Nokia’s Lumia 900: What Went Wrong

  • Share
  • Read Later
Jared Newman / TIME.com

AT&T has chopped the price of Nokia’s Lumia 900 in half, and is now selling the high-end Windows Phone for $50 with a two-year contract.

Although Nokia has downplayed the price drop, telling the New York Times that it’s “industry standard practice” during a phone’s life cycle, the Lumia 900 is only three months old, and debuted at about half the price of other flagship smartphones. The further reduced price is a sign that the Lumia 900 isn’t doing as well as Nokia and Microsoft had hoped.

There’s other evidence, too: Horace Dediu, an analyst for Asymco, estimated that Nokia has sold 330,000 Lumia phones in the United States, based on data from comScore and Nielsen. By comparison, AT&T activated 4.3 million iPhones in the first quarter of 2012. (UPDATE: In a statement to Neowin, Nielsen said it doesn’t advise combining its numbers with comScore’s, and does not feel that Dediu’s estimate is accurate.)

I liked the Lumia 900. In my review, I said it was good enough to start a comeback for Windows Phone and Nokia. But the latest data from Nielsen shows that Windows Phone only captured 1.3 percent of the U.S. market, so now I’m left pondering what went wrong with Nokia’s flagship phone. Here are a few possibilities:

The Design Was Too Weird

When I showed the Lumia 900 to other people, they weren’t always as impressed with the design as I was. They thought the phone’s cyan, polycarbonate shell was an attachable case, not a part of the actual phone, which they found to be rather bulky.

When I show people my Samsung Galaxy S II, however, the first thing they do is marvel over its light weight and slim figure, and they don’t seem to mind its rather generic plastic casing. It’s no surprise, then, that the Galaxy S and its offspring are some of the best-selling smartphones of all-time. My theory, based on anecdotal evidence: The Lumia 900′s hefty design was perhaps a little too interesting for its own good. It pursued uniqueness so relentlessly that thinness and lightness were neglected, at Nokia’s peril.

Nokia Needed a New Introduction

Nokia hasn’t been a big brand in the United States since the days of the number pad. The company needs to re-introduce itself to the mainstream by explaining its design principles and making a strong case for Windows Phone.

Instead, U.S. consumers saw this lame ad from AT&T–the one where the average dude tries to impress the cute girl with his Lumia 900. The ad copy was a mishmash of marketing jargon that’s easily confused with any other phone, and felt tame for a brand that needed to make a grand re-entrance. Nokia had its own ads, in which Chris Parnell claimed that all other smartphone owners were beta testing rubes. Not good, considering that some of the first Lumia 900 phones suffered from connection problems.

Windows Phone Still Needs Work

Nokia’s destiny is now entwined with that of Windows Phone, which faces some tough challenges. AT&T sold the Lumia 900 as an exclusive, but Sprint and Verizon weren’t interested in Windows Phone at the time, so Nokia’s options were limited anyway. Windows Phone’s shortage of apps and reliance on the crusty Zune software for media management were additional turn-offs.

Windows Phone 8, due later this year, may fix some of these issues. Verizon and Sprint are promising to sell phones based on the OS, and the new Windows-based kernel will make app development easier. Microsoft is replacing the Zune brand with Xbox as a multi-media catch-all, so hopefully better solutions for music and movies are coming.

Of course, Windows Phone 8 won’t save the existing Lumia 900, which isn’t getting the upgrade. The phone may borrow a few features from the new software, but won’t be able to run Windows Phone 8 apps, so it’s bound for obsolescence. At this point, smartphone shoppers should ignore the $50 off, and wait to see if Nokia can do better next time.

MORE: Nokia Lumia 900 Review: A Solid Slab of Windows Phone

53 comments
UsamaFaisalKhatri
UsamaFaisalKhatri

Wonderful. Purely wonderful this is. I am really surprised that you could produce such an awesome post in just one day's time. You've impressed me to my utmost extent and for that I salute you! Two thumbs up! 

kontorimööbel

MalisaRai
MalisaRai

this phone was a total mistake and i fully regret buying it cos even the internet wont work and i have NO idea what to do with this phone anymore. also, i dont like the keypad and design. i just dont like the phone AT ALL. i feel like i was on drugs when i decided to buy this phone. TOTAL DISAPPOINTMENT!

