Nokia (NYSE:NOK) stopped teasing and formally unveiled its latest high-end Lumia Windows Phone smartphone, the Lumia 925, which T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) will exclusively launch for the U.S. market.
Nokia announced the gadget at a press event in London after teasing the 925 for weeks with videos and an official teaser website. The phone is similar in design in many respects to the flagship Lumia 920 that AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) launched late last year, as well as the Lumia 928 that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will launch May 16. However, the 925 has an aluminum body, which marks a design break for Nokia, which has mainly focused on plastic casings. The 925 is similar in some ways to the HTC One, HTC's new flagship Android phone.
Once again, Nokia is focusing on imaging as a key mark of differentiation. 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 has 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 its Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones via a software update.
In addition to running on Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8 platform, the phone sports LTE, a 4.5-inch AMOLED screen, a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon processor, a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, 16G GB of storage and wireless charging via a separately sold accessory cover.
Nokia said Lumia 925 sales are expected to start in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain and China in June, followed by the U.S. and a number of other markets. Vodafone confirmed it will launch the gadget in the U.K., as has O2 UK and 3 UK. The Nokia Lumia 925 will be priced around $608 before taxes and subsidies, but Matt Rothschild, head of sales for Nokia in the Americas, told AllThingsD that he expects T-Mobile's upfront price to be under $100. "We expect really aggressive pricing," Rothschild said. T-Mobile did not provide any details on pricing or availability.
It remains to be seen whether the Lumia 925 and the 928 at Verizon, which will go for $99.99 with a two-year contract, can help revive Nokia's Lumia sales, especially in the U.S. market. Nokia has also managed to get its Lumia 620 into AT&T's Aio Wireless prepaid brand for $180 without a contract, and T-Mobile will start selling the Lumia 521 on May 22 for $29.99 down with 24 monthly payments of $5.
Some investors were not impressed with the Lumia 925. Mikko Ervasti, an analyst at Evli Bank Oyj in Helsinki, wrote in a note that "there is nothing groundbreakingly new or different in the hardware or software design, and there is limited differentiation to Lumia 920 or Lumia 928." He said the presentation by Jo Harlow, Nokia's head of smart devices, was "not very confident."
Nokia and Microsoft still face an uphill climb in attracting customers. According to Gartner's latest figures, Microsoft captured 2.9 percent of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of 2013, up from 1.9 percent in the year-ago period. gartner said Nokia's overall global handset market share slumped to 14.8 percent in the first quarter from 19.7 percent in the year-ago quarter.
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