Nokia’s Roller Coaster Fortnight

Nokia Lumia 900

Oh wow, what a couple of weeks Nokia has had. A company trying to reinvent itself and staying relevant in an increasingly iOS/Android-dominated smartphone world caught the headlines mostly for all the wrong reasons. Here’s a rundown of the news and my take on the same.

Lumia 900 Announced

First, after showing the Lumia 900 at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, they finally announced the availability of Nokia Lumia 900, their flagship device for the North American markets. Pre-orders would start on March 30, at AT&T’s website, and the device would be available in stores on April 8. As a surprise they also announced a glossy white version, to be available only in stores (no pre-order) on April 22. All good news, albeit some would argue that according to leaks earlier, it was supposed to happen on March 18, so this date could be considered a “delay”. Oh well.

Mixed Reviews?

Then, the review embargo is lifted. Suffice to say that while generally extremely positive, there was a feeling that some of the reviewers (especially one at a very high profile site) were very critical of certain aspects of the phone and the OS. I wrote about how the Lumia 900 may have created a very high set of expectations and meeting or beating those expectations would be almost impossible. Also, the device, unlike typical iPhone releases, was not accompanied by a major software update of the Windows Phone OS. So a lot of reviewers started poking around what’s missing in the OS rather than reviewing the device itself. Bottom line, there was a lot of coverage on the stuff that was missing, instead of highlighting how, at $99 with contract, this was an excellent deal for a very well-made phone.

Amazon Users Love The Lumia 900

Recently, a certain noteworthy technology blog published a controversial review on the Lumia 900. While Topolsky praised the phone’s hardware, he brought up some of his existing gripes with the Windows Phone platform as a whole which seemed to hit a nerve amongst the community. However, disregarding the opinions of pundits for a second, it would appear that normal users have taken quite a liking to the device, at least if Amazon is any credible metric.

For one, the most helpful review is titled “Almost Perfect”, and proceeds to describe the device like so:

Seriously, you cannot buy a better smartphone at this price. I purchased mine at my local corporate AT&T store for $99 during the pre-sale. I received the phone on Friday the 6th and as someone who has had Blackberry’s, Windows Mobile (old versions), several Android devices and even tried an iPhone for a while, this is the best phone I have ever used.

Pretty much all of the following reviews march to the beat of this same drum, with a few exceptions (like one “Conspiracy Keanu” commenter who believes that Microsoft is astroturfing the comments, as surely a Windows Phone cannot be that good… right?)

The phone has a nearly 5-star rating on Amazon. And, out of the 201 reviews (at time of writing), 178 are five star reviews. While I cannot weigh in with my thoughts on whether the Lumia 900 is deserving of such a rating as I am yet to thoroughly spend time with the device, all that I can say is that it’s certainly a good phone for the price.

I think that Microsoft is well aware that they need to step up the Windows Phone platform before it can truly face off against Android and iOS, so in that sense, the device’s pricing is brilliant.

ChevronWP7 Windows Phone Homebrew Project Discontinued

The infamous developer unlock tool for Windows Phone, ChevronWP7 has come to an end following a mutual decision between the Chevron team and Microsoft. From the start, ChevronWP7 was an experiment with two goals: To attempt to stir up the Windows Phone beginner/hobbyist community by eliminating the cost to enter App Hub, and to convert those developers who played with Windows Phone development into published developers.

While they succeeded with the first goal, the second goal did not work out too well. And on top of this, the volume of support requests was much higher than expected. That being said, purchased tokens will cease to work. To recompense those who bought tokens for this inconvenience, Microsoft will be reimbursing them with a free one year subscription to App Hub.

Back in late 2010, Windows Phone developers Rafael Rivera, Chris Walsh, and Long Zheng embarked on a quest to develop ChevronWP7, which allows anyone to unlock their devices for the purpose of sideloading experimental homebrew applications. Following this, they met with Microsoft to collaborate on a sanctioned unlock tool, and they succeeded. They were granted 10,000 unlock tokens from Microsoft, which they sold for the low cost of $9.

