LAS VEGAS--Nokia (NYSE:NOK) is still struggling to gain traction with its Lumia-branded smartphones running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone platform. However, now that it has flagship products with three of the four Tier 1 carriers, the company is starting to align its marketing messages with Microsoft and its carrier partners to a greater degree than before, according to a Nokia executive.
In an interview with FierceWireless here at the CTIA Wireless 2013 conference, Ifi Majid, Nokia's head of product marketing for North America, noted that Nokia jointly developed the newly launched Lumia 928 with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and that Nokia has worked with Microsoft and Verizon to coordinate their marketing messages for the phone. The marketing is highlighting essentially just one thing: that the Lumia 928's camera takes remarkably good pictures in low-light conditions thanks to Nokia's PureView camera technology. Majid said that Nokia learned lessons from launching the Lumia 920 with AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) late last year and that though awareness about Windows Phone grew, there needed to be a clearer message about why people should buy a Lumia Windows Phone.
Indeed, the marketing from Nokia and Microsoft and a commercial from Verizon are incredibly similar in the way they illustrate and highlight the 982's camera capabilities. "It's one clear thing," Majid said. "It resonates on the device." He said that will translate into the retail sales environment where sales representatives will be able to highlight the low-light photography in stores and compare it to photos taken with other high-end smartphones like Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5 and Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S4.
Nokia is also focusing on imaging with the Lumia 925, which T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) will exclusively launch. The 925 has an 8.7-megapixel camera with Nokia's PureView camera technology, which enhances picture quality, especially for low-light photography. The camera also supports optical image stabilization, which helps deliver higher-quality pictures and jitter-free HD video. For the first time Nokia added a sixth lens, a glass one, to the five plastic lenses that previous high-end Lumias had, which Nokia said should help capture natural light better. The phone also uses Smart Camera mode, which can be set as the default Windows Phone camera, and allows users to capture 10 images at once and edit the pictures to pick the best one or merge them together into an action shot. Nokia said it will deliver Smart Camera to all of its Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones via a software update.
Jonathan Cronin, director of product portfolio and marketing at T-Mobile, said the Lumia 710 and 810 had been successful for T-Mobile, and the entry-level Lumia 521 has also been selling extremely well since it went on sale via the Home Shopping Network. The 521 is available for $30 down followed by $5 a month in monthly payments, or customers can buy the phone outright for $150. Cronin said the 925 gives T-Mobile a more complete Lumia portfolio and that T-Mobile will highlight the phone's imaging capabilities.
"The commonality is the imaging story," he said. "It's very cohesive. It's very symbiotic. They're all talking about what the Lumia flagship means."
Despite the positive support from carriers, Nokia still faces an uphill battle. In North America, Nokia shipped 400,000 units in the first quarter, down from 600,000 in the year-ago period and 700,000 in the fourth quarter. During the first quarter Nokia shipped 6.1 million smartphones, of which 5.6 million were Lumia phones (500,000 were Symbian units). The 5.6 million Lumia shipments is a quarterly record for Nokia, up from 2 million in the year-ago period and 4.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2012. Still, Nokia's sales pale in comparison to the 10 million Galaxy S4 units Samsung said it shipped less than a month after launch.
Majid said Nokia did not feel pressure to strike a deal with Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S). "We've really got to pick where do we believe we can really collaborate," he said. Majid also said that if Nokia were to bring Lumia phones to prepaid carriers it would bring a flagship product to them, not an entry-level product, as a way to create differentiation from the iPhone and Android phones. Matt Stoiber, senior vice president of devices at Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) told reporters here Wednesday that "we're very interested in" Windows Phone, and though he did not give a timeframe for when Cricket might support a Windows Phone device, he said it would likely be a high-end gadget.
Majid said Nokia will continue to highlight imaging as a key point of differentiation this year, as well as Nokia's "Here" location services platform. The company announced earlier this week that it updated Here Maps for the Windows Phone platform with LiveSight. With Live Sight mode enabled, users can scan the surrounding area and see relevant information about nearby locations, like addresses, phone numbers and ratings. LiveSight is an evolution of Nokia's City Lens augmented reality service.
Special Report: Visit CTIALive for complete CTIA Wireless 2013 coverage
Nokia unveils Lumia 925, T-Mobile to exclusively launch it in the U.S.
Nokia, Verizon officially unveil Lumia 928 for $99.99
Nokia overhauls Asha operating system, adds in-app payments
Nokia's Elop draws fire from shareholders, sticks to Windows Phone strategy
T-Mobile's Lumia 521 highlights Microsoft's attempts to boost share
Nokia's N. American sales drop, but Elop hints at new 'hero' Lumia for U.S