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CES 2012: Nokia’s Twofold Strategy

If this year’s CES is anything to go by, Nokia’s Windows Phone strategy is twofold. Nicholas Kolakowski looks at how the company aims to target the high end and midmarket

Can Nokia make inroads into the US smartphone market?

The Finnish phone maker has certainly managed to attract buzz at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where its products on display include the high-end Lumia 900 and 800 and the more midmarket Lumia 710.

Swing low, aim high

Ever since Nokia opted to abandon its homegrown operating system Symbian in favour of Windows Phone, a new line of products and a renewed push for market share were inevitable. Now that the contours of Nokia’s overarching strategy are more visible, it’s clear that the company is betting that a small collection of higher-quality smartphones will offer an effective counterargument to the market flood of Google Android devices of highly varying quality.

The Lumia 900, in many ways the US counterpart to the internationally released Lumia 800, features a 4.3 inch AMOLED display (with 800-by-400 resolution) and 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) support, along with a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It will debut sometime on AT&T in the coming months, according to Nokia.

“We’ve recreated the popular polycarbonate unibody design pioneered by the Nokia N9 and the Nokia Lumia 800 for this new, bigger model,” read a 9 January note on the Conversations by Nokia blog, referring to two earlier high-end Nokia smartphones. “It’s really hard to do it any damage from our experience here.”

Meanwhile, Nokia is also targeting the middle ground with the Lumia 710, a midmarket device with a 3.7 inch screen (also 800-by-400 resolution) and a 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor. It will appear on T-Mobile on 11 January. Nokia and the carrier are heavily marketing the device based on its low price – $49 (£32) with a two-year contract.

That broad range of Windows Phone devices, with key offerings at both the high end and more midmarket, is what will ultimately help Microsoft in its quest for greater smartphone adoption, said Greg Sullivan, senior product manager for Windows Phone. “We’re going to continue to have that range,” he told eWEEK in a 10 January interview. “Top to bottom, we’ll have the best story.”

In addition to Nokia, other manufacturing partners such as HTC have committed to building a new generation of Windows Phone loaded with Mango, which includes hundreds of tweaks and new features. Also during CES, HTC announced the Titan II, a 4G LTE-capable device with a 4.7 inch WVGA screen due on AT&T at an unannounced future point.

But those other manufacturers are already well-established in the US smartphone market. Nokia’s quest, symbolised by its big CES push, is to join their ranks as a major competitor.