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.

  • Hope they decide to release more devices in Europe as well. Seriously the only thing that's making me consider the 8x instead of the 920 is the size of the latter.
  • They need to improve capacitive buttons so bottom bezel can go down or bring back hardware buttons
  • The bottom bezel is asymmetric for ergonomic reasons.
    (no more accidental search presses etc.)
  • Also, I find it easier to push those capacitive buttons (when I intentionally do it) than if they were lower down like on the 8X. On the latter, they're so far down that my thumb can't reach them comfortably without twisting unnaturally. Of course, smaller bezel could potentially mean smaller device or bigger screen, but I think Nokia has offset it pretty well by having a tiny bezel at the top. Looks really neat.
  • Why don't u get the 820 in that case?
  • Personnally, I did not because of the resolution of the screen, I think it's really poor for a 4.3' device
  • As dazziex said, the screen is less than satisfactory. Plus I don't like the overall look either. Feels like a step down from my l800. The other reason is that I'll only be eligible to upgrade around October so I couldn't, even if I wanted to. At least I can wait to see if any new devices get announced in the meantime.
  • one word..... QWERTY!
  • I'm not going to say "never" but it's not going to happen.
  • Four words.... Not. Going. To. Happen.
    Just yesterday Elop said that the market demand for QWERTY devices is low and on a downward trend. No, it does not matter that you would like to have one and you know at least two other people who would also like to have a QWERTY phone. There's not enough demand and it would not be commercially viable decision to manufacture such a device.
  • I had LG Quantum which is a WP7 device with physical, slide out QWERTY keyboard. It is heavier than my Lumia 920 and, though I got the phone because I wanted a real keyboard, I found myself rarely using it. It was more cumbersome to use than what I imagined. Keys are small and not very easy to use.
  • I don't think it would be financially viable selling to 1% of the people in a 5% total marketshare. But it would be cool if people could buy such specialty devices from Nokia or HTC directly so that the companies don't have to factor in huge worldwide distribution costs when deciding to build a line of mobiles.
  • Your only hope is to get a WP compatible case with one of those integrated slide-out keyboards. You can get them for iPhone, possibly Android too
  • I'm waiting for a DVP style Lumia. A portrait slider with pureview technology. It will be fat, but worth it.. :)
  • My upgrade is due in June. Wonder what new phones (if any) there will be on ATT... If nothing then or soon after I'll be happy with a 920 in red if it's available. :)
  • Actually, if there's nothing new by June, you might as well wait for the fall launch.
  • What's their strategy for up-to-date maps? Here in Oklahoma City, we re-aligned I-40 to follow a more southern route. It was the biggest road construction project in state history, and was opened over a year ago, but neither Microsoft nor Nokia have updated their maps - yet Google has. If Maps are so important, then why are Windows Phone users making a laughing stock of themselves when major highways take years to be correct? Does Nokia have the same number of people on the ground as Google, or will they always play catch-up?
  • Must be an area specific problem. I have roads that were just completed last summer already on Nokia maps.
  • I'd say that Nokia does not have the same number of users of their devices in the U.S. as Google does.  Even though Nokia had a small footprint with their Symbian devices, how many of those users were in your particular geographical location is the x factor.
    The more users in the U.S. that Nokia gets, who actually start using Nokia Maps and Drive AND reporting issues, the better the overall experience will be for us when then implement the corrections.
    Unfortunately, Nokia apparently was not able to do a 'one to one' port of their Symbian maps data to WP; I have voice turn by turn, with street announcements, on my N8; but no street announcements for my Lumia 900.; Directions on my Lumia 900 tells me to enter a HOV lane (even though I may not have a passenger in the car), while my N8 does not, for the same route.
    They will get the maps up to snuff...eventually; hopefully sooner rather than later.
  • Nokia Drive maps are good enough, they are from Navteq which makes very good maps, also there are a reporting tool called Navteq Map Reporter.
  • Good enough isn't though. We're competing primarily with Android which is known for having superb navigation. Google even has a client out on iOS. We have BB10 launching in a few weeks, we can't afford to just be 'good enough'.
  • For the Lumia series, Nokia Drive is in Beta.
  • The new I-40 Crosstown?  It's showing up on the maps on my L920, both Nokia maps and Bing maps (which use the same Navteq data anyways, I believe).  The maps are identical to Google's, but a quick glance at my iPad shows that Apple haven't bothered to update their info.  So if anyone is a laughing stock, it's those waving the banner for iOS (but hey, we knew that already).
    The only reason I can think of for it not appearing on your maps is if you downloaded the offline map and haven't updated it yet (you have to go into settings>applications>maps>check for updates.  For some reason it doesn't do it anutomatically, which is a bit silly.
  • Have you tried to simply update your map-data on the phone? In order to do so, you go to Settings-AppsTab and select maps. Here you can update. With the current revision you have the highway bright and shiny at the right place.
    Web will come soon too, but on the phone you are even more up2date :)
  • Much as I try to be an optimist, I see future exclusivity deals being a repeat of 920-820-810-822. Maybe next time around the 920-ish exclusivity deal with AT&T will only be five months, which would be an improvement, I guess.
  • MWC should be interesting this year. 
  • The Lumia tablet/s...nuff said!
  • Honestly, it's been interesting for the past couple. I don't know if I've ever been more excited than I was for the HTC Titan and Radar announcement, then we got the Lumias, now Surface... You honestly just have to enjoy the generation of phones now.
  • The problem is what to do with 800/900 users in the US. If they roll out the next 9XX on any carrier while not including AT&T, they're gonna miss out on a lot of upgrades.
  • This article is one big tease. I want to trade my Verizon 8X for whatever high end Lumia is hitting Verizon. The anticipation is killing me.
