This article intends to address a previously unknown fact regarding Nokia's (NOK) new high end phone. There seems to be two versions, for the Lumia 920 at least, one with LTE and one without. Nokia (NYSE:NOK) has not communicated this fact properly, neither to its customers nor its shareholders. Communication is something that Elop, Nokia's CEO, promised he will improve. We found this out only by accident.
After having finally received our Lumia 920 on an Orange contract, I was able to compare with a member of the family, who had ordered the unlocked Lumia 920 phone from Expansys UK. Surprisingly, the unlocked Lumia 920 appears to not have LTE, contrary to the official specifications. That is radical, because as Nokia shareholders we were not told that the Nokia Lumia 920 is being marketed in two different versions. We tested them both, and it is true only one could connect to LTE (4G). But all Lumia 920s should be LTE capable according to Nokia marketing, however this limitation is clearly marked on the actual boxes we received:
Notice the lack of mention of LTE bands in the unlocked phone's box.
Photos: Copyright SMarvasti
3G Only Version A Software Limitation?
We put our resources to investigate. As a Nokia shareholder, I do not like to be in the dark about the marketing and product plans. How could Nokia have two versions without a naming scheme and a pricing scheme to differentiate them? Needless to say our family member was highly outraged at getting a non 4G Nokia Lumia 920 when the 3G HTC 8x is £120 cheaper. He is planning to return his phone. As a result Nokia could lose at least one customer. The Nokia Lumia 920 we received was from the EE exclusive stock which was reassigned to the 3G Orange brand contracts. But let us get back to this unhappy customer. In the words of Elop, Nokia's CEO:
.... We have to have empathy and listen to our customers. How do we respond to consumer demand that we haven't done as quickly as before? How do we take those bold steps? How do we disrupt the competition?
We hope he has listened and quickly amends this dichotomy between Lumia 920's with LTE and those without. At least a clear marketing explanation is needed. Before this issue does damage to the brand.
Our investigation turned up a firmware revision difference between the LTE capable network locked phone and the 2G, 3G, only handset (both purchased in the UK):
1232.2110.1244.3003 (No LTE) vs 1232.2110.1244.3011 (LTE enabled).
There are some few threads on xda-developers but no official response from Nokia. For now, until Nokia clarifies the stock situation, and the reason for this difference, the unlocked phones in the UK only support GSM (2G) and WCDMA (3G), while the locked phones only support WCDMA (3G) and LTE (4G). If you want to use your contract (locked) phone on a GSM provider when roaming, you may have trouble, alternatively, with an unlocked phone if you want LTE, you will have trouble without a firmware update. Unfortunately, Nokia, currently, does not provide any freely available firmware updates or explanations.
On balance, there is some good news too. Our checks confirmed that the Liberium analyst was correct. Better Lumia 920 supply has been arranged before Christmas. In particular, since the release of Samsung's Windows Phone, Ativ S, from the middle of December in the UK channel, EE has reallocated more stock to their sister networks (Orange and T-Mobile). Orange and T-Mobile in UK and Amazon in Europe are now back in stock with the new Nokia Lumia's. Thus Nokia Lumia 920 sales may even slightly exceed our original ceiling expectation of 2 million units in Q4. Overall, the Nokia Lumia 920 appears to be selling many unlocked sim-free handsets. The proof can be seen in the price rises by Expansys UK and Clove over the last week (up to 5% increase in prices). Demand is there, just needs consistent execution and communication.
What to make of this?
While definite sales numbers are still hard to come by, the fact that Nokia is selling two versions of its top handset, one without LTE (possibly limited by software), with no explanation is concerning to us. This might be an oversight, or it might be due to the rush to fill customer orders. However, Nokia should explain and provide its customers the necessary firmware to unify the actual devices with the marketing. Without unification, Nokia needs two model numbers (922 vs 920 ?). This, we hope, will not affect the projected sales for the Lumia 920 before Christmas. In particular for Europe, LTE is now widely available, and sim-free customers are unlikely to be happy with 3G limited phones. Let us hope this is resolved before it has a market impact.
By simfree, we mean handset only deals where the customer is free to use any network operator, on any baseband.
Disclosure: I am long NOK. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.