On The Nokia Lumia 900 And How AT&T Is The Phone’s Only Downside

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Gillmor Gang Live 04.06.12 (TCTV)

This is it. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The future of Windows Mobile Phone hinges on the success of the Nokia Lumia 900. The phone has a huge amount of hype. It’s priced right at $99 on-contract and it’s a drop-dead gorgeous device. Nokia’s latest marketing campaign directly targets Apple and Google. If any phone could rocket Windows Phone 7 to success it’s the Lumia 900. It’s just too bad Microsoft and Nokia tasked lowly AT&T of all carriers to launch this pivotal phone. And for whatever unknown reason, on Easter Sunday.

The Lumia 900 is arguably the hottest phone of the year so far. It debuted back at CES where it was called a larger Lumia 800, which is about right. The 900 shares the same design spec as the 800 but sports a larger 4.3-inch display and 4G LTE connectivity. But that’s not a bad thing. Much like the 800, the 900 is a looker with a very unique design and very bright screen. It’s proper fine flagship phone.

Previous Windows Phone 7 devices haven’t made a splash. I bet only true mobile geeks can even name another Windows Phone 7 device. And that’s the problem. So far, Microsoft, the makers, and the carriers have yet to fully commit to the platform. Microsoft might be pulling in more money from licensing patents related to Android than Windows Phone anyway.

Windows Phone 7 launched a year and a half ago. The early version lacked competitive features and it wasn’t until the last update that the platform started to feel mature. It’s completely fine now and could make many users happy with its straight-forward live homescreen approach. But this lag killed most of the buzz the platform had prior to launching in late 2010. The Lumia 900 launch could be the turning point. AT&T will make or break the phone and with that, make or break Windows Phone.

The Lumia 900 will only be available on AT&T in the states and hits stores this Sunday — because people are going to line up for a phone on Easter. Even still, there can’t be any iPhone-esque lines if no one knows the phone is coming. But where are the ads? The massive marketing campaign? The only advertisement I’ve seen is Nokia’s secretive Beta Phone campaign.

AT&T has a sour history with Windows Phone. The carrier sells three WinPhone devices but have so far been very slow to push out updates. The carrier simply skipped the last bug fix but will instead push out a major revision — but that’s not scheduled for weeks. AT&T also screwed early adopters back in 2011 by delaying similar, but much more vital updates.

But what’s a Windows Phone fan to do? Much like with the iPhone in the early years, if you want the device, AT&T is your only choice.

The wireless game is complicated and cut throat. AT&T probably cut Nokia a pretty check to get the exclusive rights to the Lumia 900. Whoever is in charge of the pricing did the phone right by pricing it at $100 rather than the industry-standard $200. But AT&T is the most hated wireless carrier in the states. The Lumia 900, and with that, Windows Phone, would have a better chance of success if it was on at least one other carrier.

The Lumia is a fine device. I have no problem labeling it one of the smartest buys on the market. I would still recommend the iPhone 4S over it to most buyers, but the Windows Phone offers a fantastic built-in feature set that could be perfect for first-time buyers or even overloaded iOS/Android owners. My only pause is AT&T and locking into a carrier that seemingly changes contract terms on the fly. Plus, their history with Windows Phone shows they do not take the platform seriously. It’s a shame, really. The only real downfall to the Lumia 900 is AT&T — that and the lack of 3rd party apps.