Will Nokia's New Smartphones Hold Water?

| About: Nokia Corporation (NOK)

Nokia (NYSE:NOK), once the largest handset maker in the world, is going through a complicated phase with regard to smartphones. According to a report released by the IDC, the company is no longer listed among the top five global manufacturers of smartphones. It is the first time that the Finns are out of the rankings since the start of the analysis in 2004. Now, the list of the biggest manufacturers of smartphones in the world is as follows: Samsung (OTC:SSNLF), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), RIM (RIMM), ZTE and HTC.

According to IDC, the transition from Symbian OS to Windows Phone has not been particularly successful for Nokia. However, according to the same report, there is still some space for Nokia to regain its position in the market of smartphones. With that in mind, Nokia has launched two high-end devices: Lumia 820 and Lumia 920. Both run the latest version of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) operating system, Windows Phone 8, bring some excellent features like PureView and wireless charging. These features provide a hope for Nokia to get back to its original position in the market.

Lumia 920 caught the attention of specialized sites, which claim that it can compete with its famous rivals such as iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III. With 4.5'' screen (smaller than the S III) and 4G LTE connectivity, the Lumia 920 has 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of data storage and is powered by a 1.5GHz chip dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4. One of the greatest advantages of the device is its camera of 8.7 MP. Nokia assures that it is the best camera ever made for a smartphone and is better able to capture good images in low light. iPhone 4S was criticized for its image quality in the dark and iPhone 5 is only marginally better than its predecessor.

Meanwhile, only the reception of Windows Phone 8 will determine the success or failure of the Lumia 920. Similar to Windows 8 for desktops, Windows Phone 8 requires the user to "relearn" to exploit Windows. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer claims that Windows Phone 8 will create a strong competition to Android based devices and iPhones, managing to reach the third place in smartphone market. However, Microsoft doesn't have a good record when it comes to mobile OS but the company is spending a lot on advertising.

With the launch of Windows 8 handsets, doubts about the actual models have begun to arise. CNET conducted certain tests to check which cellphone has the best camera. Smartphones that were used for testing were Nokia Lumia 920, HTC Windows Phone 8X and iPhone 5. The pictures were taken in various lighting, trying to emulate all kinds of situations in which cell phones are used. In the ten tests, the Lumia 920 and its 8.7 MP camera was the best in seven situations, while the iPhone 5 emerged victorious in two and HTC won just one.

Its camera might be great but if Nokia has to compete with biggies like Apple, Samsung, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and ZTE, it will have to pull its act together quickly. While it is doing a great job by ditching Symbian and choosing Windows 8, Nokia may also stand to gain by releasing a few models running on Android. This would help the company to reestablish itself in the smartphone market. The competition is very formidable and Nokia cannot expect to sit quietly after releasing two models.

Samsung has beaten all sales records with the Galaxy S III, which sold more than 30 million devices since its launch. Undoubtedly the best selling Android device of all time, it surpassed its predecessors in just 157 days. The numbers of the new smartphone model outweigh that of Galaxy S II, launched in 2011. Galaxy S II sold about 10 million units in the same period of time. Furthermore, the Samsung Galaxy S3 defeated Apple's iPhone 5 under the categories of Best Gadget and Best Smartphone of 2012, titles awarded at the Stuff Gadget Awards 2012.

Apple trails behind Samsung with its new iPhone. But it is facing problems in Mexico because the Mexican court approved an injunction that doesn't allow Apple to sell smartphones under the trademark "iPhone" in the country, which could force the company to sell the iPhone 5 under another name in Mexico. The suspension was made because the judge claimed that the company "iFone" already held the rights to this brand before the American company. It does not seem to be a problem for Apple as it sold over 5 million iPhone 5 devices, three days after its launch on September 21, according to the company itself. And the numbers keep growing.

Google's Nexus 4 comes with a quad-core processor Snapdragon S4 Pro, 2 GB RAM, 8 GB of internal storage, a 4.7 inch screen with 1280 x 768 resolution and an 8 megapixel camera. It comes in two models: 8 GB and 16 GB. Just like the Lumia 920, Nexus 4 features wireless charging. Thanks to Google's partnership with Starbucks and other establishments, Nexus 4 may get a lot of attention from certain segments of the target market. Predictions are that it will not only be a sales success in the United States, but also in other continents such as Europe. However, due to lack of subsidies, prices will be higher elsewhere in the world, which can disrupt the smartphone's sales.

Meanwhile China's ZTE reported its first quarterly loss of US$ 310 million. The company officials however asserted that they expect to sell 25 million smartphones in 2012, according to Reuters. The forecast suggests a sale of 10 million units more than last year. The manufacturer still expects to deliver two times more in 2013, reaching 50 million smartphones.

Nokia has a market cap of $10.28 billion and an enterprise value of $5.18 billion. It is not as big a company as Apple is, but it is still a formidable company that cannot be ignored easily. Its future is bright too, thanks to its adoption of Windows 8. Its revenue is $41.61 billion and with a price to book ratio of 0.96 and a price to sales ratio of 0.24, we can surmise that Nokia is not doing very well when compared to its competitors. Its profit margin does not look good, at -13.63%, but with new releases the adoption of better technology, I'm sure those numbers will improve.

Nokia posted a smaller than expected loss for the third quarter, but warned of tough challenges ahead, and investors believe that the company's survival depends on its ability to win new smartphone markets, something that will not be difficult to achieve because the new Lumia is being well received. One can conclude that if the Lumia 820 and the Lumia 920 are a hit, Nokia will at least be able to survive in the market until it discovers a come-back strategy to take on its competitors.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. 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.

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