Subba Raju
Subba Raju

I have had an iphone and two android phones before switching to Windows Phone 7.5.  

For the most common tasks, WP is simple and fast.  I consider it the best smart phone user interface. Google "Windows Phone Challenge"  if yo want see real examples. WP has almost 100K apps.  There are more apps than most people  will ever need. This may not be as many as IOS or Adroid, but WP has some very good apps the you can not on the other platforms:  Microsoft Office. WP office works very well with Microsoft's cloud.  I can type a document on my desk top version of office and edit on the phone via the cloud all without any file conversion/compatibilty issues. The web browser is also faster than IOS and Android. I will eventually upgrade to WP8, but I am in no hurry since WP7.5 is so good. There will be a WP7.8 upgrade for all current WP7.5  phones which will have most of the WP8 non hardware dependent features. The only problem with WP is that very people know how good it is.  This may change when WP8 launches.

I_love_McDonalds
I_love_McDonalds

So much of the effort with recent windows phone went into making them state-of-the-art. Hopefully Microsoft and partners like Nokia will make cutting edge phones - meaning stuff that the others does not have at all - yet. 

Great with free navigation software for Lumnia - but only stuff that brings the phones into state of art.

Not cutting edge - or to be more exact competitive.

Now concentrate on cuttig edge and competition - and pay somebody in asia to supply any missing state-of-the-art features. Doing State-of-the-art time is just a misuse of time ...

I_love_McDonalds
I_love_McDonalds

The problem is, that when coming from behind a product has to be cutting edge - that is practically better and offer some never-seen feature before - to be able to cross the chasm to the market.

 

WHO would replace an iphone with an iphone - that just Works differently - and you don't know if you at least get the same features (untill you have experienced that new phone and discovered whats there - whats not there)?

 

So to make it happen - you need to use new stuff beyond "a new or variant experience". Acually forget the experience.

 

The new features has to be of so great value that you would go out and buy the device instantly.

 

For iphone is was the first smartphone with industrial design and some automated or integrated deployment of software. Also a lot of sensors.

But that's not new anymore or making anybody want to shift ...

 

 

Offer free bandwidth and a free 500 GB online haddrive that comes with the phone for 50$. You will sell millions of phones instantly.

 

Anyway something that entirely a new effective functionality - a whole new feature/component in the phone. May be two to three of those.

 

If not why should you change your iphone?

harryE
harryE

How to kill a company like Nokia? Take a Microsoft manager and a Microsoft OS - blend it together and name it strategy. The only company doing worse in the market is RIM (seen strategy-wise). Windows Phone has 1.3% market share (newest Nielson report from July 2012). So the facts are clear: Compared with the money what was burned by Microsoft and Nokia the sales figures are more than a disaster. Nokia should have opted for an European manager and MeeGo. Now it is too late for doing the right thing. The only question is who will buy the left-overs? And who is really believing that WP 8 will change the ball-game?

ignacio_mobincube
ignacio_mobincube

I think that the real reasson is that they were too late to launch a smartphone with a decent OS, since they insisted too much with symbian.

While people got used to iPhone and Android phones, the positioning of Nokia phones turned into "crappy phones". After that, they launched Windows OS phones, which is a great OS, but people kept thinking that Nokia phones were crap.

