With Nokia’s share of handset sales in emerging markets under assault, the company may have an unlikely white knight come to its rescue: Facebook. No, Facebook isn’t planning to release a version of Facebook Home for Lumia models anytime soon but Quartz’s Leo Mirani explains that Facebook is bringing some features to Nokia’s $99 line of new Asha phones that could make them very attractive to first-time handset buyers. In particular, Mirani says that the new Asha 501 comes with “free data for Facebook if consumers use one of the wireless carriers that have agreed” to provide it. More →
Nokia’s Lumia 928 will launch soon and once again, Nokia is betting the farm on camera quality to sell its flagship phone. The chances that consumers will actually change their smartphone preference based on superior low-light photo quality are slim to nil, of course. Instagram topped 100 million users in February. AfterLight and Wood Camera are white-hot app market sensations. During all those years Nokia wasted chasing 41-megapixel perfection the consumers were headed for the opposite direction, clamoring for atmospheric, blurry, nostalgic, eerie, low-quality photos. More →
With Nokia continuing to languish, investors have understandably become frustrated with CEO Stephen Elop. As we saw earlier this week, investors implored Elop to reconsider his decision to go exclusively with Windows Phone as Nokia’s mobile platform despite the fact that it hasn’t at all helped the company boost its market share against rivals Apple and Samsung. Elop did nothing to ease investors’ fears by stubbornly asserting that his only “Plan B” was to make his Windows Phone “Plan A” succeed. If Nokia’s fortunes don’t improve markedly by the end of the year, I can imagine shareholders ousting Elop and replacing him with someone who will branch out the company’s operating system portfolio to include Android. More →
Nokia continues to tease the upcoming Lumia 928 smartphone ahead of its official debut. The company on Wednesday posted marketing images of the device and confirmed that it will be equipped with an 8.7-megapixel PureView camera and Carl Zeiss optics. Nokia also released a video showcasing the Lumia 928′s low-light camera performance as compared to the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III. More →
It’s safe to say that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop did not enjoy his chat with investors on Tuesday. Reuters reports that shareholders at Nokia’s annual general meeting said they were losing patience with Elop’s efforts to turn around his company’s fortunes and implored him to reconsider his decision to go exclusively with Windows Phone as the official operating system of all Nokia smartphones. More →
BlackBerry’s market share at Verizon has crashed below 0.5% even as the Windows Phone share ticked up above 5% during the first quarter of 2013. If Verizon does not back Nokia’s Lumia 928 over BlackBerry models this summer, then Nokia’s chances of thriving on America’s largest wireless carrier are finished. Right now it looks like the next iPhone may not debut until August or September. If Nokia cannot convince Verizon to give major marketing support to the new Lumia flagship when Apple’s share at Verizon is falling by 6 percentage points a quarter, it is never going to happen. This is it. The extent of Verizon’s support for the Lumia 928 will be a key tell about whether Nokia can ever crack the 10% market share barrier in the United States smartphone market. More →
Nokia on Tuesday confirmed the existence of the upcoming Lumia 928 smartphone in an image published on the company’s website. The teaser image doesn’t reveal much, although it suggests the handset will have an upgraded rear camera. Engadget also spotted a magazine advertisement that confirms the Lumia 928 will arrive on Verizon’s 4G LTE network with a PureView camera and Carl Zeiss lens for stellar low light performance. Nokia is scheduled to hold a press conference on May 14th in London where it is expected to announce the Lumia 928, among other things. A second image follows below. More →
Windows Phone has been far from a rousing success so far, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from trying to goose sales of Windows Phone devices in any way it can. AllThingsD reports that Microsoft’s latest strategy involves pushing Nokia’s dirt-cheap Lumia 521 into Walmart and selling it for $150 off-contract. The goal is to undercut the appeal of subsidized devices such as the iPhone and the Galaxy S4, which both sell for $200 or more at most retail outlets if users sign two-year service contracts. But by offering the Lumia 521 through T-Mobile without a service agreement and at a comparatively low monthly rate of $70 for voice and data, Microsoft may have found a clever way to attract budget-conscious phone shoppers. The Lumia 521 features a 4-inch 800 x 480-pixel display, a dual-core 1GHz processor and a 5-megapixel rear camera.
