How should Lumia device naming evolve?


Over the course of the past four months, the gears have been turning: details are being worked out, arrangements made, and all the preparations are underway for that day very soon when Nokia’s devices and services division will find itself wholly absorbed by Microsoft.

But when that day comes when Lumia phones are being produced by Microsoft, just how will they arrive? It’s a question we’ve been mulling over ever since learning about the acquisition, and one we’re still far from getting to the bottom of. In recent weeks, we’ve been hearing a lot of rumors about the 2014 Lumia lineup, and a fair share of it has seemed a little contradictory. As we get ready for this new chapter in the Lumia story, let’s take a few moments to think about Lumia branding, and how it might evolve.

Right from the get-go, it was clear that so far as naming was concerned, Microsoft had a few thoughts about changing Nokia’s style; in early September, Steve Ballmer himself remarked, “we can probably do better for a consumer name than the Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 1020.”

We also know that Microsoft is licensing the Nokia name from Nokia – but the language Nokia used to describe the terms of that agreement suggests that we’ll only see the Nokia name attached to future Microsoft-made feature phones – and possibly Asha, depending on interpretation. That’s made it seem that the Nokia name will no longer be directly associated with Lumia models going forward.

elop-ballmerMicrosoft gets full rights to the Lumia name, so that’s very likely sticking around, but what I’m most curious about is how the company will refer to devices themselves. What might the future hold for the number-based scheme Nokia’s been using all this time?

The first real suggestion that maybe these numbers were going the way of the dodo popped up just last week, as we heard the claim that the very-much-dragging-its-feet Lumia 929 – when it finally does go up for sale – might just arrive as the Lumia Icon. While we haven’t come across any direct confirmation for that idea, it’s an intriguing one: are these days of numbered Lumias dead?

Surprisingly, I found that suggestion attracting a fair amount of support; people really seem to be sick of numbered Lumias. I’ll concede that Nokia made quite a few missteps when thinking up its current system – heck, if you can even call it a “system.”

There are few basic rules (an x00 is a Windows Phone 7 device, while an X20 is its WP8 successor) that have manifested time and time again, but the more Lumia models Nokia introduced (and with all the variations, we’re closing in on a couple dozen by now), the less cohesive sense the whole thing made. Are the 520, 1520, and 2520 related? No more so than any other Lumia devices, but the layperson sure might make that assumption.

I think Nokia had great intentions here; remember how awful things were when companies like HTC or Samsung released a million different phones a year, all with seemingly unrelated names? How the heck is anyone supposed to compare one to another? The Lumia numbering was a bold move to simplify things, and as far as I’m concerned, its biggest failing is not going far enough – not having a formally defined logic behind it.

Lumia525But here we are with an opportunity to start fresh. Will Microsoft take advantage of it?

Certainly, while this 929/Icon rumor hangs over our head, we’ve been talking about a lot of other Lumia devices – for instance, that dual-SIM 630/635 we just got to see a screengrab from yesterday. While that phone started its life under the codename Moneypenny, recent rumors have really taken to those 630/635 (we’re expecting two hardware variants) numbers – so are we making this change, or not?

Maybe the timing of these rumors is a little off, and any such move away from numbers would be happening later, rather than sooner – certainly, the 929 would be a weird model to start with, since it’s very much 2013 hardware, designed during those old Nokia days.

As far as I’m concerned, Microsoft has two strong options going forward. It can stick with numbered Lumias, but wipe the slate clean, and intentionally develop the sort of logical naming convention I’ve eluded to already. What about the existing devices? Well, it wouldn’t be crazy to take this four-digit business that got started with the 1020 and expand upon it – we’ve only got four existing models like that, and it wouldn’t be that difficult to think up a new system that maybe starts in the 3000 range and goes from there: kinda BlackBerry-sounding, in a way.

nokia-lumia-920-colorsThen there’s the argument for named Lumias, and I also think this could work. Mind you, I’m not talking about giving every device a unique name – that’s one past I’ve no desire to revisit – but something more akin to what we see from the major product families from other OEMs: sure, release a Lumia Icon, but then next year give us the Icon 2, Icon Plus, or something else to indicate the relation. To an extent, this could even be more elegant than a straight number-based system.

Of course, even that’s liable to be misused; who knows what pressure there may be to introduce some future phone as the Lumia Awesomesauce, simply because Lumia Icon 3 sounds too derivative and boring. I wouldn’t call it a slippery slope, but I’m sure that temptation will be there.

So what DO we do? Like I said, I’d be happy with either of those two options above (so long as they’re applied with care), but maybe there’s a better way. What do you think Microsoft should do with this Lumia brand it’s picking up? Is there a superior way to label these phones that I’ve failed to come up with? Share your own ideas with us in the comments below.

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!