Hey, Nokia: Time to give your phones real names

With the Lumia 920 and 820, Nokia is still blowing its chance to brand its smartphones in a meaningful way.

Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia's new Lumia 920 has a lot of personality and a blah name. Sarah Tew/CNET

commentary Twice now, Nokia has announced new generations of visually interesting, standout "Lumia" Windows Phone smartphones, and then twice dampened the spark by referring to them as numbers rather than names.

I am speaking, of course, about the Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820 revealed today. Now, I know that not all of you will agree with me, but hear me out, and if you still disagree, then we shall have to agree to disagree.

Why isn't Nokia falling back on numbers to match the phone's name to the personality of each phone's design? Surely a device as bold and singular as the Lumia 920, and the Lumias 900 and 800 before it, deserves an identity grander than a series of meaningless numbers.

After all, don't the numbers confuse customers who already have their heads filled with specs?

Once the average person has gotten past 1,280x720-pixel resolutions, 4.7-inch screens, and 8-megapixel cameras, they then have to distinguish the Lumia 920 from the 820 from the 900 or 710.

Even worse, there's only a loose relationship among the different numbered devices. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S II and Galaxy S3, which denotes a change in generation, the Lumias 710 and 900 came out after the 800; the 820 has more in common with the Lumia 920 than it does with the Lumia 800. Where's the logic in that?

Yes, it's true that "Lumia" is itself a name (and one that got Nokia in a bit of trouble at first).

However, "Lumia" is meant to usefully distinguish the phonemaker's Windows Phone line from its Asha family of Symbian smartphones, the same way that Samsung is now stamping "Ativ" on its Windows phones and "Galaxy" on its Android set.

And it could be worse. After all, Nokia could have easily called its first Lumia, the Lumia 800, the "Nokia L800" instead.

I'll also concede that Nokia use of numbers probably reduces its legal headache compared to brainstorming individual phone names like the Lumia Bolt or PureView Vision, and then staking a lasting claim. Manufacturers can't just use any name they'd like; they have to work around other manufacturers' rights to certain names.

It isn't too late
Nokia may be clinging to its old-time numbered convention now, but it isn't too late to start giving its handset image more flair. I'm not saying that the name is more important than the handset's design; it's not.

What I am saying is that Nokia has a chance to take its brand one step farther, to humanize where it quantifies, to be straightforward where it's now obscures, and to be catchy rather than bland. To me, the numbered names don't make the phones more universal, they make them less personal.

So come on, Nokia, do us all a favor. Give us the Lumia Bold or Lumia Spark, or something better than either of those, and save the Nokia 53124 for a low-end phone.

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