Lumia 900 still a raw deal despite heavy discount

Unless you're comfortable being stuck a generation behind in just a few months, you should avoid Nokia's flagship phone.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop shows off the Lumia 900 at CES 2012.
Lori Grunin/CNET

commentary Don't let the new price fool you -- even at half off, the Lumia 900 isn't a worthy purchase.

The Lumia 900, which now costs $49.99, down from its original $99.99 price tag, is the victim of bad timing. That's because it, alongside all other Windows Phone devices, are unable to upgrade to Windows Phone 8 when it comes out later this year. Unfortunately, if you're a Windows fan or want to try something new, Windows Phone 8 is the mobile operating system to wait for.

That's because there will finally bring a truly integrated experience between the phone, tablet, and PC, through a tighter tie-up with Windows 8. Conversations with carriers and retailers have suggested they plan to put bigger resources behind Windows Phone 8.

As I previously wrote, the lack of an upgrade option is going to burn a lot of the goodwill Nokia spent millions of dollars building up over the last few months. Nokia's "smartphone beta test" campaign, presumably now includes its own current line of Lumia phones.

Yes, current Windows Phones do get an upgrade to a quasi-Windows Phone 8 experience with an incremental facelift that brings a similar look and feel. But the actual features available through the upgrade pale in comparison to true the Windows Phone 8 operating system.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think Nokia makes a decent phone, and the Windows Phone operating system is a refreshing change from the standard look you see on Android and iOS. Hardware-wise, the vibrant colors available and the quality of its devices also stand out.

Nokia was in a difficult position. Having made a splashy announcement last year and unveiling its first line of phones, it was stuck pushing the devices even though they would eventually be stuck on the current generation of Windows Phone. As a result, it went big with the Lumia 900 in the U.S., stopping Times Square briefly for a Nikki Minaj concert, blanketing the airwaves with commercials, and even offering the phone for free after a glitch marred its launch.

The alternative would have been to watch its financial state fall into an even more precarious position, so you can't blame it for going all out.

While Nokia was hoping for a blockbuster with the Lumia 900, the phoneended up only doing marginally well. AT&T has been in no rush to tout sales numbers, and Nokia has only said that the reaction has exceeded its expectations. The company, meanwhile, warned its second-quarter results -- which include sales of the Lumia 900 -- would be worse than expected.

With the Lumia 900 long out of AT&T's flagship slot, and devices such as HTC's One X and Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S III getting the most prominent positioning in stores, it's no surprise that the price tag got cut. Phone prices typically tend to drop a few weeks after they launch, illustrating the quick shelf life of these devices and difficulties for any handset vendor to sustain a successful product.

It makes sense that both Nokia and AT&T would want to cut the price to get rid of excess inventory. Presumably, AT&T will partner up with Nokia again on Windows Phone 8.

At $49.99, the Lumia 900 looks like a good deal. At that price, you can get another Windows Phone, the Samsung Focus 2 (also a bad choice because of the upgrade issue), and two middling Android smartphones, the older HTC Vivid, and the rugged Samsung Rugby Smart.

My advice: save your money. If you really want a Windows Phone, wait a few months for Windows Phone 8 devices. Heck, even Nokia executives are hyping their "ultimate device" in the spring of next year.

That doesn't really say much about Nokia's current product lineup, does it?

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