Nokia Shows Momentum but Needs Android More than Ever

Yesterday Nokia announced "better than expected" Lumia sales. Overall the company said (in these preliminary results) that it sold just over 86 million mobile devices. Among them were 16 million smartphones, including 4.4 million Lumia handsets. The remainder were legacy Symbian devices and new lower-end Asha devices

Asha phones are somewhere between a feature phone and a true smartphone. They're designed to be low cost and intended for emerging markets such as India. They would see little or no success in developed markets like North America or Europe. Indeed, they're not directed toward those markets. 

In Q2 and Q3 2012 Nokia sold a combined total of 6.9 million Lumia handsets. The troubled-company's stock was up yesterday and this morning, having seemingly beaten a very grim Q4 forecast. And some financial analysts are hailing the results as the beginning of Nokia's long-hoped-for turnaround. 

Any celebrations are premature however. According to Kantar Worldpanel Comtech research demand for Windows Phones is uneven and limited. 

In the US Windows Phones continue to lose share and have failed to capture consumer interest. The story is somewhat different in Europe, however, in part because of the legacy of Nokia's strong brand. In the five major EU countries Windows saw aggregate growth of 1.7%. 

The markets where Windows Phone gains have been meaningful are Italy, Spain and the UK, according to the Kantar data. In Italy, for example, Windows Phones gained almost 8 points and now have an 11.7 percent share of the smartphone market.

While there may continue to be modest growth for Nokia with Windows Phones, it's fairly clear that they are unlikey to power a full recovery. What Nokia really needs to ignite growth is to add Android devices to its lineup.

Remarks earlier this week by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop suggested that the company could be open to using Android: 

In the current ecosystem wars we are using Windows Phone as our weapon. But we are always thinking about what's coming next, what will be the role of HTML 5, Android... HTML5 could make the platform itself -- being Android, Windows Phone or any other -- irrelevant in the future, but it's still too soon [to tell]. Today we are committed and satisfied with Microsoft, but anything is possible. 

Contractual agreements with Microsoft probably would make Android "diversification" unlikely in the near term unless Windows Phones sales fell below a certain threshold. Given the modest momentum around Microsoft's OS Nokia will probably stick with Windows. 

Yet if the company were to offer both Android and Windows devices it would see its fortunes improve more rapidly -- much more rapidly.