Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nokia’s Windows Phones Get a Good Start in Europe

In the United States, the chances of seeing someone using a Windows Phone 7 handset seem about as good as spotting a leprechaun riding a unicorn. Sales here of the new Windows smartphones have been so tiny that Microsoft has shied away from sharing numbers.

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg News

The Nokia Lumia 800

But your odds are better in Europe. Recent signs suggest that Nokia’s Lumia handsets with the Windows Phone 7 software are doing reasonably well there. In Austria, the European carrier Orange lists the Nokia Lumia 800 as a best seller. And in London, sales of Nokia’s Lumia 800 drove Windows Phone 7’s market share up to 2.2 percent, from 0.4 percent a year ago, according to estimates by Kantar WorldPanel, a research firm. The largest number of Lumia shipments — about 200,000 units — went to Germany in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the research firm Canalys.

Of course, Europeans have always been fonder of Nokia phones than Americans. “Europe has traditionally been a really strong market for Nokia, but Nokia’s been under pressure ever since the introduction of the iPhone, which is when the tide turned,” said Pete Cunningham, a principal analyst at Canalys. “They’ve found competition to be really tough, but this is the beginning of recovery for Nokia.”

Mr. Cunningham said Nokia’s new Lumia Windows phone was selling exceptionally well in London, largely because of a promotion with Orange. Microsoft, Nokia and Orange were offering a free Xbox 360 to people who purchased a Lumia 800 with a two-year contract.

Although these are positive signs for Nokia, the struggling Finnish phone maker still has a long way to go to reverse its slump. Nokia is still the world’s No. 1 maker of mobile phones when you include both traditional cellphones and smartphones, but its dominance of the global phone market has been fading. In 2011 its share of the market dropped to 23.8 percent, down from 28.9 percent in 2010, according to Gartner. Apple, meanwhile, has become the world’s biggest smartphone maker.

How will Nokia and Microsoft fare in the United States? The big test will be the debut of the Nokia Lumia 900, which will be exclusive to AT&T‘s network when it is released in the coming months. No price tag has been confirmed, but Nokia has said it intends to be “quite aggressive” with pricing.

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