When you show up late to a party, you should at least bring a bottle of wine (or a case of beer depending on the party). Nokia's highly-anticipated launch of Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" smartphones comes fairly late in the game, and doesn't seem to add anything to make it worth the wait.
This was supposed to be "it". Microsoft invested a billion dollars funding the relationship with Nokia, and buying the global mobile phone leader over to the Windows Phone 7 platform. We waited all year to see what Nokia would bring to the table, and the answer seems to be "nothing new".
Don't get me wrong. The Nokia Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 look impressive enough. If I were trying to choose a Windows Phone 7.5 device, and I was looking at options like the HTC Titan, Samsung Focus S, and a Nokia Lumia 800, I may very well choose the Lumia 800. I'm just saying that it's not a clear winner. It doesn’t stack up well against other flagship smartphones, and doesn’t really add anything to the "Mango" lineup that wasn't already available.
I realize there is only so much you can do with a smartphone. I am not really sure what I expected Nokia to announce that would have made the Lumia 800 more compelling. Given the expectations, though, for Nokia to ride in like the white knight to save Microsoft's smartphone business and catapult the platform to greater relevance, the Nokia devices just feel anticlimactic.
My PCWorld peer Ginnie Mies has had an opportunity to work with the Nokia smartphones personally, and she seems relatively impressed. She also points out, "There are also a few special Nokia-exclusive features, such as Nokia Drive, a navigation app, and Nokia MixRadio, a streaming radio app that gives you free access to 100 channels," so I guess there are at least some things that are unique to Nokia.
Granted, you can get a Nokia Lumia in bright blue or pink instead of just the standard black, but that is nothing you can’t do with a $10 case for any other smartphone. Paul Thurrott notes on his Supersite for Windows blog that details are scarce on when the Lumia's might be available in the United States, but that it certainly won't be in time for the 2011 holiday season.
Maybe that is good news? Perhaps these first "Mango" smartphones will get Nokia's foot in the Windows Phone 7.5 door, and provide a foundation for a more compelling offering for the United States. Perhaps Nokia will unveil a superior Lumia model with 4G LTE, or an NFC chip, or something else that makes a bigger splash than these two devices.
To capitalize on its investment in the Nokia relationship, Microsoft should be working very closely with Nokia, and it should consider co-developing a cutting-edge, flagship smartphone that defines what Windows Phone 7.5 is capable of--like Google has done with Android in working with Samsung to create the Galaxy Nexus.
We'll have to wait and see what Nokia brings when it shows up to the party in the United States. What I see so far, though, is disappointing given the anticipation and expectations around the Microsoft-Nokia partnership.