By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
NEW YORK — Nokia’s 41-megapixel Lumia 1020 smartphone will help the cellphone maker reposition itself as a market and technology innovator and show that smartphone suppliers can differentiate products despite the use of homogenous operating systems, several analysts said.
The phone and Nokia itself, however, still face hurdles, including the phone’s use of the less-popular Windows operating system and the company’s less-than-stellar marketing efforts, they said. Nokia’s reliance on Windows for smartphone growth could not only hold back Lumia 2010 adoption but also prevent the company from regaining much of the sales it lost in recent years, they said.
The smartphone is promoted as letting consumers take pictures first and “zoom later” to frame their shots. It will be available July 26 at $299 exclusively on the AT&T network through direct and indirect channels. Other smartphones in the U.S. boast a maximum of 13-megapixel imaging sensors.
In a blog post, Nokia corporate VP Kevin Shields called the camera in the phone “so good you can leave your pocket camera behind, and you can even think twice about your DSLR and not have to compromise.”
Analysts hailed the smartphone’s camera technology. “The Lumia 2010 will help Nokia reposition its brand as a market innovator in the phone market,” said Carolina Milanesi, Gartner research VP for consumer technologies and markets. “Nokia has demonstrated that they know about design hardware and software.” Although “there might still be consumers uncomfortable going with the less obvious choice of Windows,” she noted, “the hardware’s different design, and most importantly the camera, might just be what Nokia needs to get a chance to get consumers to pick a [Nokia] phone over an Android one.”
Tony Cripps, principal analyst at Ovum, said the phone “sets a new benchmark for high-end smartphone engineering — and a timely reminder of Nokia’s R&D capabilities — but the company must still overcome incumbent rivals, slow adoption of Windows Phone, and a modest marketing budget if it is to finally help the company turn a financial corner after its recent time in the doldrums.”
Cripps also pointed out that “at a time when macrolevel innovation has seemed to be lacking in smartphones — due to the homogeneity of smartphone operating systems and the drive to appeal to the mass market — Nokia’s Lumia 1020 demonstrates that there is still considerable scope to drive forward the user experience in core smartphone capabilities.” He pointed not only to the camera capabilities but also to the phone’s Rich Recording technology, which he said “similarly transforms the Lumia 1020’s audio recording.”
Imaging and audio “are key areas of investment for Nokia and crucial to its long-term strategy of rebuilding market differentiation,” Cripps continued.
The launch doesn’t eliminate Nokia’s challenges, which include a lack of consumer awareness of the Windows smartphone OS in general and Nokia in particular, he said, pointing in part to fewer Nokia and Windows marketing dollars compared to the marketing spends of Apple and Samsung.
Fewer applications available for the Windows OS will also dissuade many consumers from buying a Windows phone, he said.
“Nokia may still have work to do to convince prospective buyers to sacrifice favorite apps for superior imaging,” he concluded, “but for those who are less concerned about specific third-party apps or in need of something different, the Lumia 1020’s pictures provide a thousand reasons to look again to Espoo.”
For his part, independent analyst Jeff Kagan called the new phone “a winner” and added, “Users who demand the best in camera technology should love this device. Users who want the Nokia Microsoft Windows Phone operating system will love this device. However, whether it will rebuild the company is another question.”
For Nokia to “really win,” the company needs two things, Kagan said. “One is an advantage in the marketplace with their technology. This type of camera and operating system could be successful in that way.” Second, the company needs to “reinvent and rebuild” its brand image. They have not done this at all.”
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