Nokia Sunday launched the Lumia 900 smartphone, its first-ever Windows Phone device to run on AT&T's 4G LTE wireless network. The phone has been widely reported as a potential "comeback device" for both Nokia and Microsoft, which have struggled to carve a space for themselves in the Apple- and Google-dominated smartphone market.
The much-hyped Nokia Lumia 900 touts a 4.3-inch AMOLED display, a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and an 8-megapixel camera. Like its predecessors, the lower-end Lumia 800 and Lumia 610, the new phone runs on Microsoft's homegrown mobile OS, Windows Phone.
Jo Harlow, executive vice president of Smart Devices at Nokia, emphasized the importance of the new smartphone for his own company and for Microsoft.
"As many media have already commented, this is a major milestone for Nokia, for our partnership with Microsoft and for the Windows Phone ecosystem," he said in a statement.
According to Harlow, the Nokia Lumia 900 is optimized for a "different type of user" -- namely, those that prefer a larger screen, a rich content experience, and a device that "looks and feels different from the legions of monochromatic smartphones cluttering the shelves."
Microsoft's Windows Phone OS and tiled user interface contribute to the Lumia 900's unique look and feel. But the software giant's app offering of approximately 70,000 is still significantly smaller than the 400,000 available for Google's Android OS and the 600,000 available for Apple's iOS. In an effort to catch up, Microsoft is offering to help fund the development of "well-known" apps for Windows Phone, according to a report last week from The New York Times.
Microsoft did not say exactly how much it's willing to spend, but developers estimated the costs of converting an Android or iOS app to the Windows Phone platform could cost anywhere between $60,000 and $600,000 per app.
But bulking up its app portfolio isn't the only way Microsoft is attempting to generate buzz around the new Lumia 900. To emphasize the efficiency delivered with the new device, along with its other Windows Phone-based counterparts, Microsoft is giving away "free time" across the country via "Free-Time Machines."
The machines, located in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, are said by Microsoft to mimic the time-saving benefits of Windows Phone by offering users "free time" in the form of free grocery delivery, cleaning and dog-walking services, and access to on-site personal concierges.
"The value of speed in a smartphone comes down to this: How can we save you time on the stuff that matters?" said Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of Windows Phone at Microsoft, in a statement. "The introduction of Free-Time Machines is a way to show people how Windows Phones can put a little time back in their day."
Promotions aside, Nokia's Harlow noted that the two companies still face an uphill battle before surpassing the likes of mobile giants Apple and Google.
"We still have a long way to go before we start claiming victory," he said in a statement. "We are realistic about the challenges ahead, but these are exciting times and we are thrilled that only one year after signing our agreement with Microsoft, we find ourselves in this situation, launching new products into the U.S. with great partners behind us and new possibilities ahead."
The Nokia Lumia 900 comes in two colors, cyan and black, with a white version expected to launch later this month. It is available exclusively on AT&T's wireless network and sells for $99.99 with activation of a two-year service contract.