The introduction of the Lumia 920 smartphone by Nokia should have been a tech triumph by the Finnish firm. Instead, it turned into a public relations black eye.
By the time the unveiling event ended on Wednesday, it was obvious that Nokia and Microsoft had rushed their flagship Windows 8 smartphone into the public eye prematurely. They let Apple determine when the 920 was to be introduced, not Nokia and Microsoft. The pair had to get their dibs on consumer mind share before Apple introduced its new iPhone this week. That's an act that smacks of desperation, not a move from competitors who feel confident that their latest product meets or beats whatever Apple can bring to market.
More evidence that Nokia and Microsoft had rushed the 920 into the public eye was the glaring omission of pricing and availability information from the announcement. No matter how hot your technology is, you can't tantalize consumers forever -- which is what you're doing when you don't tell them when your product will be available and what they'll have to pay for it. Otherwise, you might as well be peddling vaporware. You can be sure that when the new iPhone is announced this week, those two items of information won't be missing from the announcement.
Things got worse for the pair after the confetti from the debut hit the ground. Reports emerged that Nokia had faked at the event photos and videos it claimed were shot by the smartphone. Not only that, but the company acknowledged that the video stabilization capabilities it boasted the handset had didn't exist, although they may be available when the camera is released.
"In an effort to demonstrate the benefits of optical image stabilization (which eliminates blurry images and improves pictures shot in low light conditions), we produced a video that simulates what we will be able to deliver with OIS," Nokia Media Relations Editor-in-Chief Heidi Lemmetyinen writes in a company blog.
"Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but we should have posted a disclaimer stating this was a representation of OIS only," she adds. "This was not shot with a Lumia 920. At least, not yet."
Misstep or missed chance?
While Nokia fumbled the ball on the 920's camera qualities, it needn't have done so, at least on the photo side of things. In a photo session at night in New York City's Central Park, staffers at The Verge compared stills taken with the 920's camera with its PureView technology and those taken with comparable high end handsets. They found the 920 generally outperformed them all.
Apple's success isn't built alone on technological innovation. It's also built on image. Part of that image is that the company knows what it's doing and its products do what they say they will do. "It just works" isn't a mindless mantra. It's a fact.
That competence translates into consumer trust. No matter how cool your technology is—and by most accounts, the Lumia 920 is very cool—if you present yourself to consumers as the gang who couldn't shoot straight, you're not going to make any headway in the smartphone market against Apple.