One of the smaller announcements during MWC was T-Mobile announcing it is picking up a variant of the Nokia Lumia 520, which will be the 521. The 520 is Nokia’s new bottom-of-the-range smartphone so it’s somewhat surprising that T-Mobile USA would want that, especially compared to the higher spec and uni-body design of the Lumia 720, which was also announced during MWC.
T-Mobile has a few windows phones right now, but the standout ones are the Lumia 810 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The Lumia 710 is a Windows Phone 7.5 device (T-Mobile branded devices won’t even be upgraded to 7.8). The 810 and 8X have similarly specs in some ways, but crucially, both fall into the high end, or at least upper mid tier of the Windows Phone world. In some ways, it’s desirable to see more of this, and perhaps people are disappointed that it’s the 520 and not the 720 that is coming, a device that has slightly lower spec’s than both the Lumia 810 and 8X but blows the 810 out of the water in the looks department, and is much more affordable than either of those.
However, T-Mobile announced earlier this year that it was dropping phone subsidies altogether and going 100% towards it’s current “Value plan” model in which you have cheaper calling plans but have to buy your phone outright or pay it off in installments. The Lumia 521 should only differ from the standard 520 in supporting T-Mobiles 42Mbps HSPA+ network which uses 1700/2100Mhz bands. This means that customers should see a slim and sleek Windows Phone device, with a dual core processor, and it’s how much? Nokia suggest the device is about 140 Euro’s before taxes and subsidies, putting it close to $200. Many of the high end devices might start with a downpayment as high as that so this gives customers an affordable device option – something like $200 or $60 up front and $7/month for 20 months.
If T-Mobile is going to pull off the trick of dropping phone subsidies, it needs to stock a solid range of devices, including at mid and low prices and with the Lumia 810 and HTC 8X filling the upper-mid and high end of the spectrum, the 521 comes in at the lower-mid/low end. And for a low end phone, what you will get is a smooth operating system that runs well on a dual-core processor with half a gig of ram, a 4″ screen, up to 42Mbps HSPA+ and it has a sleek design, and comes in a variety of colors. Once you get it home, you get to shove a 64Gb Micro SD card in it if you want and stuff it full of music or whatever else.
So when the day comes and T-Mobile switches over to it’s new pricing system, and the devices aren’t all something between free and $200 with a 2 year contract anymore, but their actual, full, retail price, users might fear that if they can’t afford the (I/m guessing here) $600 or $200 down and $20/month for 20 months for the iPhone 6, they have a good looking Windows Phone 8 device they can pick up and enjoy without sticker-shock.
You can read more about the Lumia 520 and 521 at Nokia Conversations.