Can the Lumia 620 exploit the anti-unlock DMCA law?
Thanks to a shockingly broad interpretation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, unlocking your carrier-subsidized cellphone for use on another carrier is illegal. Here are the details:
if the new law doesn't get overturned (it's so ridiculous that it might, assuming Congress cares at all), I think there's a market opportunity for OEMs making decent quality phones for $199 or so outright. The Lumia 620 is the prime candidate for this, as it is already available in Asia for $249 unlocked At this time however, Nokia isn't bringing it to the US. Forbes magazine suggests that it's because carriers can't fit a $200 unlocked phone into their pricing structure. Here's that article.
What the article also says, is that cheap Lumias such as the $199 Lumia 610 and the $249 Lumia 710 made up a combined 41% of ALL Windows Phone ad requests in the US as of November 2012. The Lumia 920 was 3% of all WP devices, but of course it had just launched. So there's clearly a market for these devices, perhaps with consumers on pre-paid data plans.
The Lumia 620 is pretty decent spec-wise, much better looking than the 610/710:
- 3.8-inch ClearBlack TFT WVGA 800×480
- 1Ghz Snapdragon S4 (Dual-core Krait)
- 512 MB RAM, 8GB internal + 64GB microSD expansion, 7GB SkyDrive storage
- 5MP Autofocus Camera, VGA front-facing camera. 1300mAH battery.
So how could potentially work?
- The starting point: The Lumia is a known brand in the US. WP market share might be weak overall, but from the June 1-Dec 31 2012 period, Nokia sold exactly 1 million Lumia devices in the US, according to their quarterly reports. Lumias are still fairly well advertised across carriers and print/TV/web.
- Nokia has experience building pentaband phones, so unless there are significantly higher production/patent costs associated with with penta- as opposed to quad-band, they could do it.
- Unlike other OEMs, Nokia has a decent ecosystem of its own within the Windows Phone world. Promoting those services as an integrated solution might position the product as an iPod Touch with phone capability. It's more compelling if you consider that Apple raised the based model Touch price to $299. It used to be $229 before.
- There really isn't another OEM offering a similar option: a fairly modern SoC with smooth UI and most major smartphone functions for $199-$249 outright. This model hasn't really been successful because of the carrier subsidy model. But Verizon has already said that the age of the subsidized phone is coming to an end. Now that T-Mobile and AT&T offer tiered prepaid talk+data plans, the 620 could be promoted as a smartphone with lower overall monthly payments than the competition. People paying $80/month for a data allowance they don't get anywhere near could slash their bills by half if for instance they went with T-Mobile's prepaid data plans. This might especially appeal to parents of younger kids as well.
Reasons it wouldn't work or wouldn't be tried? There are a few. Carriers might notice what Nokia's doing and threaten to freeze them out when they try to negotiate a carrier release of the next flagship model. Nokia might be happy with keeping the 620 as a "rest of the world" phone, or might not be able to produce them in volume to serve the US market. These are the ones I can think of now.
What does everyone else think?