By Adam Doud | December 9, 2013 7:00 AM
Google has drawn a line in the sand. The introduction of great deals on lower-quality-but-still-good phones really is a statement in the mobile industry. It threatens Microsoft on a very real level and Microsoft needs to respond and it needs to respond hard. Maybe with a Windows Phone Nexus?
Windows Phone has dominated the low end smartphone market for some time now. The Lumia 520 and it’s sub-$100 price tag makes it a very attractive option for emerging markets. We’ve already looked at how the introduction of the Nexus 5 and Moto G might affect Microsoft’s business on a hardware level. Basically, the low end slot into which Microsoft slid so snugly now seems a bit too snug and suddenly there aren’t as many chairs at the table. Caution. Mixed analogies. Stay to the right.
What seems to be missing, and what Microsoft should get rolling here is Microsoft’s very own Nexus 5. Of course it won’t be called a Nexus 5, but this is a page from Google’s playbook that Microsoft really should take and run with.
The Nexus 5 brings a pure Android experience to mid-high end hardware for a ridiculously cheap price. Windows Phone is no slouch in this department. Indeed, we have already acknowledged that Windows Phone is bringing great hardware at great prices. The Lumia 92x phones are hovering in the 400-450 dollar range at this point, but there are a couple of factors that disqualify them from being the ‘Nexus-type’ phones that I’m looking for.
Something old, something new
First of all, they’re six to twelve months old already. Been there, done that. These phones are already out in the wild. They’re not new. They’re not exciting – at least not in the way a new device would be. In order to compete head-to-head with the Nexus 5, the new Lumia phone needs shininess and buzz. In all honesty, it wouldn’t get the same buzz as the Nexus 5, but buzz is buzz.
The second reason existing Lumia devices won’t work is quite simple – which one would you use? Many mobile tech news outlets seems to agree that the Lumia 925 with its aluminum sides and superior optics (compared to the 920 that is) is the best of the Lumia 92x’s. But the Lumia 920 with its signature “Nokia Smile” and built in wireless charging could also be a solid candidate. But both of these phones have something going against it – carrier hands in the cookie jars.
No, if Nokia/Microsoft wants to make a true Nexus-type device, it needs to do so without any carrier involvement. It’s needs to be 100% Nokia, and original. It can’t be a copy of some other device that has already underwhelmed sales estimates.
But the final obstacle working against the Lumia 92x lineup is simple, and kinda sad. The new Lumia ‘Nexus’ needs to cut some corners. Even a year later, the Lumia 92x devices are still priced at almost $100 more than the Google Nexus. That will not do if it is to compete head to head. So some specs will need to change.
The body would almost certainly need to go polycarbonate across the board, the display’s pixel density would need to go up, along with processor. We’d likely need to lose wireless charging to keep costs down and maybe even scale back the…dare I say it… camera? The processor would need to be updated to the Snapdragon 800. These are just some ideas off the top of my head to bring the Lumia 9x line up to par with the Nexus 5.
Low end is the new high end
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Windows Phone runs well enough on lower end processor and RAM so that’s where you can cut costs. But the problem with that theory is the aforementioned buzz. If the purpose of our mystery phone is to stand head-to-head with the Nexus 5, then the specs have to be similar as well. From a marketing standpoint, you can’t say “Pay no attention to that Snapdragon 800 behind the curtain. Look at our pretty Snapdragon S4 instead!” It doesn’t work that way unfortunately.
This is Microsoft’s chance to fire back at the Nexus 5. The introduction of the “Nexus” concept to Windows Phone could mean big things for the platform. But it would only work if it followed Google’s model of high end specs for a mid-range, off contract, carrier free experience and price. That alone would be worth a “pure” Windows Phone experience. It would also carry the Nexus-like benefit of immediate updates, which if you’re on AT&T is an absolute godsend.
Put it all together and you could have a pretty decent model for a future unnamed Lumia ‘Nexus’ device that could help the Windows Phone platform both in popularity and recognition, which are the very two things that Windows Phone needs.
So let’s conduct a little experiment. If you were called upon to design a new Lumia Nexus phone, what would you put into it to get it under the $350 price tag? What corners would you cut? Sound off below and let’s make Microsoft proud.