Nokia and Motorola have taken the wraps off five new smartphones in New York overnight ahead of next week's launch of Apple's highly-anticipated "iPhone 5".
Nokia's two new colourful Lumia 820 and 920 4G LTE smartphones (see hands-on) run the Windows 8 platform and include notable features such as wireless charging and augmented reality technology that lets users see details of their surroundings through the camera.
Other notable features in the new Nokia smartphones include the capability for the phone to automatically adjust the screen's colours according to sunlight glare and the ability to use the phones whilst wearing gloves.
The 920, unlike the 820, features a "PureView" camera which has the ability to reduce the amount of blur in a picture by using "floating lens" technology, which can help stabilise images taken while moving. Nokia showcased the feature in an advertisement that caused controversy after it was revealed to be fake. The company has since apologised.
Microsoft and Nokia hope their new smartphones will become a potent weapon in an escalating global mobile industry war, but investors said they lacked "wow" and gave them a quick thumbs-down. Some analysts said Nokia's reticence on dates and prices did not help.
"The challenge is that the world is working on the 4th, 5th and 6th editions of their devices while Nokia is still trying to move from chapter 1. It still has quite a bit to catch up," said RBC analyst Mark Sue. "People were looking for something that would dazzle. Most investors will view it as evolutionary, not revolutionary."
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said Nokia's new phones were impressive, but he thought that Microsoft was killing the buzz by holding back on details about Windows 8. "The hardware is gorgeous, but Microsoft didn't do a good job of telling the rest of the story," Dulaney said.
He suspects Microsoft and Nokia announced the Lumia phones early in an attempt to steal some thunder from the next iPhone.
Neil Mawston, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, said Nokia's new smartphones held no real surprises and lacked a "wow" factor.
"The devices that were launched were more of an evolution rather than a revolution," Mawston said.
"This was a baby step for Nokia and Microsoft and not really a giant leap like some were hoping."
Telsyte telecommunications analyst Foad Fadaghi said the lack of wow cited by other analysts may turn into a common theme for all mobile phone launches in coming weeks as consumer expectation were at an "all time high".
He blamed the iPhone for the expectation that had been set on the industry. "The iPhone has set such a high benchmark that even Apple itself might have trouble replicating the wow factor it did in previous years," he said.
"Both [Motorola and Nokia] have indicated that they have a desire to improve their product lines which puts them in good stead. Their success or failure however is more contingent on factors outside their control, such as competitors' products, mainstream acceptance of Windows 8 (in Nokia's case) and carrier support. For Nokia and Motorola in particular their lack of a broader consumer electronics (and computing) stable might work against them in the long run as consumers look for an integrated experience."
Nokia's new smartphones failed to impress investors so much so that shares of Nokia, which once dominated the mobile phone market, plummeted 13 per cent to &eurol;1.99, logging its biggest single-day loss since June.
MOTOROLA UNVEILS NEW SMARTPHONE
Nokia's unveiling came just hours before Motorola conducted its first major product launch under new owner Google. Its new smartphones will ship running Google's Ice Cream Sandwich Android software and can be upgraded later to Jelly Bean.
Named the Razr HD, Razr Maxx HD and Razr M, features of the 4G LTE handsets include near edge-to-edge screens, which make greater use of the phones' face for screen use, as well as battery life Motorola claims is better than competitors.
The new Motorola phones also sport Kevlar backs, like the current Motorola Razr does.
When compared to Apple's iPhone 4S, the Razr M, which sports a 4.3-inch screen, is a fraction thicker and taller but has 40 per cent more screen real estate. The Razr HD is larger than the Razr M and has the same form factor as the current Razr, but sports a 4.7-inch HD display with 85 percent greater colour saturation and 50 percent more pixels per inch than its predecessor.
Telsyte's Fadaghi said the new Motorola range of smartphones provided "a formidable option" for consumers that were interested in an Android handset, "however it faces stiff competition with most models having similar feature sets".
The launch of the new phones came as Apple and HTC both announced September product launch events on Tuesday in the US. Apple announced a September 12 event to be held in California, where it is expected to unveil the next iteration of its popular iPhone, while HTC announced an event to be held in New York on September 19, where it's expected to unveil new smartphone models.
Prior to the phone unveilings overnight, Fadaghi said Nokia - which last year decided to abandon the Meego operating system in favour of Microsoft's - would need to launch a new smartphone that impressed punters in order to survive. He said now was a "critical period" for the Finnish company as he had only observed a "modest success" after the phone maker locked itself into the Microsoft platform last year, which he said had "yet to be proven" as the right decision to make.
Nokia needed to now bring out phones with "more wow factors to be successful", he said. "It's difficult to do that when there are so many sparkly new phones."
Fadaghi was less concerned for Motorola though, which Google acquired in May, some analysts said because of Motorola's huge patent war chest. The patents may come in handy following the patent war being waged by Samsung and Apple all over the world, which recently saw Apple awarded US$1.05b by a US jury after Samsung was found to have infringed on a number of Apple patents.
"Motorola are the fourth largest Android player in Australia," Telsyte's Fadaghi said. "Obviously they have aspirations to be a lot larger, particular after the Google acquisition - and it is possible. They've gone for a niche," he said.
That niche was the punter who wanted a rugged smartphone, he said, for which Motorola was "well-placed" to cater for.
"They've got a strong brand and certainly the investment and direction from Google should drive it. It is also custodian of a significant patent library and all that has a lot of economic value. It is increasingly difficult though competing in the Android space. There's a lot of low-cost products coming out of places like China," he said, pointing to numerous Chinese phone makers like ZTE and Huawei.
The features of Nokia's new smartphones were well known before their launch overnight due to leaks. Photos of the products were leaked on Twitter while specifications appeared on tech blog The Verge, quoting multiple sources. Motorola also didn't manage to keep a lid on its new smartphones before launch.
Ben Grubb travelled to New York as a guest of Motorola
- Fairfax Australia, AP and Reuters