Arth I-Soft
Arth I-Soft

I recently came across your article and have been reading along. I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make readers read from the beginning to the end. I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you.

vasu_phx
vasu_phx

Looks like this story is reconstructed out of a price cut by Nokia. I feel that the price cut is just to compensate  the folks for buying a phone which does not have an update roadmap

echo1992
echo1992

There is nothing wrong with the design, companies usually slash prices when they prepare for an introduction of a new phone/phones and in this case we will know it in september (nokia world). Samsung did the same thing with S2 after 3 months but nobody ever mention that. Whether samsung or apple fanboys like it or not Nokia has something really good coming in the next few months. Pureview technology is simply phenomenal and no other company can come close to that. When you can build a phone that is actually a camera, gps, camcorder and a decent phone now that is something. So, probably you want to say that other phones can do the same thing, but what quality? Check out the pictures, videos that baby is taking, which simply blows your mind and lastly Nokia drive is the best gps ever built in a phone, period.

Oh, and don't forget to check out the reviews on Amazon about the Lumia 900, (close to 500 reviews 4.5 stars, now do the same thing for the Iphone 4s and the samsung galaxy S3.

Just my 0.02 

ngkhj
ngkhj

The Lumia is wrong right from the start.  Using the WP7 os, it doesn't support the latest hardware such as high res screens, 1080p video recording, NFC etc etc. By introducing WP8, MSFT is playing catch up. The Lumia 900 uses hardware parts that were considered high-end in 2009/10.  Nokia has been trying to sell 2year old phone at a premium price which possibly explains why the Lumia never take off.

all4girls
all4girls

The Lumia is a great phone and should have been a success.  It's simple to use, smoothe, has very readable large icons, great call quality, probably the best build of any cell phone.  It also has Zune which is a very good alternative to iTunes and/or Spotify.  I agree, the advertising was terrible-it cheapened what should have been marketed as a high end alternative to the iPhone, Galaxy, etc...rather then as a joke; they marketing of this phone should have been more BMW/Mercedes versus Chevy/Ford.  It is a great product but it never had the best chance to get it into users hands; its a shame!  In terms of design, I never thought it a turn off-if anything when I used it in public, often people would ask me what it was and if they could hold it; inevitably they loved it once in their hands!  People also like the matching cyan colored headphones and I get several comments like "cool headphones."  The Lumia has become my "go to" phone versus my iPhone however I do prefer the iPhone in many cases simply because its on Verizon.  Perhaps the next generation Lumia will be an improvement.

Xuanlong
Xuanlong

There's a simple reason for the price cut, and it has nothing to do with this laundry list of problems with the device. People know Windows Phone 8 is on the horizon, and that the Lumia 900 won't be upgraded to WP8. This will lead many consumers to hold off their purchase, but a simple price  cut makes the phone a buy again. 

The Lumia 900 is a great smart phone, and for $50 it's a real steal. Either you like the design or you don't. I am fond of it myself, and I'm not worried about what my friends say. The Lumia 900 has some personality to it. I find it way better than the masses of people who all carry around identical iPhones. I prefer the Zune software to iTunes by far, and the so called 'app shortage' has never been a real issue for me. You may not always be able to find a specific Apple that's available on the iPhone or Android, but 90% of the time you can find another app by a different name that  does the exact same thing. As for Windows Phone 8, it is coming, but with all the WP7 devices out there, people will continue to develop apps for it for years to come, since WP8 will be compatible with WP7 Apps. As a developer, it just makes more sense to develop for WP7 for at least 2 years, by which time most will be eligible for a new device on contract and can get a WP8 device. There are still Android phones on the market running Android 2.2, obsolete by comparison to the recently launched 4.1 (aka Jelly Bean) version. The iPhone 5 is coming too, but that hasn't prompted an article about why not to buy an iPhone 4. At least Microsoft has been honest about what Nokia users can expect with regards to updates. Android users are always left guessing as to when and if they'll get an update. And while the iPhone might push out an update to all devices and call it the same thing 'iOS 6', it includes many features that aren't compatible on anything but the latest iPhone, the 4S. In other words, it's a far different experience; basically an iOS 5.8. 

babbeloo
babbeloo

Nokia's Lumia 900 and 800 are simply the best designed smartphones out there. Most relevant features of WP8 will be available by the upcoming upgrade of WP7.8. So actually the Lumia 900 is still the best buy out there. It is just that many people need a little help realising this. I think Nokia should have made more advertising like they did with the Lumia 800. It was simply astonishing,.

