In Wake of Nokia Announcements, Questions Remain About US Plans

Nokia this week announced its first two Windows Phone handsets, the Lumia 800 and 710, at its eagerly anticipated Nokia World conference on Wednesday. But questions still remain about the company's plans for the United States, since the Lumia handsets will debut in Europe first, followed by other parts of the world.

The company's public website provides one clue: The midmarket Lumia 710 model is highlighted on the company's US-based website, as are newly announced accessories like the Nokia Purity headsets. But the Lumia 800 doesn't appear on the US website at all. (Neither does the new line of Asha phones, which aren't based on the Windows Phone platform.)

Nokia's press materials are equally vague.

"Nokia also announced its plans to introduce a portfolio of products into the US in early 2012," a press release reads. "In addition to the existing products, which include coverage for WCDMA and HSPA, Nokia also plans LTE and CDMA products to address specific local market requirements." This suggests that the Lumia 710 will be sold via GSM-based carriers in the US—AT&T and T-Mobile—but that other, as-yet-unannounced LTE- and CDMA-based phones will be sold later, on carriers that could include Verizon and Sprint. (It's possible that the Lumia 800 will simply be redesigned as an LTE/CDMA version, but there's no clear word about that.)

In an interview with The New York Times, Nokia President and CEO Stephen Elop said that Nokia is planning its US push for "early next year" and that the company was in "advanced talks" with all four of the major US wireless carriers. "Nokia’s new smartphones for the United States, Mr. Elop said, will run on high-speed 4G networks that use a technology called LTE, or Long Term Evolution, as well as on older 3G networks," the report reads. "They will also be made to run on networks that use the CDMA standard, which is used by the market leader, Verizon Wireless. If you do the math, you may come to the conclusion that clearly we are in good conversations with those operators."

Microsoft is apparently using its business connections to help Nokia re-establish relationships with American wireless operators, the New York Times report adds. "When we enter a market, it is not just dipping your toe in the market, but coming in with the appropriate levels of investment by us," Elop continued. "It takes work. It takes money. We are being very deliberate."

You might recall that Microsoft's Windows Phone chief, Andy Lees, previously said that a number of enhancements were coming to Windows Phone next year, including support for dual-core chips and LTE/4G wireless networks. Combined with Nokia's promises above, this suggests that the US launch of Nokia's products could be dual-tiered, with the 3G-based Lumia 710 appearing first, followed by one or more LTE-compatible products that will coincide with a Windows Phone software update.

For this holiday season, however, it looks like Windows Phone fans will be served only by a small contingent of non-Nokia devices from companies such as HTC and Samsung. Some of these devices are interesting, and most include some features that are actually missing from the Nokia handsets, including front-facing cameras and larger screens. 

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