Nokia Launches Lumia 800C Windows Phone via China Telecom, Banks on Chinese Market for a Big Comeback

Nokia has launched the Lumia 800C Windows Phone 7.5 Refresh in China, and the company is hoping that this market can help them get back in the big leagues in terms of smartphone market share.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announces the launch of the company's new Lumia 800C smartphone in Beijing, China, Wednesday, March 28, 2012. Struggling cellphone maker Nokia launched its first smartphone design for China on Wednesday, looking to the world's biggest mobile market to help drive a turnaround.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Nokia is looking into making a comeback, after having been overtaken by manufacturers like Apple and Samsung in the smartphone business. Starting a year-long turnaround effort, the Finnish company has launched its Lumia 800C smartphone, specially designed for the Chinese market. The Windows Phone will initially launch on China Telecom, the country’s second biggest mobile carrier.

The Lumia 800C runs Windows Phone 7.5 Refresh — formerly codenamed “Tango” — and will have tight integration with Chinese social networking services like Tencent Weibo, QQ, and RenRen. Nokia’s WP7 smartphones will also integrate search engine Baidu and portals Sina, Sohu, and Tencent. Nokia and Microsoft are likewise providing support for China-based developers in building apps for the platform.

“We’re creating innovation in China for China, which some of our competitors are not doing,” said Colin Giles, Nokia’s executive vice president for global sales, and former manager of Nokia’s China unit.

China is actually Nokia’s biggest market to date, and even with a billion mobile phone users, this market still has room to grow, especially in the smartphone business. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop highlights that “China is critically important for Nokia,” in a keynote at the product launch, where key China Telecom executives, as well as chairman Wang Xiaochu, were also present.

Beijing-based Analysis International says the Chinese love to buy smartphones. This market saw a total of 70 million smartphones bought in 2011, and this figure is expected to rise by 45% this year. Analysts say that even a small share of this year’s smartphone salves in China will already be a big deal for mobile phone makers.

The Lumia 800C goes on sale this April for 3,599 yuan (US$ 570.86). Nokia and China Telecom have also announced plans to sell a lower-priced Windows Phone within the year — the 610C. China-specific variant of other Windows Phone models being sold in other markets will also make their way here, particularly the 900C and 710C.

Nokia will also launch its Lumia smartphone line through China Mobile and China Unicom within the year.

The company is planning to make a big online and TV campaign for its Lumia series, and phones will be sold in about 200,000 retail outlets throughout the country. Nokia actually has a stronger brand presence in China compared with other markets like the U.S., which has prompted the company to announce a shift in its production to the region. Nokia will be closing down assembly facilities in Europe, in favor of Asian countries.

The big question now is whether Nokia’s Lumia smartphone launch in China will help bolster its market share in smartphones worldwide.