Flamingo Land
Flamingo Land

I've had this phone since May, and paid $49 for it, not worth even the $49, constantly freezes, yet will still 'talk' to me, can't do a hard reset, loses data, I've been '9 rounds' with ATamp;T and after bringing it in yet again (spent over an HOUR on the phone (not the nokia) with tech support in June trying to unfreeze it) to a corporate store, they finally suggested I replace it, and since it's over 30 days that I've had it (and had issues within a week of getting it) I can only get A REFURBISHED one, after almost 20 years with (migrating into ) ATamp;T I find it a deplorable way to treat a long term customer, though it's actually Nokia's warranty service, not ATamp;Ts.  The Phone SUCKS, I was told apps were coming because of the Windows OS, but they haven't...not even Words with Friends, my bank, my insurance, nothing worthwhile in the apps store at all.....I'm going back to my iPhone 3gs and wait out my contract, ATamp;T and Nokia can shove it, done with this and when my contract is up, done with ATamp;T (5 accounts with them)

VV75
VV75

I was keen on buying this phone  but I didn't want to get locked into win7.  Inability to download newer versions of OS is a deal breaker.  I don't understand how Apple can get this but every other phone and OS manufacturer doesn't get it. 

I loved the phone form factor and the OS.  But, I don't want something that will be obsolete in a matter of months.

Razikh
Razikh

Are you sure you are normal? Such a beautiful piece of tech you call weird? Grow up amp; embrace whats good out there. And do not publish one sided story.

roach779
roach779

I actually I just bought my mother the Lumia 900 a couple of days ago. Why? For her who is not too concern regarding having the latest update, Lumia works awesome. It has the best under direct sun performance compare to other smartphone. It has big screen...good for weak eyes. Sorry, iPhone. I set all the big icons of all her contacts as big buttons with picture of the people on it. Not too complicated. Sorry, Android. She loves the phone. Lumia is good for folks like my mother, who is 70, who doesn't care for the latest updates. Window 8 is for me to replace my almost 3 year old LG 7.

the person
the person

I'm SO sick of these hit pieces....one after another after another.  The official numbers haven't even come out from Nokia and people are running with these numbers like gospel.  I will be back here in a few days to watch you eat crow.  You hack journalists REALLY need to stop reporting on the rumor.

ANDROID AKBAR!
ANDROID AKBAR!

I believe another factor is Microsoft itself. People do not trust them, and given MS's history - why should they? RROD? BSOD? More viruses amp; malware, and other security issues than any other OS ever. Most people did not choose to use MS's software, they chose the PC that came with Windows amp; no other option. Now they have a choice, and it isn't a pricy one (one of the main reasons people didn't buy a Mac instead of a PC). In this next chapter of consumer computing, MS will not be a significant player, and will never enjoy the position in the mobile OS world as they had in the desktop. Blame it on their arrogance, or their inability to look ahead, or Ballmer - but the truth is there is a stigma, a negative connotation that goes with Microsoft as a brand that sits in the back of the average consumers mind, and that is very difficult to change.

Mike
Mike

Lumia 900 won several prizes only for its beautiful designs! You cannot generalize the comments from a couple of your friends as the public opinion.

Nothing went wrong with the phone, keep in mind that any phone manufacturer drops the price after its initial launch. Other OEMs do that too.

Jon Austin
Jon Austin

We have rapidly entered a time much like PCs where its either Mac or Windows. For better or worse its a Android or iOS planet or rapidly migrating there. Just how it is.

Also people fail to realize that now with Apps and such what ever platform your on your stuck. Why would I change from iOS when I use iTunes, Apple TV, iCloud? Not bashing on anyone else but would it make sense for me to go to another platform when I have spent perhaps if you include my iPad apps several hundred dollars just that?

The same reason why a windows person can't make the jump always to a Mac and vice versa is the same today why we cant all drop our cells to get a MS phone.  Asking someone whos spent money on Androids apps, committed to Googles services to switch is just as dumb.

hawaiiinsomniac
hawaiiinsomniac

This phone has been $0.01 on Amazon for some time.

