Nokia aiming for more innovation and greater range of Windows Phones in 2013

Sitting down with Chris Weber, Executive Vice President, Nokia Global Sales and Marketing at Nokia, is always a fun challenge here at Windows Phone Central as we want to ask way more questions than we can get answers too.

Still, we try and it’s clear that Nokia for 2013 have specific goals and messages for their Lumia line..

Wider range of devices in 2013

The message that Nokia is emphasizing here at CES 2013 is that we’ll see an increase in variation of Windows Phones, especially for the three US carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

Sprint was noticeably absent from that list and to be sure Sprint is forging a deals with HTC and Samsung for its upcoming Windows Phone 8 lineup this summer. That’s not to say Nokia may not make a deal as well but so far, it looks like Sprint is a no-go.

Reducing marketing jargon to consumer speak, we can see that Nokia is looking to get both high-end and mid-range devices on all carriers and not just AT&T. Indeed we have heard rumblings in the past that Verizon is destined to get its own “Pureview” Windows Phone in 213 and T-Mobile may get a variant of the Lumia 920. Could we see such devices announced next month in Barcelona? We think there’s a good chance though we wouldn’t call it a slam-dunk just yet.

Not surprising but Nokia has stated such a strategy going back exactly 12 months ago, when Chris Weber emphasized the same points:

"The most important thing we can do in the U.S. market is bring exclusive devices and opportunities to each of the carriers," he said. "Doing that exclusivity and giving them something unique allows us to get great carrier support."

Speaking of US carriers, we did ask Weber about the reaction to the Lumia 920 being an AT&T exclusive (6 months) and how that strategy differs from their European one. They did confirm that in the US, carrier exclusivity is very important to the operators and by entering into such deals it gives Nokia stronger retail presence in addition to lower price points due to higher subsidies. 

It’s the deal with the devil and while we may not like it, it’s a approach that seems necessary for Nokia to survive. This differs from Europe where such agreements are less important and just this morning, we saw UK carrier Three announce the Lumia 920.

Of course for consumers this is both good news and bad news as it means a wider range of devices but also less consistency for single brand marketing. Though messages may get muddled we think so long as each carrier as something high-end comparable to the Lumia 920, most customers won’t actually mind.

The other focus for Nokia: Innovation and imaging

If you read our interview with Nokia’s camera guru, Juha Alakarhu, you’ll remember that imaging is going to be a big part of Nokia’s strategy going forward and especially in 2013.

Weber informed us that emphasizing that message for Nokia is a top priority of theirs. When we asked about how they could convey their ideas more succinctly/what they would do differently, they noted that Nokia wants to pick “fewer things and go big with them” and not overwhelm the customer with facts, specifications and jargon. 

We’ve seen this a bit with the “PureView” branding and we think in 2013, Nokia will be even more concise with their strategy going forward. For the record, we did ask Weber where the Lumia 920 commercials showing off that device’s exceptional camera are and while we didn’t get a firm response, we’re eager that Nokia takes the reins on that one.

Needless to say that Nokia concentrating on things like augmented reality, their mapping services and imaging will continue in 2013 and they will double down their efforts. The strategy appears to be working as the Lumia 920 has done quite well for the manufacturer and initial reaction from customers (via surveys) is that such features are "resonating".

What about Instagram?

Yes, we did ask the most loaded question for Microsoft and Nokia this year and that is regarding the status of Instagram coming to the Lumia line of smartphones (and the platform in general).

The only bit we could get Weber to say on the matter is “Lots of efforts for Instragram”, which is something we’ve known for some time. It’s not because Microsoft or Nokia are not actively trying to get the popular photo service onto Windows Phone but there are obviously some speed bumps preventing it from happening sooner rather than later.

The good news from this and previous conversations with Microsoft is it sounds like both companies are engaged to make this happen.

The take away for 2013

Cameras and more Lumias. That’s our interpretation of what Nokia’s plans are for the coming year. We’ve seen the 808 Pureview announced last year in Barcelona and its purpose was to emphasize high resolution images via its 41MP imaging sensor. The Lumia 920 took aim at low-light photography via newer components and optical-image-stabilization (OIS) aka “PureView II”.

Could we see a merging of the 808’s sensor and Lumia 920? Or perhaps Nokia will continue to explore mobile imaging by coming up with a third way to continue the PureView line? All of those are possibilities and we’re getting strong vibes from the company that they have a lot more tricks up their sleeves.

Likewise, we think for those in the US who want a 920-like device but who are not on AT&T, you’re wish may come true as Nokia is once again engaged on delivering unique devices to US carriers as “exclusives”. While everyone may want a Lumia 920, we’re betting that if a lighter, thinner version came out with updated specs and it was exclusive to your carrier, you wouldn’t say “no” either.

Hopefully we’ll learn more next month in Barcelona where we expect Microsoft and Nokia to reveal some more information.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.