Can Verizon’s Lumia 928 succeed where the Lumia 920 failed?

There’s a new Lumia town, and it’s just like the old Lumia, only redder and crisper. Nokia and Verizon said Friday that the long-expected Lumia 928 Windows Phone will be available on May 16.

The latest addition to the Lumia lineup will be priced at $150 upfront with a $50 mail-in rebate and a new, two-year service contract. Nokia will bundle a $25 credit toward Windows Phone apps for a limited time, but doesn’t say when the deal will end. Verizon is not taking advance orders for the device.

The specs for the 928 are essentially the same as the 920 with a few important differences. The 928 has the same Snapdragon S4 processor, the same amount of RAM, and onboard storage (32GB). But the 928 has a slightly better screen than the 920, with a 4.5-inch AMOLED display at 1280-by-768 resolution and 334 pixels per inch, while the 920 has an IPS display running the same resolution at 332ppi.

The 928 is also a little taller at 5.2 inches, versus the 920’s 5.13-inch stature. And of course, the 928 has a different cellular radio to make it compatible with Verizon’s legacy CDMA network. You can check out the 928’s complete specs on Nokia’s site.

Big red flagship

The 928 should be the flagship Lumia phone in the U.S. over the next few months, picking up the torch from its AT&T-based predecessor. Earlier this week, AT&T briefly offered the Lumia 920 for free with a two-year contract. AT&T’s freebie may have been a play to freshen up the appeal of the 920 as the 928 rolls out, or a desperate attempt to get somebody—anybody—to pick up a Windows Phone.

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Nokia Lumia 920

While Nokia has seen some success with the Lumia lineup in other regions of the world, the Finnish phone maker has struggled to gain a foothold in the U.S.  During the company’s most recent quarterly earnings, Nokia revealed it had shipped 5.6 million Lumia devices globally. Just 400,000 of those smartphones, however, shipped to North America.

In an age when Apple reports tens of millions of global iPhone sales every quarter, Nokia’s results are cause for concern. But not only Nokia struggles in the U.S. Every Windows Phone maker is having a tough time cracking into a market dominated by Android and iOS devices. During the month of March, Windows Phone accounted for just 3 percent of American smartphone users, according to the latest numbers from metrics firm comScore.

With dismal sales and market share numbers for Windows Phone, can Verizon help bolster Microsoft’s and Nokia’s fortunes? Maybe, says Carolina Milanesi, research vice president for consumer devices with analyst firm Gartner.

“No vendor can think about being successful in the U.S. without Verizon,” Milanesi told TechHive. “Being on Verizon will certainly make a difference to Nokia. How much of a difference will depend on the level of commitment Verizon shows when it comes to advertising and in-store placement.”

Windows Phone's challenge

Carrier marketing support was one of the biggest problems facing Windows Phone when we examined the platform nearly one year ago. Microsoft and Nokia are offering what is nearly universally accepted as an excellent software-hardware smartphone combination. However, Windows Phone sports a radically different interface compared to Android and iOS. So Microsoft’s platform desperately needs all the help it can get to convince people to take a chance on something unfamiliar.

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Nokia may not have helped its cause by allowing the 920 to live on AT&T exclusively for its first six months in the U.S. Now that the Lumia 928 is set to launch on Verizon, Nokia’s prospects could improve. Even if Verizon gives the 928 a big push, however, the unit’s $150 upfront price tag may make the device a harder sell. Unless it's simple to redeem a mail-in rebate, relatively few buyers bother, making Verizon’s advertised $100 price tag a little bogus.

Then there’s the competition. Samsung’s Android-based Galaxy S4 sells for the same price as the 928 at Sprint and T-Mobile, and the iPhone 5 at AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon costs only $50 more than its Windows Phone rival. With Windows Phone’s struggles in the U.S., perhaps AT&T had it right with its giveaway.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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