Nokia 'launched' its Lumia portfolio of devices in Australia today, although you won't be able to buy any for several weeks yet. We'll get the Lumia 800 — finally — as well as the cheaper Lumia 710, with a rather firm "no comment" on the status of the Lumia 900. Nokia's pretty much bet the farm on Windows Phone 7, but can it succeed locally? I was going to write a hands-on impression style piece of the Lumia 800, but frankly, given the delay in getting it on Australian shores, I'm not sure there's all that much point, although we will review the local 800 when it's available.
Plus, for what it's worth, it'd be far from my first hands-on impression; while I was on leave in the UK, Lumia 800 advertising and demo stands were seemingly everywhere. If Nokia follows suit, be prepared to be washed over with a lot of Lumia branding.
The 800 does have the nice styling that it more-or-less-ripped from the corpse that was the N9, and that's a big plus; if you're after a stylish phone and like Windows Phone 7 as an operating system, this is the current phone to beat... for at least a week or two, when the blinds are raised at Mobile World Congress. Current tipping suggests that Nokia may only release the "international" version of the Lumia 900 at MWC, but that in itself presents problems.
Before anybody asks, yes, the question did get raised regarding the Lumia 900's local availability, and that question was shot down just as quickly. That doesn't mean it will or won't happen — but even if it never does, Nokia's got something of an uphill battle on its hands. Every single time I've written about the Lumia 800 recently, there's been an avalanche of comments to the effect that while the 800 might be a nice phone, they'll hold out for the 900, because the 800's already such a known quantity, and those who already wanted one have imported it.
That doesn't mean that Nokia won't try to sell as many Lumia 800s locally as possible, or even that its age automatically makes it a terrible phone per se. But it's tough to sell a phone that's seen as "old" by the market that most enthusiastically seeks it.
OK, so perhaps the audience for the Lumia 800 might not be the early adopters, but instead the mass market. But if anything, again, the Lumia 800 is undercut by the Lumia 710. Yes, it's not the best Windows Phone 7 device out there; it's merely average and in line with the rest of the Windows Phone 7 crowd.
That would be a strike against it were it not for the asking price; at $369 outright — and presumably on something around a $29 Optus cap — it's quite a charming little unit. The mass market may well see the $699 Lumia 800 and decided that the $369 Lumia 710 is "good enough". But the Lumia 710's specifications are equally very much in line with last year's Windows Phone models, and those have been selling at bargain basement prices recently.
I suppose we'll get a more rounded picture in the next couple of weeks when MWC wraps up; if Nokia announces a whole raft of exciting new devices, we can get hyped up again. If it doesn't, we've got the Lumia 800 many months after it's been available elsewhere. Hopefully, the next time Nokia announces new high end models, we won't wait an age for local releases.