The Chinese version of Nokia’s (NOK) new flagship Windows Phone model recently debuted in Shanghai. According to pictures posted to Chinese websites, the Lumia 920T drew a big crowd… and sold out in two hours. So the debate over whether there is wide mass market demand for the model rages on.
The very limited early supply makes it hard to gauge the demand in China. The Lumia 920 did hit Amazon China’s (AMZN) top-five list a week ago, but sold out quickly and dropped out. There are now rumors about China Mobile planning to further subsidize the Lumia 920T in January, making it effectively free on contract. This would be China Mobile’s revenge on Apple (AAPL) for its refusal to cut a sweetheart deal with the giant carrier and its 700 million subscribers.
Nokia may thus be close to landing the Chinese version of the role that Motorola played for Verizon (VZ) in 2010. Back then, the U.S. carrier used DROID models to flaunt the fact that it did not really need the iPhone as badly as many assumed.
China Mobile is now planning to show Apple it can turn even Windows Phones into mass-market hits in China with its marketing and subsidy machine. This could be great for Nokia — if Apple isn’t forced into a cutting a quick deal in coming months. The iPhone’s ho-hum market share performance in markets like Latin America and Asia is piling pressure on Apple right about now.
In a fascinating U.S. twist, the Lumia 920 climbed the Amazon charts again over the past week as its supply has improved. The black variant of the Lumia 920 debuted in the top-three in November, dropped out of top-40 after Amazon’s delivery time stretched to two weeks… and has now staged a comeback to No.14. This makes it the second-biggest AT&T (T) phone on Amazon right now, with only the blue version of the Galaxy S III outperforming the 920.
The Lumia 822 is fizzling badly at Verizon, but Nokia just might be gaining a toehold at AT&T even after the pre-Christmas supply drama. It is now clear that the Lumia 920 is beating its biggest Windows rival, the HTC Windows Phone 8X, convincingly at AT&T.
This sets up a very interesting rivalry when AT&T debuts the new generation of BlackBerry 10 models sometime in February or March. The battle for the third mobile ecosystem at AT&T will be effectively waged by Nokia and RIM (RIMM) this spring. The loser may well find out that it does not have strong subsidy or marketing support in 2013.
AT&T has an incentive to build up a third rival for the Apple and Android ecosystems, but it has little reason to support both minor operating systems.[bgr-post-bug]