Verizon(s vz)(s vod) is set to offer a flagship Windows Phone 8(s MSFT) handset as early as next month, according to Bloomberg’s sources. On Tuesday, it cited two people familiar with the plan saying the Nokia Lumia 928 will launch on Verizon’s LTE network in May, although the largest U.S. carrier has declined comment. The report lines up with rumors over the past few months and could be what Nokia(s nok) CEO Stephen Elop meant while speaking to investors last week when he said “another hero move” was in the works for the current quarter.
If the reports are true, adding a new Lumia flagship to Verizon’s lineup could offer a bump for both Windows Phone 8 and Lumia sales. Currently, Verizon offers just a single Lumia model: the Lumia 822, which is essentially last year’s hardware with updated Microsoft software. The Windows Phone 8 handset is free with contract and uses a relatively low-resolution 800 x 480 touchscreen, for example.
The Lumia 928, however, is expected to be an improved version of the Lumia 920, which debuted as an AT&T(s T) exclusive in November. Exclusive phone deals can vary, but many have six-month time frames; this adds more credence to a similar-looking Lumia flagship arriving in May. I’d expect Verizon’s Lumia 928 to have at least a 1280 x 768 display as that’s what the Lumia 920 offers. A newer dual-core Qualcomm(s QCOM) Snapdragon chip would likely power such a phone and Nokia is sure to use camera technology that touts exceptional pictures as well.
Even as a new flagship model phone, I’d be surprised if it costs more than $149 on contract with Verizon. The Lumia 920 debuted on AT&T for $99 as Nokia made a big push in the U.S. market. The company has improved its sales and average handset selling price, but to push out a Lumia 928 for $199 or more — unless there’s some radical new features or functions — doesn’t make sense to me; consumers could all too easily opt for an iPhone(s aapl), HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S 4 at that price.
Right now, Nokia — and Microsoft, for that matter — are trying to build up not just Windows Phone sales. They’re also trying to broaden consumer sentiment and brand awareness in a country where 90 percent of smartphones are from the two A’s: Apple and Android(s goog).