AT&T promises biggest launch ever for Lumia 900

The carrier's device guru, Jeff Bradley, promises this will be a "notch above anything we've ever done." That includes the iPhone launch.

Nokia's new Lumia 900
Nokia and AT&T's Lumia 900. CNET

AT&T and Nokia are bringing out the big guns when they launch the Lumia 900 next month.

"At all levels, this is a notch above anything we've ever done," AT&T device head Jeff Bradley said in an interview with CNET, noting that includes the launch of the iPhone.

The resources behind this campaign and the attention given underscore the importance of ensuring the Lumia 900 succeeds in the U.S. The device represents the best -- and some would argue last -- chance for for Nokia and the Windows Phone platform to have a breakout hit, something both have struggled to do in the past.

For consumers, the blitzkrieg will begin right around when the phone launches on April 8. AT&T and Nokia are readying a massive television marketing campaign to raise consumer awareness. The Lumia 900 will be the centerpiece at AT&T stores, with massive signs and posters promoting the device. Nokia and AT&T spent considerable time training store reps, and a majority of them will be carrying one with them at all times. The phone will launch with a number of accessories, which Bradley said sends an indirect message to consumers that the device is unique and important enough to get significant support.

"Before you walk in to the store, you know this is our hero phone," Bradley said, referring to the Lumia 900's flagship status.

The campaign is expected to last about six to eight weeks, according to people familiar with the situation.

Bradley and Chris Weber, president of Nokia's North America business, both declined to comment on an exact figure for the campaign, but Weber said it was comparable to what it takes to promote a successful smartphone in the market.

"To re-enter the U.S. market, we know we have to be aggressive," Weber said.

Windows Phones, however, have struggled to really make a dent in the market, with the platform controlling only a sliver of the market share for smartphone platforms. The market is dominated by the iPhone and a wave of Android smartphones. While each major U.S. carrier offers a Windows Phone product, there has been lackluster interest, although the low-cost Lumia 710 for T-Mobile has seen moderate success.

AT&T was fairly dismissive of the Lumia 710, with Bradley calling the Lumia 900 the effective re-launch of the Nokia brand. AT&T and Nokia believe they can succeed with the Lumia 900 where other companies have failed with older Windows Phone devices. Bradley said the combination of improved design and software, the 4G LTE service, a stronger catalog of applications, and better marketing and sales will drive higher sales.

The app issue was a major problem for Windows Phone. Bradley said Microsoft has largely shored up its weaker app library with a solid offering, and said AT&T salespeople have been trained to help customers track down the same apps or comparable ones that they used in iOS or Android.

"AT&T's retail execution has been fantastic," Weber said.

The $99.99 price makes it the most affordable flagship phone AT&T has ever offered. Bradley and Weber declined to comment on how much of a subsidy was placed on the device, but Weber noted that Nokia was under a mandate to supply a quality phone at a lower price. He would only say Nokia was being aggressive with the price accordance to its strong push to get into the U.S.

Still, both executives note that the companies can't buy their way to success, and are hoping the different user interface -- which rely on live tiles and a look that's dramatically different than iOS or Android -- will draw in new and existing smartphone customers.

While Nokia is still targeting getting its products into multiple carriers in the U.S., so far only T-Mobile and AT&T have committed to the company. Weber declined to comment on the progress Nokia has made with the other carriers. AT&T has an exclusive on the Lumia 900 for a certain period of time.

In effect, AT&T will be the testbed for whether Nokia still has the chops to pull off a blockbuster phone in the U.S. Fittingly, the carrier isn't holding back its optimism for the device.

"We're going big," Bradley said. "We're really bullish."

 

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