obviously a very encouraging sign; the 520 now generates nearly double the search volume of the BlackBerry Q10. But what concerns me a bit is the positioning of the 520 when the stock runs out. If the demand for the 520 was wildly above expectations, the phone would zoom to No.1 or No.2 and then sell out; that is not happening. Instead, the 520 bobs around No.5 or No.10 on Flipkart’s best-seller chart and then runs out of stock.

At those positions, Lumia 520 sales volumes likely aren’t far above projections. This would seem to imply that the March Lumia production bottlenecks may still be persisting in late May.

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