Both Nokia and Microsoft need the Lumia 900 to succeed. Windows Phone is struggling. So is the once-top handset maker. But while they and AT&T has been pushing the Lumia 900 hard it looks like the carrier just doesn't have enough to go around.
Nokia won't talk hard Lumia 900 sales numbers until its earnings call this summer at the earliest. But after hearing rampant reports of depleted stock of the new phone, we decided to do some sniffing around. We talked to salespeople at 36 AT&T stores in major malls around the country, and where we learned that generally, they had sold out within the first couple of days after the phone's launch. The phone is "doing pretty fabulous" one Illinois rep said. They're "selling like crazy," an Ohio employee boasted. A Philadelphia location was the sole spot that said it hadn't sold out at all.
But these overly-positive statements deserve some qualification. The problem? None of the stores had many Lumia 900s to begin with. Locations that had been cleaned out only started with three or four of each color, and reinforcements have apparently been scarce. So, to say the phone is doing well is rather relative. On the other hand, the 900 has been the top seller on AmazonWireless pretty much since it came out. So there are plenty of phones to be had, just not at brick and mortars.
Ten stores had run out of cyan entirely but had the black model available in limited quantities. Many told us stock would be replenished by the next day, with just two saying they're receiving shipments daily. Five gave vague, hopeful estimates of shipment arriving later this week. But a sales guy in Colorado, who was the one doing the ordering, felt pretty certain the cyan Lumia 900 is just about sold out in the U.S. He said there were a few arriving in the states, but no one is certain where they're going. This was corroborated by other locations. A South Dakota store expecting four of each color only received two in black. Another in Massachusetts noted that if you want one, you have to check back daily. A Syracuse employee seemed sure the device is on back order now. Just about everyone said they were busy.
Nearly all of the salespeople we spoke to had been seeded one of these phones. Though for the record, about 95 percent of the stores were also playing ads for the iPhone 4S. Aside from that, though, AT&T staff seem genuinely excited about the 900.
"They're pretty slick, and that's the first time I've said that about a Windows Phone," the salesperson in Colorado said.
Nokia did not immediately respond to questions, but we'll update when we hear from them. Though there is no official word from them, and though this is just a sampling of locations, this is a pretty solid indication that the the company, or AT&T, or both underestimated the phone's appeal significantly. And that's not a great place to be.
Both Nokia and Windows Phone desperately need to find a way to get consumers caring about them, and if they're putting all of their proverbial eggs in one basket, the Lumia 900—a faster, cheaper, more powerful smartphone—is not a bad package to bank on. However, none of that matters if people can't get one in their hands.
Additional reporting by Andrew James