I really like Windows 7.5:

1) Great integration with all my accounts.

2) Keyboard and typing is greatI would like to buy the phone, but:1) I hate ATamp;T (and phone is not available unlocked)2) Apps I use are not available (Square, RunKeeper, Yelp - with check-in)

Hopefully, more apps are released that actually useful. 

Darkanion
Darkanion

I liked that the 900 didn't look like everything else on the market.  I liked WP7.5.  I didn't like the Zune software, though.. ugh!  I also didn't like that my old iPhone 4 sync'd better with Outlook than a WINDOWS Phone..!?

The thing that killed it for me was Nokia and Microsoft touting the phone as the "premier" Windows Phone on introduction.  Then, 3 weeks later, rumors started going around that it wouldn't get WP8, coming out in a few months.  I may get a WP8 phone off-contract in a few months.  But, in the meantime, I took my 900 back and got an HTC One X instead..

jesuschristcross
jesuschristcross

you keep blaming nokia and their design and adds. when would you start considering the human ignorance? the best definition for the average "consumer" in the states is in your own writing above - "generic plastic casing".  that's the real reason. the "consumer" likes that. the "consumer" is that. that's why "the Galaxy S and its offspring are some of the best-selling smartphones of all-time". it's like mcdonalds, spam, the desperate housewives, etc. "generic plastic casing" indeed.

the other problem is of course microsoft but let's not go there now.

Philip G
Philip G

Windows Phone is not reliant on Zune, only for upgrades just like Apple's iTunes which looks so retro in comparison, it looks like it was written for Windows 3. As for bound for obsolescence, does the iPhone, iPhone 3 iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 run the latest iOS, no. Do all current Android handsets (note I said current and not lagacy devices) run ICS or are getting Jellybean? No, is the simpel answer. So why do you make such a big play the fate all phones, not just nokia Lumia series will suffer?

all4girls
all4girls

Forget the specs...on paper I agree with you.  But use the phone and it might change your mind.  On judgement, much of the problem here was marketing/postioning the brand properly.  Whomever handeled their advertising did not have a handle on the cell phone market and how to properly introduce/position the "new Nokia."

harryE
harryE

 Yes it should have been a success!? There is only one tiny problem, buyers and their free will. If there weren't buyers and markets with their own dynamic and if it would have been solely a decision by Ballmer and Elop - yes it should have been a success. But the buyers and markets have decided. WP phones flopped terribly. 1.3% market share. That is Kin part II.

harryE
harryE

Nice try - but the Windows Phone market share of 1.3% speaks a clear language. Buyers just don't want a Windows Phone.

AnchorageAKman
AnchorageAKman

finally someone talking some sense!  I have a 64G iphone 4s and a lumia 900.  Both are great phones. But one is $399 with a 2 year contract and the other $50.  And you know what?  I live in anchorage, ak and where I run and train, I get zero gps reception on the iphone, but the nokia gets faultless 100% gps reception in the same area.  I love the Nokia color saturation on the amoled screen and the Nokia works well about 30-40 degrees colder than the iphone.  Don't get me wrong I LOVE my iphone, but the Lumia 900 and windows OS are awesome products too and serve some functions better.

AdamChew
AdamChew

Tying oneself to a 2 year contract is not a great idea when the latest and greatest is just round the corner.

Neither is developing for a soon to be extinct OS with not many users.

You can quote me future OS will not be upgradable because MS sell their OS  where they make their money and their partners need to sell software. So if MS OS can be upgraded not many will buy the hardware. And will MS give away their crown jewel for free. Remember MS make their money by selling software.

iOS 5.8? well one man's meat is another man's poison.

Fgfgfg
Fgfgfg

STFU this phone is a pice of shit and only a retared like u will buy it

harryE
harryE

 Good to see that WP7 phones have found at least a market niche :-)

harryE
harryE

Microsoft lost with Bill Gates (when he resigned as CEO) all instinct (and class).

harryE
harryE

Nothing went wrong??? Nokia has approx. 0.5% smartphone market share with their WP7 phones. Is that OK for the company which was 14 years the no. 1?

Klaine
Klaine

I currently have a Mac (1yr old) amp; a midlevel Samsung Android..Im close to switching...Many if your main apps r available on both altho I notice ios version often is paid while android is free

Jared Newman
Jared Newman

That's a good point. There may be little MS can do at this point to convince people to switch. (One remote possibility: Windows 8 tablets become popular, and MS demonstrates some tangible benefits to having a Windows Phone to go with it.)

BornRight
BornRight

////Then, 3 weeks later, rumors started going around that it wouldn't get WP8, coming out in a few months.////

Those were not rumors, those were confirmed by Microsoft directly. In my opinion that's what gave the killer blow to Lumia 900. Nobody in their right senses would lock themselves up into a 2-year contract on a soon-to-be-obsolete smartphone. Microsoft should have kept quiet until the release of Windows Phone 8. They blundered by making it public months before release. Take a leaf out of Apple's silence on upcoming products.

Jared Newman
Jared Newman

I think we're somewhat in agreement here. You can definitely blame the average user for being uninterested in unique designs, but a great design would both attract the mainstream and look interesting at the same time. I don't think Nokia totally nailed it in that regard.

harryE
harryE

It seems that the majority in the market has a different perception. So you are part of the lucky (?) 1.3% WP phone elite :-)

Atlant
Atlant

 These days, iOS can be upgraded "over the air"; you no longer need iTunes to upgrade your device. Meanwhile, iCloud provides device-to-device data synchronization without the need for iTunes.

And even my 4 year old iPhone 3G can still load most of the latest apps.

melci
melci

Actually, the iPhone 4 and the 3GS do run the latest iOS.

The iPhone 3GS is a 3 year old phone and yet the Lumia is barely 6 months old and won't run the new OS.

This is a BIG deal.

all4girls
all4girls

correct marketing and product positioning helps to get the product into more hands so that people are truly free to use "their free will."  Most have no clue as to quality/performance of the Lumia 900.

Xuanlong
Xuanlong

If your contract is up now, or you need a new phone, at $50 the Lumia 900 is a great buy. Windows Phone 7 is not 'soon to be extinct'. You make it sound like as soon as Windows Phone 8 launches, Microsoft is going to flip a big switch that will kill all WP7 Apps and devices. That's simply not true. And it's also important to remember that on day 1, the number of WP8 devices will start at zero, and it's not going to leapfrog WP7 over night. So for developers, it will be smarter to continue to develop for WP7 to reach the most consumers, since WP7 apps will run on WP7 and WP8.

This is no different than the iPhone 5, which is also right around the corner. The iPhone 4 won't get all the same features, and as time goes on, more and more apps will be designed specifically for the iPhone 5, that doesn't mean that all previous versions of the phone and OS are 'soon to be extinct'.

hassia
hassia

 You are really quite childish.

Darkanion
Darkanion

While I agree with what you're saying about Microsoft shooting themselves (and Nokia) in the foot by announcing the 900 wouldn't get WP8, they didn't confirm that until late June.  I had bought my 900 on launch day and returned it in early May, shortly after the rumors started.  Reading between the lines of what little M$ was saying at that point seemed to point to "no, the 900 won't get it, but we're not ready to tell you that..... yet." 

hassia
hassia

 Sorry a great design would not attract the average consumer, that is why the fashion industry has so many levels. Great design does not always mean sales. However you can condition people into thinking it is a great design

all4girls
all4girls

I think the Lumia 800 design is a touch better design then the Lumia 900.

hassia
hassia

 I lovemy Nokia 900 which I bought knowing that the upgrade would be soon. I hate the love affair people have with apps I just do not get it. I will use this phone till the new one comes out and I will upgrade, quite simple really.

Jared Newman
Jared Newman

Agreed. I said as much in my review of the 900.