Nokia Q1 Financial Earnings Disappointing Despite 2M Lumias Sold

In a press release today, Nokia announced that it has sold over 2 million Nokia Lumia handsets in Q1 2012, but despite this, the company is still falling short when it comes to financials:

“Our disappointing Devices & Services first quarter 2012 financial results and outlook for the second quarter 2012 illustrates that our Devices & Services business continues to be in the midst of transition,” said Stephen Elop, President and CEO of Nokia. “Within our Smart Devices business unit, we have established early momentum with Lumia, and we are increasing our investments in Lumia to achieve market success. Our operator and distributor partners are providing solid support for Windows Phone as a third ecosystem, as evidenced most recently by the launch of the Lumia 900 by AT&T in the United States.”

Nokia also updated its outlook for Devices and Services in Q1 2012, going from expecting a breakeven non-IFRS Devices & Services operating margin to expecting one of approximately negative 3%. The company’s outlook on Q2 2012 is also bleak; Nokia expects that its non-IFRS Devices & Services operating margin will be similar or below that of Q1.

The Lumia 900 — which was launched on April 9th — is pegged to be a flagship Windows Phone device that will hopefully drive more sales to the platform. Many buyers of the device have reported a strange data connectivity issue, which was quickly identified as a problem with the software. A fix will be pushed out shortly, and AT&T is offering a $100 credit to Lumia 900 owners affected by the problem.


Windows Phone 8 ‘Apollo’ Build Shows Up In ‘I’m a WP7′ App

Last month, strangely, a build of Windows 8 desktop — dubbed Jupiter, which is the codename for “Immersive” Metro apps — cropped up in the ‘I’m a WP7′ Windows Phone app which lists out the build numbers of the OSes that users install the app on. Considering the rumored switch to the NT kernel in Windows Phone 8, it was speculated that, assuming that the build number wasn’t spoofed at all to begin with, Microsoft was simply performing some internal testing of Apollo.

On Tuesday, WPCentral reported that yet another prospective future Windows Phone build was spotted in the app. Build 8.0.9662.0, sporting the Apollo codename and ‘Windows Phone 8.0′ version was spotted by users of the app in the device statistics area. But could it be fake? The developer of the I’m a WP7 app weighed in, stating:

“It’s running from an Emulator, doesn’t appear to be spoofed, is using the default Emulator location, and the Time Zone Offset lines up with Pacific Coast…”

WPCentral also report that Windows Phone 8 began internal dogfooding within Microsoft on March 30. So, with the information we have, it seems legit. And it’s likely that someone internally decided to have some fun and do a little teasing of the blogosphere by using this app in their test scenario.

AT&T And Nokia Offer $100 Credit, Fix For Lumia 900 Data Issue

Yesterday, users flooded the Nokia and WPCentral forums with reports of an annoying data connectivity bug plaguing the Nokia Lumia 900. Basically, the device would lose 3G/4G connectivity randomly, mostly with no cause. Some users stated that it occurred when they did something which obstructed connectivity — such as enable airplane mode — and were then unable to reconnect to the data network.

On Tuesday, AT&T and Nokia acknowledged the bug, and, much to the relief of users has confirmed that it’s a software issue and nothing hardware-related. That being said, phones with updated software that will hopefully remedy the issue are en route to stores as we speak, and should arrive within a few days. Nokia is offering users affected by the issue the ability to either exchange their device for a newer unit or update your existing device using the Zune client around Monday, April 16th.

On top of this, people who purchase the Lumia 900 from launch day through to midnight on April 21st will be eligible for a $100 credit on their AT&T bill. This was handled beautifully, so props to Nokia and AT&T for that. They are of course lucky that it isn’t some sort of hardware defect that requires new devices; this could have been worse. Let’s just hope that the reports of this issue don’t care prospective consumers away from what otherwise is a pretty awesome phone.

AT&T Might Not Have Spent $150 Million On The Lumia 900

I had just penned a post covering a report from AdAge which stated that AT&T will be spending around $150 million over the next few months to promote the Lumia 900, which, according to a few sources, is AT&T’s next “hero” flagship device which it will heavily promote. However, The Verge reports that the $150 million number is a bit off the mark, and that the carrier is actually spending less on the Lumia 900 (and by less, they mean the amount that AT&T would normally spend for a major flagship device release anyway.)

