Nokia (NYSE: NOK) is taking its new device strategy up one more notch: today, it started to ship the second of its first two Windows Phone devices, the cheaper Lumia 710, with the first devices going to the company’s stronghold in developing markets — Singapore, Hong Kong, India and Russia — within the next seven days.
In a press release, Nokia notes that it will arrive in further markets in the “coming weeks.”
Nokia says that the Lumia will be selling at a registered retail price of €270 ($360) — not exactly inexpensive, and still well above the fabled “sub-$100″ smartphone barrier, but about half the cost of the higher-end Lumia 800, which is selling for about $625 without any contracts. If you buy the 710 via a carrier deal, the price will be significantly lower again.
Nokia, unsurprisingly, claims that the 710 will be the best Windows Phone device available for the price. But it remains to be seen whether the public really has an appetite for Windows Phones, expensive or not. So far, the various devices that have been spun out by Samsung, HTC and others have failed to break the stronghold held by Android makers and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in the smartphone stakes.
While the 800, which started to sell about a month ago, was definitely an important first step for Nokia to compete against the heft and weight of Apple and the top devices from Samsung and HTC, it will be the 710 that will be the real test of whether Nokia will be able to move ahead under its traditional business model selling mass-market devices at lower price points.
And the other big question is, will this be the first Nokia Windows Phone device to hit the U.S. market?
Some have speculated that a joint announcement set for next week from Nokia and T-Mobile USA will be to announce the availability of Nokia’s first Windows Phone handsets. The blog wpcentral went one step further and found a document listing at the FCC that seemed to confirm as much. There could well be more devices lined up for launching on the same day.
So far, there have been very conflicting reports over how well the 800 has sold, with some claiming sell-outs and others noting that, given its limited release, even a sell-out would not have had as big an impact as you would think.
Among the differences between the two devices are less on-device storage (8GB compared to 16GB on the 800); changes in camera and screen quality; and a rather different exterior.
While the 800 has the much-touted polycarbonate shell, the 710 has a plastic cover that can be removed and swapped out for covers of different colors. That’s a throwback to the Nokia phones of old that spawned a device fascia/back industry in its own right — and was perhaps, even before annoying ringtones, the first example of phone personalization.