This past Sunday, my brother was visiting; he and my wife and I went for a long bike ride, taking a path around the local mall along the way … and noting that everything was closed. Because it was Easter. It just also happened to be the launch day of the Nokia Lumia 900, the de facto flagship phone of the entire Windows Phone line-up.
There have been articles questioning the wisdom of an Easter launch, but none more pointed than the one from the New York Times:
AT&T said last month that when Nokia’s new Lumia 900 phone went on sale April 8, it would benefit from the company’s biggest product introduction ever, exceeding even the iPhone’s.
The big day is here. But nearly all 39 AT&T stores within proximity of Times Square in Manhattan were either closed for Easter Sunday or did not answer phone calls. The few that were open did not have the handset in stock.
When AT&T stores within five miles of Times Square were contacted around noon, 18 of them played an automated message saying they were closed for Easter. Nineteen stores that were authorized AT&T resellers did not answer the phone, and two AT&T resellers that were open said they did not have the Lumia 900 yet.
There was a lot of noise made about how AT&T was spending more launching the Nokia Lumia 900 than even the iPhone, and AdAge has some analysis, saying:
why exactly would AT&T bet so big on a largely unknown, underdog device?
Blame it on iPhone. Since AT&T had to start sharing the Apple product with Verizon early last year, its biggest rival has been adding smartphone subscribers faster. That’s trouble, because carriers are looking to smartphone owners’ profitable data plans to propel growth as other revenue streams dry up.
Yet in spite of that ‘support’, there has been an underwhelming show of force in stores and even at the kick-off event.
The stores that played the automated voice message also played a short advertisement for the iPhone 4S and made no mention of the Lumia 900. “Visit our store to see the exciting iPhone 4S and how only AT&T’s network lets your iPhone 4S download three times faster,” a female voice said.
There was some Lumia-related action in Times Square on Friday night, when Nokia sponsored a performance by the pop singer Nicki Minaj to spread the word about the phone. Nokia roped off a section of Times Square and blasted promotional messages on screens for the show, and even served free signature cocktails with names like “Lumia Light” and “Beautifully Different.” There was only a single table of Lumia 900 phones on display, ignored by most of the guests in attendance.
And yet, in the initial days of availability the Nokia Lumia 900 has seen tremendous interest, and has become the top-selling phone on Amazon.com. According to TechCrunch:
And we’re off! Even though the Nokia Lumia 900 launched yesterday and was largely unavailable thanks to the Easter Bunny, the phone quickly skyrocketed to the top of Amazon’s best sellers list. The phone hovered around the 5th spot yesterday but jumped to the first and second spot today with the black version preferred over the cyan edition. This puts the Nokia’s large Windows Phone over top of Android’s star players, the Droid RAZR MAXX and Galaxy Nexus.
Part of the instant popularity likely comes from Amazon’s price of $50 with a two-year service plan. That’s $50 less than AT&T’s price and $150 less than the previously most popular phone from Amazon, the Droid RAZR MAXX.
The other factor could be that for some reason AT&T and Nokia launched the phone in the US on Easter Sunday. Brian X. Chen of of the NYT’s Bits blog found most NYC-based AT&T stores and resellers were understandably closed, making the phone rather difficult to find in person. Launching a pivotal phone on a Sunday is strange but launching it on a major national holiday is downright idiotic.
So the theory is that there are two things driving the high Amazon sales figures: price and retail unavailability. Let’s take a look at each:
In terms of price, I really think that Nokia made an incredibly smart decision in pricing the Lumia 900 at $99. It makes it nearly an impulse purchase – I got my Droid 4 on release day for $149 and thought I had found an incredible bargain. But I got mine on Amazon – and as always Amazon manages to undercut everyone else – they have the Lumia 900 for $49.99 on contract. If I had an AT&T plan with an upgrade open – or even reasonable AT&T reception in my area – I would have grabbed the 900 immediately on Amazon. In my opinion, the combination of carrier tie-in (you can return the phone within 14 days through the carrier if you buy on Amazon) and awesome pricing makes Amazon a winner – and this is a long-term win.
As for retail availability, I have been reading stories about the paltry space afforded the Lumia phones in AT&T stores, and the lack of training / focus on the part of salespeople in helping people include the Lumia as a choice against the iPhone and Android smartphones. To me this is a huge concern – it tells me that the Amazon spike is just that – a short-term boon as early-adopters snap up the phone they already know they want. If it is difficult to get a proper hands-on experience, and no one at retail is telling you WHY you should consider the Lumia, it will hurt the potential sales to ‘normal’ people looking for their first smartphone or coming up on a contract renewal. And that could really hurt adoption rates.
Speaking of early adopters, some folks are already being bitten by a bug that can totally disable the data connection
Nokia’s Lumia 900 launch has been partly soured by a bug encountered by early adopters. Both an AT&T source for Phone Arena, as well as buyers on Nokia’s forums and those at WPCentral, have complained of the Windows Phone losing all data connections if the cellular link is restarted at any point. The problem incldues anything as innocuous as airplane mode.
It’s possible to temporarily fix the problem by booting the phone without a SIM, shutting down, and then putting in the SIM again, but the issue eventually reoccurs.
Hopefully this gets cleared up quickly!
We’ve already made it clear that in spite of some issues with apps and other things, many of us at Gear Diary LOVE Windows Phone and Dan and Judie have made strong cases for the Nokia Phones. Now at least Judie, Dan, Brian, and Jeff Frantz already have new devices (with more likely on the way), and the early feedback is quite solid in terms of performance and features.
What do you think? Will the Nokia Lumia 900 be enough to bolster Windows Phone into a serious commercial contender? Will AT&T’s early fumbles hurt the chances for the device? Do you plan to get one – and why (or why not)?