  • +1
  • Daniel, top notch as always, any word on what Nokia plans to do internationally, this piece, while of great interest personally, the overseas situation is more fluid. Thanks.
  • Thanks and for overseas, the gist I got was we would see less variation between carriers (due to the exclusive thing not being so important) but an increase in overall product offerings. In other words, I see a more readily available flagship for other markets coming down the pike as Nokia looks to "expand their portfolio".
  • Thanks Daniel. It is good to see them "expand their portfolio" and emphasize even more camera technology. The 505 must be an example of reaching low hanging fruit. 
    I am just wondering how much more they can expand the product offerings. But I am new to wp8 so I digress.
  • I say instagam for wp gets announced at mwc
  • i personally don't care for instagram, but WP is a tough sell to iphone and android users if they can't have instagram.  i'd love to get my sister a WP phone, and she's very interested, but she won't do it unless she can have instagram.  i'm sure she's one of many people...
  • I actually went to a windows store today and talked with a guy there. He told me that instagram will be coming soon to windows phone. Only reason it is taking a while is because there are like 7 devs working on it now. But he said it is coming ^.^
  • Can't wait for my contract to be up with Sprint in April, so I can get a Nokia. Don't get me wrong I like my Htc devices first the diamond and now the arrive. But if Sprint doesn't supply something compelling it's off to At&t I go.
  • Mine's up in March! Switching depends on what Sprint announces in the next couple months, if anything.
  • We can forget the Lumia 720.. Any guess??
  • I don't think so. It' just my gut feel but here's what I think: The Lumia 820 is 4.3" and Lumia 620 is 3.8" so there's gap between the two. I think the "Lumia 720" will be 4.0" and fill that gap. Also I think the 720 will have similar specs as the 620 except for the 4.0" size and a 1GB RAM which the 720 will have, intead of the 3.8" size and the 512MB RAM of the 620.
  • I am stuck on Verizon with a unlimited grandfathered plan - is it REALLY 6 MONTHS exclusive for the 920 on ATT?  When di the clock start or could we see a long rumored Verizon "922"?
  • BTW ... the BEST Nokia review we have seen yet ... BRAVO!
  • Yeah, it's freakin' 2013! How about now we can have some type of start screen wallpaper selection? How about a third screen (Swipe to the left) with either a notifications or something? How about more tile colors?
  • Well, that's more of a WP8 thing, and not specific to Nokia.
  • For the love of God, there will never be wallpapers on the start screen. That would be pointless and atrocious.
  • You can have wallpapers behind your tiles with Windows 8. Doesn't look atrocious to me.
  • There is a lot more screen space behind the tiles in Win 8. Also, you're limited to a few, mostly minimalist options.
  • There are aleady more tile colors in WP8! And a start screen wallpaper under the metro tiles is stupid! But an additional third screen to the left of the start screen for notification is an ok idea. Maybe THAT, and the screen listing the apps (to the right of the start screen), can get some wallpapers.
  • Come on give Verizon a 9XX with a MicroSDXC slot.... it would make almost a perfect phone...
  • I just got my 920 on launch but I'm ready for a newer,bigger lighter, thinner Nokia
  • Once instagram and snapchat come, my sister will buy a windows phone. Also, no video interview?
  • Whats the big deal with Instagram? Thumba photo editor is excellent! Why is it such a cornerstone app?
    I am perplexed. BBC iPlayer, Catchup TV. Sky Go - those are the important missing apps!!!!
  • I guess it's a personal thing. I still use my android phone but even there I don't use instagram so i don't miss it in my WP devices either. I also don't ever watch BBC so I don't miss iPlayer in my WP either, and it's not because I"m biased against anything with an "i" prefixed before it! LOL I must be the ideal WP user because i don't use those apps absent in the platform!
  • It's not just the photo editing.  It's something akin to facebook vs Google+, being a social hub thing with the same hype of "everyone I know uses that app and I want to join them".  In comparison b/w facebook and google+, many people have said that google+ is better.  However, many people don't want to switch because all their friends are still using facebook.  Both social networking sites do essentially the same thing.
    Likewise, you can edit with Instagram or Thumba photo editor... But many people already use Instagram, and it is its own mini social hub. 
  • "Whats the big deal with Instagram? Thumba photo editor is excellent"
    Because a LOT of people use it, and the userbase is young! Thumba photo editor? Ehhh??
  • I couldn't wait any longer!!! I had to go ATT for the L920! And now this! Ergggg!!! Just nervous that ATT L920 only while other carriers gets updated lumias. If ATT gets another high end, time for a second line. Hehehehe!
  • I don't think you'll see anything new for AT&T. They have the 920. I think you will see something new for Verizon. I would expect something new for AT&T in the Summer/Fall timeframe.
  • Being on VZW, I am skeptical. They may release a "520" shaped like a circle or something....
    There is a "perceived" advantage to this exclusivity. But the reality is when I walk into a VZW or AT&T store, they ask if I want an iPhone or Droid...when I say WP, they have to go get "the guy".
  • Here's to hoping for an 808 with OIS and WP8!
  • Are you ready for a 200+ gram phone with a 14mm hump on the back ?
  • Yup, would not bother me in the slightest. If people don't like it, they just won't buy it, but I think a good number of people would be interested in it regardless.
  • If Instagram would be Nokia only I will stop using the WP platform and do everything to make other follow my example.
  • Man, you are in too deep.
  • Nokia need to release more than 5 WP in this year. The only WP that worth it is the Lumia 920, the other ones are not that good. Nokia need to explore more designs.
  • Nokia needs to release a "cool" phone, something that you can't bash because of its size, or camera, or processor, etc, and even though the Lumia 920 is nice, is not near as cool as the Samsung GS3, and the sale numbes confirm what I'm saying. Disclaimer, I'm a Nokia fan, currently owning a 2 year old N8.