For all practical purposes, Microsoft’s Lumia brand has been dead in the Indian market for the last six months.
At present, the highest-rated phone from the company is the Lumia 930, a 3G-only phone priced at Rs 38,000 and launched more than a year ago.
UPDATE: The prices of these two phones have been cut in the UK. The new prices are £529.99 (Rs 53,000) for XL and £449.99 (Rs 45,000) for 950. It is likely that the India prices would be in the same range as India and UK prices tend to be similar.
UPDATE 2 – CNN IBN has reported that the India price will be just Rs 38,000 for the 950 and Rs 43,000 for XL.
UPDATE 3 – The prelaunch price of the phone has been cut for the second time to £465 or Rs 46,500.
Sony, which launched the Xperia Z3 at roughly the same time as the 930, has since launched two new versions of its flagship. Hit by internal issues, Microsoft has been forced to sit back and watch its competitors run away with the Indian high-end smartphone market.
Finally, the US-based company is preparing for the India launch of the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL, 950 (regular) and 550 models in India.
The biggest of the three new Windows phones being launched in India is the 5.7-inch 950 XL. With a pricing in the range of Rs 53,000, it will also be one of the most expensive devices launched by the company in recent times.
It will also herald the entry of the Lumia phone into the Quad-HD display market. Quad HD means that there are 4 mln pixels or dots on the display, instead of 2 the mln found on full-HD models such as the Lumia 930.
In fact, as of now, there are only six large-screen devices in India that can boast of quad-HD AMOLED displays, out of which the Moto Nexus 6 (price Rs 29,999) and Galaxy Note 4 (Rs 42,000) are last year’s models.
Out of the remaining four, two — Galaxy S6 Edge Plus (Rs 55,500) and Note 5 (Rs 54,000) — are from Samsung, while the remaining two are the six-inch Gionee Elife E8 (Rs 34,999) and the Huawei Nexus 6P (priced Rs 39,990).
In other words, if you are on the lookout for a nice, large-screen Quad HD device with an AMOLED display in India, your choices are pretty restricted.
That is where the new Lumia 950 XL comes in. Of course, it is also the first high-end device to come with Windows 10.
The rest of the phone’s specifications are largely what you’d expect in a phone priced in the Rs 55,000 range — Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal storage, support for external MicroSD card and a 3.34 Ah battery.
One of Nokia’s specialties has been its cameras, and the Lumia 950 XL does not disappoint on this count either.
The phone comes with a 20 MP Pure View camera with Carl Zeiss optics and optical image stabilization, triple-LED RGB flash, a 1/2.4′ sensor, 1.12 micrometer pixel size, 4K recording at 30 frames per second and a 5 MP shooter at the front.
Most phones come with a 1/3.2 inch sensor compared to which this phone has a considerably bigger sensor. A bigger sensor pulls in more light and gives much better low-light photos. The new Sony Xperia Z5 and the Gionee Elife E8 also have big sensors at 1/2.3 inch. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus comes with Sony IMX240 sensors, which are 1/2.6 inch in size.
Yet another important aspects of phones — especially in this range — is looks.
Microsoft’s Finnish engineers are usually very good at looks and build quality, and in case of the 950 XL too, they haven’t disappointed. However, the phone is quite hefty at 165 gm vs 153 gm for the S6 Edge Plus.
The device comes with metal on the sides and plastic on the back.
One of the problems with Lumia devices have been their display fragility due to the way the screen is sort of molded on to the frame at the front.
However, given that the display on the phone is covered with a Gorilla Glass 4 layer, let’s hope that it’s not quite as fragile as some of the mid-range phones from the company.
The most important factor, however, will be quick availability.
According to our sources, the company has already set the process of launching the device — along with the Lumia 950 and 550 — in India. The launch is expected by around the middle of November.
Given that Diwali falls on the 11th of next month, it can reasonably be expected that Microsoft would try to launch the three devices before that.
Another issue with Microsoft has been its pricing, which has been considered too high for the Indian market.
The company has tried to deal with the issue by bringing out special models, such as the Lumia 640, that are available only on the online market and are therefore priced cheap. The company, however, has not adopted this strategy for its high-end models yet.
The Lumia 550 and 950 fill out the other two ranges that the company is set to address with its new launches.
The Lumia 550 will be the cheapest of the three, and would be priced in the Rs 11,000-15,000 range — depending on whether it makes the phone available generally or only via an online retailer.
Back in April, Microsoft had decided to make its entry-level model, the 640, a Flipkart exclusive, and kept the price affordable at just Rs 11,999. A similar tie-up can help the company sell the Lumia 550 for around Rs 11,000, according to industry sources.
However, more general availability would require the phone to be priced near the Rs 13,000 mark.
The Lumia 550 will be Microsoft’s first 4G phone in the low-end space. It comes with a 1.1 GHz Snapdragon 210 quad-core processor, 8GB of storage memory and, like the other two, supports MicroSD cards of up to 200GB.
The model comes with a 4.7-inch 720p display with 1 mln pixels (compared to 4 mln on XL).
The rear camera resolution is only 5 MP while the front shooter clicks 2 MP images. The highlight of the phone will be that it supports 4G LTE. At present, the only other phone from the company in the mid- or entry-level range with LTE is the Lumia 640 XL, priced at Rs 17,000 in India.
The Lumia 950 falls in the ‘affordable flagship’ territory — if not exactly in the price, at least in its specifications.
Like in case of Sony Xperia Z5 and Z5 Premium, the primary difference between the two models is also in terms of the display, with nearly everything else remaining the same.
However, unlike in case of the Z5 and Premium, the difference is only in terms of the size and not in terms of the total resolution of the screen. In other words, while the Xperia Z5 sees a step-down in terms of resolution from 4 mln pixels to 2 mln, in case of the Lumia 950, the resolution remains at QHD (4 MP).
In other words, the 950 is in the same class as the Samsung S6 and S6 Edge, which are priced at Rs 37,000 and Rs 47,000 respectively in India.
According to our source, the price difference between the XL and the 950 will be around Rs 12,500, which gives an indicative range of around Rs 42,000-45,000 for the 950. Though it will be a tough sell at that price, Microsoft can bring down the price by making the device online-only, though that is less likely, according to industry people.
Whatever the final price, the launch of the three devices will mark a welcome development in the fortunes of the Lumia brand, while giving the flailing Windows Phone ecosystem a boost in India.