Last week, Nokia announced its Q1 results and the company reported a 27 percent increase from the previous quarter in the sales of Windows Phone devices. Undoubtedly, that is great news for the leading maker of mobile devices running on Microsoft's platform.
But that spike in sales, while most certainly good news, isn't exactly the sort of boom that can help the company catch up with the likes of Samsung and Apple. The popular opinion is that the next quarter is more crucial for Nokia, when it will have to report the performance of its portfolio, which will then account for the Lumia 520, Lumia 620 and Lumia 720, which have only recently become available in the market. The expectation is that the company's low-end and mid-range lineup will be Nokia and the platform's saviour.
But Nokia well-wishers would do well to take pause before proclaiming a comeback. The problems for the company run beyond just mere sales. There is something inherently wrong in Nokia's smartphone portfolio. And that problem comes to light when using the Nokia Lumia 720.
Now the 720 is a great mid-range device. It has the right set of features to attract eyeballs and the design reminds me of the Lumia 920, without its infamous bulk. It really does create a great impression in person. We are tempted to say Nokia got this one right, but wait, what's that? Only 512MB of RAM? Shuffle on, nothing to see here.
In a bid to protect the sales of Lumia 820 (right), Nokia may have killed the chances of Lumia 720
A number of apps in the Windows Phone 8 store are launching with RAM limitations, which means phones with under 1GB of RAM cannot run them. We tried looking for Temple Run on the Lumia 720 and it wouldn't even show up in the results. Temple Run is just one example. The RAM limitation is becoming something of a trend for apps – other examples being Asphalt 7: Heat, Modern Combat 4 - launching on the platform. 512MB of RAM was good enough for Windows Phone 7, but as more and more new games and apps come with the restriction, the user experience on the Lumia 720 will surely suffer.
The same is the case for Lumia 620 and 520, but those are decidedly low-end phones not built for the latest games, but the Lumia 720 would have been absolutely great if it could handle all the latest apps and games at its current price. So essentially, even after paying Rs 8,500 more for the 720 than you would for the Lumia 520, you are restricted to the same number of apps as the lower-end model.
The 512 MB RAM makes the Lumia 720 not all that different from the lower-end Lumia 520 (left) and 620 (centre)
The reason behind not putting more RAM into the 720 could lie beyond just keeping the price down. With 1GB of RAM, the Lumia 720 would be eating into the sales of the Lumia 820. The idea that one of its top smartphones could have been cannibalised by Lumia 720 would not have sat well with Nokia. So naturally there were going to be some trade-offs.
Funnily, the trade-off in the RAM department is the one that hurts the most. Most people can live with the 720's 6.7-megapixel camera instead of the Lumia 820's 8-megapixel unit. The 720 does better in the display department by keeping the same size and resolution as the Lumia 820, but packing in a much better IPS panel instead of the AMOLED panel on the higher-end model. Sure, the processor is clocked higher in the 820 and has been known to be a beast on benchmark tests, but performance on the Lumia 720 is no different. That's the beauty of Windows Phone 8.
So obviously, the RAM limitation is the biggest sore point, but guess what, Nokia? No one is buying the Lumia 820. It's priced oddly high for its specs, the marketing has only focused on the Lumia 920, even the launch in India skimmed over the Lumia 820 to favour its higher-end cousin. Last week, we reported how the top two Lumias haven't been selling very well at all. Where at least the Lumia 920 was finding many takers thanks to its camera and better display, the Lumia 820 has been sitting undisturbed on shelves of many stores. So Nokia's fears for the Lumia 820 were moot and the Lumia 720, which is available for Rs 18,999, would have in an ideal situation been the world-beater Nokia so badly needs.
As it stands, Nokia shot themselves in the foot by limiting the RAM on the Lumia 720, and what could have been a great phone is hampered due to a hardware restriction. If ever there is a time for an off-cycle hardware upgrade for the Lumias, then Nokia could do worse than starting with the Lumia 720.