A month ago, Nokia was surfing a wave of enthusiasm in Asia. The cheap Windows Lumia 620 and Lumia 520 models both debuted in the top 5 of India’s biggest web retailer, Flipkart. Just four weeks later the situation has changed dramatically. Nokia has just one Lumia left in the top 10 chart of Flipkart and both the 620 and the 520 have crashed out of top 10. One major problem: The low-end Android vendors are now offering truly nutty value for money. Nokia’s Lumia 620 is supposed to be an attractively priced budget model at 14,000 rupees ($260) without carrier subsidies, or about half the price of high-end Samsung smartphones. The Lumia 520 is supposed to be deep value at 10,000 rupees ($186).
But the Micromax Ninja A89 now features a 4-inch screen and 1 GHz dual-core processor and sells for just 6,500 rupees ($121). Under pressure from Micromax and Karbonn, Samsung has dropped the price of its Galaxy S Advance to 14,000 rupees ($260), and this gets you a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen and a 5 megapixel primary camera. Nokia simply has not been able to keep pace with the price aggression of Asian Android vendors this spring.
The problem is not limited to Lumia models because Nokia’s Asha range of premium feature phones is clearly caught in a similar vise. The relatively fancy Asha 306 has plunged out of Flipkart top 50 over the past couple of months. It offers a 3-inch display and a 2 megapixel camera for under 4,000 rupees ($75), which was a decent deal last summer. But now there are real Android smartphones like the Karbonn A1 offering a 3.5 inch screen and a 3-megapixel camera for the same price.
Why would a budget buyer with 4,000 rupees opt for a Nokia budget phone if the alternative is an Android smartphone with a bigger screen and a camera with higher specs for the same price? The answer used to be quality. It is widely known that vendors like Karbonn and Micromax offer suspect photo quality and often sub-optimal software performance. But that argument seems to be losing its power as Android price points continue heading south.
The Lumia 720 is still the No. 1 phone at Flipkart. But in the budget category where Nokia has pinned its hopes for volume growth in 2013, both low-end Lumias and Asha models are withering under the brutal price offensive from Android specialists. Over the coming months, Nokia simply has to come up with a new strategy. Either introduce a cheaper new Lumia range or drop the prices of the 620 and the 520 rapidly and aggressively. The current formula is not working.
Nokia may not be selling nearly as many smartphones as Apple or Samsung but it wants to make sure the smartphones it does sell have the world’s best cameras. Bloomberg reports that Nokia continues to make major investments in camera technology firms and most recently invested an undisclosed amount in camera software startup Pelican Imaging to develop software for array cameras that “use multiple optics and mesh the data into one image,” like the Lytro camera that debuted last year. Bloomberg says that Nokia sees cameras as a major differentiator to help set itself apart from its rivals because “imaging quality is one of the top three reasons to buy or return a phone.” Nokia’s upcoming Lumia 928 flagship smartphone is expected to showcase the company’s PureView camera technology as one of its killer features.
Nokia is determined to show that no company can out-cheap it. Bloomberg reports that Nokia is “counting on a bare-bones handset that sells for just $20 to give it an edge” over rivals in emerging markets. The new Nokia 105 includes such dulling-edge features as “preloaded games, a color screen, a radio, a speaking clock and a flashlight” and has already gone on sale in India and Indonesia. Nokia plans to launch it in Europe in the near future, as well. Bloomberg notes that Nokia’s low-end handset business has come under intense pressure in many markets lately not only from Samsung but from Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE that have both risen over the past year to become major players in emerging markets.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 platform has slowly increased its market share since being released last October. The latest numbers from Kantar Worldpanel found that the operating system accounted for 5.6% of sales in the United States in the first quarter of 2013, up 1.9 percentage points from the same period in 2012. Android smartphones continue to dominate the market, increasing 1.4 percentage points and accounting for 49.3% of all smartphone sales, compared to the iPhone’s market share, which fell from 44.6% in Q1 2012 to 43.7% last quarter. More →
Samsung cleaned up in the first quarter. The South Korea-based vendor raked in record profits between January and March, and market research firm Strategy Analytics helps illustrate just how dominant Samsung has become in terms of shipment volumes. As the company’s lead in the smartphone market grew last quarter, so too did its share of all global cell phone shipments. According to Strategy Analytics, Samsung shipped 106.6 million mobile phones worldwide in Q1 2013 to capture 28.6% of the global market. Those stats are up from the same quarter last year, when Samsung shipped 92.5 million units good for 24.5% of the market. More →