The Nokia Lumia 900 is a $100 Windows Phone handset. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired
The Nokia Lumia 900 is Microsoft and Nokia’s big bet on Windows Phone. It’s their key moment of opportunity to make a dent in the smartphone market. Android and iOS flagship devices have lost the sheen of newness, and RIM is in a very weakened position as it readies to launch BlackBerry 10.
Put it all together, and Nokia’s flagship phone would seem to have a good chance at helping Windows Phone secure third place in the smartphone space, bumping BlackBerry to number-four platform status.
But the Lumia 900 is entering a world already crowded by the iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and dozens of other high-definition, LTE, and otherwise spec’d-out stunners. Is there room for another entrant in the space? And is the 900 even a member of that space?
Yes and no. The Lumia 900 is on par with premium devices in some respects, but it’s certainly not going to be kicking the iPhone 4S off its pedestal anytime soon.
“It’s a very difficult battle to go directly up against Apple for subscribers,” Gartner analyst Hugues de la Vergne told Wired. “So other players are going after specific niches in the market rather than going straight up against Apple.” That’s certainly a smart move considering the iPhone 4S is still dominating sales at AT&T.
“I think overall the Lumia 900 is more of an answer to the high-end Android phones than it is to the iPhone in the formfactor perspective,” IHS iSuppli senior analyst Wayne Lam said. Indeed, the 900′s 4.3-inch display dwarfs the iPhone’s 3.5-incher.
And although the Lumia 900′s display may not be HD quality, it’s got a few qualities that make it a standout. Nokia uses an AMOLED display like Samsung does for its Galaxy S II and Nexus devices. OLED-based displays tend to be very saturated and very vivid, which is great for a large-screen device, Lam said. And Nokia has thrown in an extra benefit: ClearBlack technology, a polarizer that makes the 900 much easier to read in bright daylight than other types of displays.
The 900 is Nokia’s first LTE handset, and nearly every single high-end smartphone entering the market of late (with the exception of the iPhone 4S) supports LTE and its blazing fast data speeds. What’s more, by choosing AT&T as a service provider rather than Verizon, Nokia has mitigated a bit of the competition among those numerous 4G-capable, HD-displayed Android handsets.
“You can look at the overall competitive field of LTE and high-end devices, but really one has to look at what consumers have to choose from at their carrier,” Ross Rubin, principal analyst at NPD Group told Wired. “The iPhone 4S certainly delivers a strong offering, and AT&T also has a couple of LTE devices, but the Lumia 900 will stack up pretty well in AT&T’s portfolio.”
On the processor side of things, the Lumia 900 seems like it’s streets behind since it has a single-core Qualcomm processor rather than the iPhone 4S’ dual-core A5 processor or a dual- or quad-core chip like in so many Android devices. But you know what? It may not really matter.
“Dual-core processors make a difference if you have a common playing field — basically Android. Android tends to need a little more processing power to replicate that natural flow in the user interface,” Lam said. “Windows Phone 7.5 Mango is a bit more optimized.”
Judging by my experience with the Lumia 900, you’d never guess it only had a measly single-core processor in its guts. The OS runs smoothly, stutter and glitch free.
In Wired’s review of the handset, I posit that the Nokia Lumia 900 is likely aimed at first-time smartphone buyers, and those with a tight pocketbook. And there’s another potential market: enterprise folks ditching their BlackBerry contracts.
But although it’s not going to convince die-hard iOS fans to switch any time soon, the 900, despite its modest specs, actually measures up with higher-end Android phones very well. That’s a very good thing for Nokia and Windows Phone — if consumers also see the light.