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Nokia Launching Lumia 710 on T-Mobile USA, Won’t Kickstart WP7 Sales

It’s no secret that a number of outlets are reporting that the Nokia Lumia 710 will launch on T-Mobile USA sometime in January. This phone is one of two devices Nokia has produced with Windows Phone 7 on it (the other being the higher-end Lumia 800), which were initially made available outside the US in November. 
 
Being an ex-Nokia employee for nearly 3 years now, and not being among the smartphone reviewing elite that companies regularly send handsets to for view, I haven’t seen this device up close and personal yet. That said I’ve heard and read a number of reviews of the device that suggest that it is a respectable device for the price point. Having used Nokia handsets for more than a decade, I have no reason to doubt those assessments. 
The chatter I’ve seen on Twitter suggests people are excited about Nokia’s return to the US smartphone market, even if it is on the weakest of the largest carriers and not their “best” Windows Phone device they have. You have to start somewhere, I suppose. 
 
I read an interesting statement on The Verge about how T-Mobile is positioning the Lumia 710 against other smartphones: “against first-time smartphone buyers.” In other words, they are betting the Lumia 710 will be big among people buying smartphones for the first time. 
 
It’s great that Nokia’s getting back in the US Smartphone game with the Lumia 710, but let’s face it: the real barrier to adoption isn’t the price point of the handset itself, it’s the cost of the monthly service plan required to operate it. 
 
If you wanted an iPhone and hadn’t yet bought one, you can get the 3GS for free on a two year agreement with AT&T. The iPhone 4 can be had on Verizon and AT&T for $99 with a two year agreement. You can find Android handsets at similar price points on all operators. 
 
Handset cost for a subsidized smartphone is really not that much of an issue. It’s a one-time cost most people can absorb or save their pennies for. The much harder pill to swallow is the additional $15-$30 per line per month (in addition to a $40 voice plan) that is required when you buy a smartphone from a major US carrier. That’s a price you have to pay even if you choose to pay full price for the handset.** 
 
Until the operators restructure their service offers to make the overall cost operating a smartphone on their network cheaper, I don’t expect to see a massive uptick in smartphone adoption–here in the US or anywhere else. 
 
And as for Nokia kick starting Windows Phone 7 sales, I doubt it. They’ll bring in some incremental improvements to their overall market share numbers, but I don’t see this phone on the weakest of the four national networks being the one that breaks open the market for Windows Phone 7.


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