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Thursday, July 11, 2013

With New Lumia, Nokia Bets on a Fancy Camera

Nokia’s new Lumia smartphone runs Windows Phone software and has a fancy camera with a 41-megapixel sensor. And the starting price is higher than that of an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone. Would you buy it?

It could be a tough sell. But that is what Nokia is betting on with the Lumia 1020, which costs $300 with a contract on AT&T.

Nokia, the Finnish phone maker, could really use a strong performer. The company has struggled to gain a foothold with its Lumia phones, and has decided that putting exceptional photos and video capability in its latest phone will be enough to change its fortunes.

And not just Nokia â€" it might also help people warm up to the struggling Windows Phone.

“This gives us the ability to create noise and excitement” and have people experiment with a Windows Phone, Chris Weber, Nokia’s executive vice president of marketing, said in an interview. “This absolutely will create what we think is positive momentum and noise and buzz both around Lumias as well as Windows Phone.”

But how much do people really complain about the camera on an iPhone or Samsung phone? On Flickr, the top three most used cameras are iPhones. And Apple’s iPhones have consistently been No. 1 in customer satisfaction surveys conducted by J.D. Power, the camera being one of the features rated in the survey. Nokia this year was rated No. 2 and Samsung was No. 3 in the J.D. Power survey; perhaps a superior camera could bump Nokia up even higher in satisfaction.

Jan Dawson, a telecom analyst at Ovum, thinks the success of the Lumia will come down to how it is sold. He said that Lumia’s superb camera definitely has a “wow factor.” But the problem, he said, is that people buy phones not for a wow factor, but because of how useful they are.

The part of the new phone worth mentioning, he said, is that its extra-high-resolution photos allow for better editing of photos, and therefore more useable results. But the company is not making a strong point of that in its initial pitch to consumers.

“They’re definitely going for the fun factor and the wow factor but not necessarily the usefulness factor,” he said.

The fate of a phone rests not just on the quality of the device, but also how it is marketed. Nokia, Microsoft and AT&T will be pushing this Lumia hard when it becomes available on July 26. Mr. Weber said both Nokia and Microsoft will increase their ad spending, and AT&T has said the Lumia 1020 would be its flagship device for the back-to-school season.