The Verge is also reporting that the internal attitude towards the Lumia 900 is a bit different than initially reported; they’re claiming that it isn’t being heavily promoted due to the threat of the loss of iPhone exclusivity to rival carriers Verizon and Sprint. Alex Wilhelm suggests something that could possibly be true: The $150 million may be the collective amount being invested in Lumia 900 advertising by Nokia, Microsoft, and AT&T. If I remember correctly, there was some speculation that all three companies are investing a total of 150 to 200 million in promoting the device.

Nevertheless, both this and the initial AdAge report should be taken with a grain of salt. No advertising costs have been released by AT&T — or Microsoft and Nokia — on the record. However, we do have two conflicting reports from two very credible publications. Neat.

Users Reporting Nokia Lumia 900 Data Connectivity Bug

The Nokia Lumia 900 is a pretty beautiful device which is set to become the most heavily advertised phone since the iPhone. However, there’s one annoying bug that some users are reporting on Nokia’s forums and WPCentral’s forums which impacts the device’s 3G/4G connectivity. While we aren’t entirely sure about what’s causing this issue, it seems that it may be triggered by cutting off the data connection at any point (such as by triggering airplane mode.)

Nokia and WPCentral forum participant goeman said that following these steps fixed his issue:

  1. Remove the SIM card and leave the SIM card out for the next three steps.
  2. Perform a Master Reset (Settings > About).
  3. Let the product boot up without a SIM card.
  4. Turn off the device.
  5. Verify that the SIM card is LTE enabled.
  6. Insert SIM card and boot up.
It worked for some, but most were still left with the issue. Neither Nokia or AT&T have publicly addressed this issue just yet, so it’s hard to say what exactly is causing it or how widespread the issue is. There certainly seems to be a fair amount of people reporting the issue on the forums though, which is slightly concerning. Let’s hope that AT&T and Nokia address this ASAP, or, depending on how widespread/severe of an error it is, it may rain on the Lumia 900 advertising parade.

Microsoft Offers Free Windows Phones To U.S. Students Who Make Apps

Microsoft are currently running a promotion which all students who go to College in the United States can participate in, specifically those who are making apps for the Windows Phone platform, as den by default reports. To quote, here are the requirements to participate in the promotion:

  • You are a student in an accredited university/college in the United States
  • You have developed two Windows Phone applications that are (or will be) published between March 26th and May 31st, 2012.
  • Those apps are targeting Windows Phone 7.5
  • Apps support Fast App Switching
  • The apps are of high-quality and are not created with one of the “do-it-fast” tools, like AppMakr or FollowMyFeed
  • You have not received a Windows Phone device in previous student promotions from Microsoft
So, to enter, you need to create and publish two Windows Phone apps to the Marketplace anytime between March 26th and May 31st, and sign up on the Facebook page. So, if you’re a student who has been interested in getting your feet wet in Windows Phone development, this seems like a great time and incentive to get started!

Microsoft Hosts Free-Time Machine Campaign

Last week, Microsoft set up a teaser website dubbed the “Free-Time Machine”, with a tagline that suggested that all will be revealed on April 9th, the day that the Lumia 900 went live. And, as expected, Microsoft conducted the promotional event on Monday.

To commemorate the launch of two major Windows Phone devices — the Nokia Lumia 900, and the HTC Titan II — Microsoft set up “Free-Time Machine” booths in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, in which you could win time-saving prizes such as free grocery deliveries, cleaning and dog-walking services, and personal concierges. Or a Windows Phone, which Microsoft touts as “the ultimate time-saving tool”.

On top of these prizes, a celebrity made an appearance in each city as well. Stephanie Izard, a celebrity chef showed up at the Chicago event, 49ers player Vernon Davis showed up at the San Francisco booth, and Kourtney Kardashian took New York and even subtly promoted the phone during an appearance on Fox News. On top of this physical promotion, you can also participate in the fun on the Free-Time Machine website, where you can win a trip to Hawaii, among other prizes.

Nevertheless, here are a few videos which provide a recap of each event in each city: