Since Samsung is pretty much “persona non grata” these days most of the discussion on Windows Phone dominance is centered around HTC & Nokia. At the launch of Windows Phone 8 Microsoft surprised many by forming what seemed like a strong partnership with HTC and had their flagship, the 8X, branded as the Windows Phone 8X. This led many to wonder just what state the Microsoft/Nokia partnership was in. When the two devices launched there was a very clear split among reviewers and tech pundits. One one side of the fence sat Nokia Lumia phone owners who cited the incredible amount of technology and commitment Nokia was bringing to Windows Phone. Not just the devices but differentiating apps, helping to bring popular apps to the platform and their history of continuing to update and add value to their users. The other side was littered with those who fell in love with HTC’s bold display that they gave clear thought to how best to deliver hardware to the platform and far surpassed everyone’s expectations. HTC said all the right things and puffed out their chests citing their tremendous carrier support as a chief advantage. Sure enough the 8X launched on more carriers than the Lumia 920 did globally. Fast forward to the present four months later and we have enough evidence collected to see that history is repeating itself and that Nokia is beginning to demonstrate their prowess while widening their lead over their fellow Windows Phone OEM HTC.
Fans of HTC know that though they used to reign on top of the smartphone world nowadays every time they make a right move they negate it by making a head scratcher. Releasing nice hardware only to leave the phone to sell itself because there is near zero marketing being done. The One X is one such example and most recently both the 8X and 8S which should have helped HTC seriously challenge Nokia for Windows Phone supremacy. Instead we see or hear nothing from HTC.
Phone support after purchases also remain a sore spot on Windows Phone. I bought first the HTC Surround then promptly purchased the HTC Titan a year later. Neither one of these phones have had their bugs patched and I’m forced to deal with disappearing keyboards and random reboots. While the Nokia Lumia 900 has gone on to receive several timely updates and a ton of advertising.
The past week saw HTC debut the HTC One, their newest Android flagship. When an executive was posed with the question of whether Windows Phone fans could look forward to the excellent hardware design and camera features of the One the HTC executive dashed all hopes and basically said the Windows Phone camera API was far too immature and limiting. Today an upcoming midrange device, codenamed the HTC Tiara, specs were leaked. It’s a nice offering but nothing that will differentiate itself from the pack.
Nokia went on to launch the Lumia 920 to rave reviews. It quickly distinguished itself among Windows Phone devices for its camera prowess and software differentiation. Since launch Nokia has not only launched the 920 but the 820 (and variants), 720, 620 and 520. Each with their own value differentiators. That isn’t all. Nokia has continued to bring popular apps to the Windows Phone platform, share their mapping technology and services, and has partnered with developers to bring best in class experiences to the Windows Phone platform. HTC’s executive cited the Windows Phone camera API as the reason their camera tech would remain an Android feature only Nokia showed off a picture-in-picture camera ability in a demonstration of the upcoming Go Pro Windows Phone 8 app that will be exclusive to Nokia. Skip ahead to 2min35sec for the Picture-in-Picture clip.
Phone support after purchase continues to be a Nokia strength. Their phones continually gets updates pushed to them and when a bug arises they push out a fix usually within a month’s time. You see your favorite Lumia phone on your favorite shows, celebrities are rocking them and carriers are showcasing them in TV ads and on their websites. It isn’t hard to associate Nokia with Windows Phone and vice versa. Nokia and company even showed up at MWC and took home a couple awards for their recent budget offerings. They did so by having a clear plan to differentiate on the software side of things from their budget competitors.
While HTC debuted the HTC One and the world waits to see how it will fare going up against the Samsung Galaxy S IV, Nokia took the opportunity to announce the Lumia 520 and 720. Nokia is going downstream to emerging markets and bringing along some of their top notch software and hardware tech with them to differentiate and attack the market. Features like their HERE location suite, NFC, Wireless charging, decent cameras, and their Nokia creative suite app offerings. Almost universally everyone feels good about where Nokia is positioning themselves and how they are going about growing mind and market share.
As momentum continues to grow for the Windows Phone platform in 2013 we are able to see just how different the two companies are adding value to the Windows Phone ecosystem and their own product offerings. It is clear that Nokia continues to widen the gap between itself and other Windows Phone OEMs. Sadly by the time HTC realizes their mistake in not bringing the HTC One design language to Windows Phone they will be irrelevant in the mobile space.