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Lumia seen as dim light in U.S. versus iPhone, Android

Nokia has yet to disclose definite U.S. rollout plans for new Windows Phone 7.5-based Lumia smartphones

Nokia's new Windows Phone 7.5-based Lumia smartphones won't cause many problems for Android-based devices and the iPhone in the U.S., three analysts predicted Wednesday.

"They're certainly pretty phones with a clean design that showcases Mango (code name of Windows Phone 7.5) nicely, but the Nokia products will be moving against an entrenched iOS and Android base," said Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group.

"Clearly, Nokia will need some heavy marketing in the U.S. and I haven't seen that," Enderle added. "They need some stronger differentiation from other smartphones in the market. They will need to give buyers some incentives. It's an uphill battle."

Nokia's Symbian-based smartphones have never sold well in the U.S., analysts said. According to Gartner , Symbian smartphones accounted for 22% of the global market in the second quarter of 2011, putting the long-time worlld leader in second behind Android's 43.4% share.

But now, Nokia has hitched its fortunes to Windows Phone 7.5, first with Lumia and then more phones in the future.

To date, sales of Windows Phone 7 devices have been slow.

Gartner said fewer than 1.6 million Windows Phone 7-based smartphones (less than 1% of total smartphone sales) were sold by HTC, Samsung and others in the second quarter, down slightly from the previous quarter.

Mango comes with some 500 improvements over the first generation of the Windows Phone OS, though it isn't clear whether the imrovements will make much difference for Lumia, analysts said.

Windows Phone 7 smartphones "have just not caught on," said Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst.

"This is a story of two strong industry leaders that have hit a dry spot in the smartphone sector," Kagan added. "They think getting together will make them stronger. Will it?"

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said it's curious that nobody from Microsoft spoke at the unveiling of Lumia.

"Where was Microsoft's endorsement?" Gold asked. "No doubt Microsoft wants to keep some distance and not offend other [Windows Phone manufacturers] but if this is such a close partnership, where is the love?"

Gold questioned whether Nokia offers a "value add" to Windows Phone. He also wondered how the Lumia devices will fit into enterprise settings, where IT managers worry about management tools for activation and security.

Gold noted pricing for the Lumia 800 will be set at premium levels, starting at nearly $600 before carrier subsidy. "That's going to be roughly the same price as the iPhone 4S after subsidies, which could be a tough sell," Gold said.

Most important, Gold said Nokia misstepped because it didn't say when and which Lumia devices would come to North America, only that a portfolio would be released early next year once LTE technology stabilizes.

"What does that say about the commitment [of North American] carriers to Lumia?" Gold asked. "If you have a halo device, which is how Lumia is being positioned, that's not being sold in the largest market, what does that say about your market position?"

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.


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