Round Table: Do the new Nokia Lumia launches hint at a comeback?
Is Nokia staging a big comeback?
Nokia has seen better days as a phone maker, but the company is in fitter shape than it was last year at this time. Windows Phone has gained a lot more traction and with a move to Microsoft imminent, the company launched the Lumia 1520,Lumia 1320 and Lumia 525 in India and there’s suddenly a brand new Nokia Lumia line-up to entice buyers in India. But does this indicate Nokia is clawing its way back? Or is it a case of too little, too late? We weigh in.
Nokia has had new launches such as the Lumia 1520 and the 1320, but the company is still far from being back in the game. In fact, if one were to look at the Q4 sales numbers for Lumia devices, it doesn’t look good at all. Lumia sales actually fell from 8.8 million in Q3 to 8.2 million in Q4 of 2013. Worryingly for Nokia, both feature and smartphone sales are continuing to drop. The Asha series doesn’t seem to have done much better either.
The other problem with Nokia, atleast in India, appears to be the price. Premium Lumia phones such as the 1020 and the 1520 still remain priced rather highly (above the Rs 40,000 bracket) in India, which doesn’t isn’t going to help push up the volume, given the number of cheap Androids floating around. Nokia’s Lumia phones, while they are quality devices, still appear to be too expensive for people to buy, thanks to the Android craze.
Android devices with a 13 megapixel camera and quad-core CPU are available for under Rs 15,000 in some cases. For many users, budget trumps quality and they would rather go for something affordable and that offers them the latest features. A Lumia device with an excellent 8 megapixel camera might not appeal simply because in user perception, a 13 megapixel camera is better.
Nokia’s recent announcements at Nokia World in Dubai leads me to believe that the company does have a chance to make a comeback. The high-end segment is still tough to crack but they have a good shot at the mainstream and budget segment, a place where Android still struggles. Their plan to do away with all handsets with 512MB RAM could not have come sooner. This was a huge issue with their otherwise good handsets like the Lumia 720 and the 520. The RAM issue limited users further from accessing the already small list of popular apps on the app store. By bumping up the RAM, users can now play high-end games on something as inexpensive as a Lumia 525. Apart from the resolution difference and a lower frame rate, games look identical on a Rs 40,000 Lumia too. You cannot even dream of something like this on an Android phone at that price range. And finally, Nokia needs to focus their efforts on more handsets like the Lumia 525 instead of wasting their time and money on something as irrelevant as a Windows RT tablet.
There are signs of a comeback by Nokia, but it’s still too early to confirm the trend. New launches will certainly help, but Nokia needs to bring more hardware arsenal in all price points and all segments. By that we mean concentrating on bridging the gap between the two ends of its portfolio. Right now there’s a wide chasm between the 6-incher Lumia 1520 and the small 4-inch Lumia 520, in terms of the price. In the Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 range, the Lumia 625 is the most recent and arguably the most popular as well, with the Nokia Lumia 720 and 620 failing to make a big dent in the market. This is largely due to the lack of appealing features for this segment. While the high-end Lumias have great cameras, and the Lumia 520 and 525 marry good price with decent specs, the mid-range Lumias have nothing especially attractive about them (in terms of price or feature set), which makes them far weaker propositions than Android phones in this range.
Of course, there’s also the question of ecosystem, where Windows Phone has been lagging ever since it debuted. While more recently high-profile apps such as Instagram, Vine and Path have made it to the platform, there is a glaring lack of exclusive apps. Not that Nokia can single-handedly convince developers to do more for the platform but there’s a great need to go beyond publishing healthy quarterly results to convince app makers of the merits of the OS. Yes, Windows Phone is on the rise, but developers need encouragement not just from the market, but also manufacturers. So it will certainly not help that Nokia has not quashed talk about Normandy, the Android phone. This will make developers wonder whether they really have to make a Windows Phone version of their app, when an Android Nokia phone is on the way.
Have your say. What do you think of the new Nokia Lumia phones and how they will affect the company’s chances in the market?