Microsoft Needs a High-End Windows Phone

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Leaked images of rumored Lumia 830 smartphone.

Leaked images of rumored Lumia 830 smartphone.

According to the Verge, Microsoft is planning the release of two new Windows Phones, a rather niche product codenamed “Superman” that’s optimized for “selfies” and a midrange device that might be either the Lumia 830 or Lumia 730. In the latter case, the smartphone is characterized as an “affordable high-end phone”:

The second handset is codenamed “Tesla,” and recently appeared in leaked images. Elop described the Tesla handset as an “affordable high-end phone” with a PureView camera. Tesla will likely debut as a Lumia 720 replacement, and it mark a new effort by Microsoft to push PureView down to even lower price points. The handset looks similar to the squared Lumia 930, but we understand it will be thinner and less bulky.

I’m fairly ambivalent about any niche products that Microsoft might consider releasing, and a “selfie” phone harkens back to Microsoft’s ill-fated release of the Kin series of smartphones. Those were the epitome of poorly-placed niche devices, appealing to a very select group of users that ended up representing a tiny sliver of the market. Kin failed miserably, perhaps setting a record for short product lifecycles in the consumer technology space, and Microsoft’s smartphone efforts were ridiculed for months afterward. Releasing a device that appeals to what I’m certain is a passing fad (the “selfie” will be the subject of much mockery in the years to come, I’m sure) smacks of a very similar effort.

At the same time, I’m currently using a Lumia 925 that I bought refurbished from T-Mobile, specifically because it was the best option available to me at the time. As of today, T-Mobile only sells the Lumia 635 and 521 (refurb), the former of which is a very limited low-end device that, personally, I believe fails to offer enough compelling features even to justify the relatively low price of $168 off-contract. The lack of a front-facing camera (for video conferencing, not selfies, mind you), the low built-in storage (8GB), and the low resolution (800X640) make this a non-starter for me.

Verizon offers the Lumia Icon, and the Lumia 930 is being sold outside the US, but the options for users on T-Mobile (and other carriers) remain limited. In my opinion, while it makes sense for Microsoft to play in the low-end space, they also need a halo device at the high end that’s available on all US carriers. Otherwise, highly-selective smartphone buyers like me will be pushed to Apple and Android for the highest performers and best cameras.

I hope that the new “affordable high-end phone” is more high-end than affordable. I’m willing to pay top-dollar for a replacement for my 925 (which is a decent enough smartphone but still leaves me wanting more), and I hope that Microsoft doesn’t forget about folks like me in their upcoming product roadmap.

 

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