Nokia's stealth marketing campaign features "secret" beta tests that depict the iPhone as a fragile, washed out device with lousy reception.
Smartphones: Never Too Thin Or Too Organic
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With one of the most important launches in its history just days away, Nokia is pulling out all the stops. To promote its new Lumia 900, a high-end smartphone that runs on Microsoft's fledgling Windows Phone OS, the Finnish company has launched a website that offers a series of barely disguised attacks on Apple and its iPhone quality control standards.
The site, SmartPhoneBetaTest.com, features Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock alum Chris Parnell as a restless security official sitting in a generic office building. Parnell alternately squeezes a hand exerciser, plays with perpetual motion balls, and generally looks bored--perhaps too bored to spot the theft of "secret" beta testing videos.
The videos, also posted to the site, show employees testing a smartphone that looks suspiciously like the iPhone. They play off some of the Apple device's more notorious flaws. In one, a male tester says, "Guys, am I crazy, or did all the signal bars just go away." A woman who appears to be an executive impatiently replies, "That's because you're holding it the wrong way ... that is user error."
The tester asks, "Shouldn't I be able to hold it however I want?", to which the exec says, "Stop acting like a spoiled child and use the approved grip."
In another video, the tester complains that, "I was using this outside and the screen really washes out in the sun." The executive insists that, "The screen is fine, people can just stay inside." In a third video, the tester complains that the phone is fragile, to which a smarmy colleague replies: "Say someone drops the phone and it breaks. Bingo, we just sold another phone."
The site makes no mention of Nokia, or the Lumia 900, but Nokia is widely believed to be behind its appearance, given that a clock at the top of the page is counting down to Friday, April 6, which is expected to mark the beginning of the launch weekend for the Lumia 900. A search of Internet records shows that the site was registered privately on Feb. 2 through a proxy service.
Nokia struck an alliance with Microsoft last year, under which it is porting virtually its entire smartphone line to Windows Phone. The move is risky, however, as Windows Phone badly trails Google Android and the iPhone in smartphone market share. Windows phones held just 4.4% of the U.S. mobile market as of January, according to market watcher ComScore. By comparison, Apple's iPhone held 29.5% of the market, while phones that run Google's Android OS held a collective share of 48.6%.
Nokia is hoping that the Lumia 900 will give it a boost. For a $100 phone on AT&T, the Lumia 900 does have some impressive specs. The camera boasts 8 megapixels, large aperture (F2.2), wide-angle focal length (28 mm), and optics from German lens specialist Carl Zeiss. The Lumia 900 also has a front-facing camera for videoconferencing. The phone is powered by a 1.4-GHz Snapdragon processor, and it sports a sizeable 4.3-inch ClearBlack AMOLED display.
Nokia has said the 1830-mAh battery delivers 7 hours of talk time. Preinstalled apps include Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Xbox Live, which requires a subscription for online gaming.
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