How Nokia Hopes The New Lumia Will Light Up China

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The launch of the latest Nokia Lumia smartphones could revive Nokia’s presence across Asia and China in particular, but will they come quickly enough?

Both the Lumia 710 and 800 Windows phones are scheduled to be available in Hong Kong and Taiwan before the end of 2011, and Nokia will no doubt be working hard to avoid the delays which plagued the launch of too many previous models. However, China will have to wait until “the first half of 2012″ before it sees the much-admired fruits of Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft. In the meantime it seems likely that “unofficial” supplies could filter across to the mainland, which may help to sustain interest until the official launch, although only China Unicom’s network is compatible with the 3G technology currently used in these Lumia models.

Before you read on, the latest info we are hearing is that the Lumia will likely hit China sometime in April of 2012, according to a report in Chinese magazine Global Entrepreneur.

China has long been a vitally important market for Nokia and the company has clearly signalled its importance to Nokia’s future. In the first quarter of 2011 Nokia held more than 20% of China’s smartphone market, but by the second quarter Nokia saw a 53% reduction in all mobile shipments to China, and a further 32% decline in global smartphone sales in the last quarter. So why the long wait for the new Lumia phones in China?

Working With China’s Mobile Phone Operators

It could be down to the diverse 3G standards used by China’s three mobile operators: W-CDMA (the technology used most widely throughout the world) is deployed by China Unicom, CDMA2000 (less widely used, but most notably in North America) is deployed by China Telecom and TD-SCDMA (a standard developed in and currently limited to China) is used by the largest operator, China Mobile. Back in August, Nokia executive vice president Colin Giles announced that the company will be launching TD-SCDMA compatible Windows Phone 7 handsets in China. So it seems likely the delay is to allow Nokia time to engineer versions of the Lumia phones which can operate on the CDMA2000 and TD-SCDMA standards, allowing Nokia to launch its new smartphones with all three of China’s mobile operators.

Is Nokia including 4G TD-LTE for Lumia?

With Nokia struggling to maintain its market position in Asia and across the world, clearly an earlier launch in China would have been preferable. Timing is critical: 2012 sees the end of Apple’s exclusive 3-year deal with China Unicom and is also likely to see the launch of the iPhone 5, which just might support the 4G technology (TD-LTE) that China Mobile is currently building, although recent reports suggest that Apple and China Mobile have failed to agree a deal, as the operator wants a cut of Apple’s app revenues as well. So Nokia needs to exploit this opportunity quickly whilst also lining up its 4G Windows Mobile phones for the next round in the battle. And that means also pushing Microsoft for better 4G LTE support in the Windows Phone 7 operating system.

Nokia Targets Non-Smartphone Users Who Are Looking For Upgrade

Nokia hopes users who are using Symbian-Belle powered smartphone will upgrade to Lumia

And what of the other major competitor in Nokia’s smartphone war, Android? Nokia is being squeezed on all sides here, from both lower cost local brand phones and huge global players like Samsung and HTC. With Android smartphones available for as little as 1,000 Yuan (around USD160) in China, it seems likely the cheapest Lumia model will come in at around twice that price. However both Microsoft and Nokia expect that cost to fall as cheaper and more powerful processing chipsets and cheap WVGA (typically 800 x 480) screens reduce the cost of a phone capable of supporting the complexity and power of Windows Phone 7. To say it simple, the new Windows phones could do particularly well with customers who have yet to make the jump to a smartphone (ie they don’t already have an investment in apps, loyalty and learning how to use a particular smartphone OS effectively). Our guess is that Nokia is hoping the Chinese market for these premium smartphone products won’t accelerate too quickly, leaving it behind.

Protecting The Sales of Nokia N9

Nokia’s MeeGo-based N9 smartphone is just released in China, and if the company introduces the Lumia before the end of the year in the country, the sales of the N9 will be greatly affected. What’s more, Nokia has put a lot of efforts on marketing the N9 — by introducing an ultra-epic advertisement for the N9 that looks more like a short film than an ad. So, before introducing the Lumia in China, Nokia is not going to give up their sales of the MeeGo-based smartphone in the country.

So, what do you think? What is taking Nokia so long to launch the Lumia in China? April 2012 may seem a bit far off, and we think the smartphone industry will be totally different at that time. We might be seeing Ice Cream Sandwich all over the place and iOS 6…

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