If you are confounded by the ever growing list of seemingly confusing product names in Microsoft’s smartphone line up, you are not alone. Many tech pundits are have pleaded for Microsoft’s handset division to use a conventional naming structure i.e. one without numbers and to drastically reduce the number of models available to consumers. Fear not, because there is a method to the “numbering madness” put in place by the Espoo smartphone gurus (before Microsoft acquired the Nokia handset division). Not only will I explain how to decipher the Lumia model names, but I will also help you understand how to choose the right Lumia device for you.
Lumia Naming Convention Explained
To understand the Lumia Naming convention, let’s take a trip to Munich Germany, home of the famous luxury automobile manufacturer, BMW. From the mid-seventies up to the mid-nineties, BMW produced 3 classes of vehicles: The 3 series (compact sedan), the 5 series (full size sedans) and the 7 series (executive sedans). Excluding specialty vehicles like the “M “versions, BMW realized that as consumer trends changed, they had to design vehicles that appealed to an audience other than their core customers in order to keep growing their market share. Thus the BMW range grew to now include 1 series (sub compact sedan), 2 Series (sub compact coupe), 3 Series (compact sedan), 4 Series (compact coupe), 5 series (mid-size sedan), 6 series (mid-size coupe), and the 7 Series (executive sedans). For a time BMW also produced the 8 Series (large coupe). In addition to the sedan/coupe product lines, BMW also produces a sport utility line, the “X Series” that duplicates the same class numbering as the sedan. And with the recent shift towards hybrid electrical vehicles, BMW has started production with the “I series”.
Even though the number of models are increasing, it is still easy to tell the where each model belongs in the product family. For Example:
BMW 325is – 1st Digit = Product Class. Thus 3 Series. 2nd and 3rd Digit = Engine Displacement Capacity. 25=2.5 Liters (or the equivalent in turbo powered engines). The presence of the suffix denotes any special variance. “is”= fuel injection, sport tuned.
Lumia Naming Convention Explained
The Lumia model naming convention follows the principle as BMW.
- The 1st digit of a Lumia handset is the Device Class.
- g. Lumia 920 belongs to the Lumia 9XX class.
- The 2nd digit is the Generation of Device.
- This also coincides with the operating system version that the phone was launched with. e.g. Lumia 920. This is the 2nd generation of the Lumia 9XX class, running the 2nd generation of Windows Phone OS
- The 3rd digit has several uses.
- If it is a “0” or a “5”, it usually designates the release version within that generation. e.g. Lumia 920 This is 1st release version of the 2nd generation Lumia 9XX class. The Lumia 925 is the 2nd release version (it replaced the Lumia 920). Since the Lumia 925 and Lumia 920 run the same version of the operating software, they belong to the 2nd
- If the third digit is something other than a 0 of 5, or there is suffix at the end, then it designates a region specific device. e.g. Lumia 920T is a Lumia 920 designated for China mobile (needed different hardware to meet their TD-SDCMA network standard). The Lumia 928 is a Lumia 920 version created specifically for Verizon USA. NOTE: There are some exceptions to this rule. e.g. The Lumia 505 was a regional variant of the Lumia 510 designed specifically to TelCel Mexico.
This hierarchical numbering system is much clearer using an attribute based number system (as used in the Samsung Galaxy line up). The different device classes can be described as follows:
|2015 Price Range
|The Entry Class. Newest and most affordable class of Lumia Devices
|This class contains the bestselling Lumia of all time, the Lumia 520.
|$100 – $150
|The “high end” of the affordable class, it is proving to a balance of affordability versus features, especially with the Lumia 630.
|The Mid-Range Class. The Lumia 720 and the current Lumia 730 devices have made this the preferred device class for those looking the best value.
|The Mid-Range Phablet. Lumia 1320
|The “Affordable Flagship” Class. This class attempts to bring flagship design and materials to a more affordable price.
|The Flagship. The 9XX Class has always showcased the best of Lumia hardware. Microsoft should replace the current model, Lumia 930, with a new version when Windows 10 is launched in Q3-2015.
|The “Pureview” Flagship. With just the Lumia 1020 (a specialty device that has a 41 MP camera), it is unclear whether Microsoft will release a replacement.
|The Phablet Flagship. With a 6inch screen, the Lumia 1520 proved to be popular with high powered business people. Expect a new version in Q3 2015 at the Windows 10 launch.
The table below shows the current Lumia device classes, main models released per class and their respective launch price (before taxes and subsidizes). For clarity, this table only shows global variants and not region specific variants for certain markets e.g. China.
From the table we can infer the following:
- The Lumia device family has grown from 2 device classes when Nokia joined the Windows Phone platform to 9 device classes.
- In general, the lower the product class, the more affordable the device is. That is to say, a Lumia 4XX will be cheaper than a Lumia 5XX device (of the same generation). The exception here is the Lumia 13XX class. Launched in October 2013 at the same time as the flagship Lumia 1520, the Lumia 1320 is a large screen phablet with a 6 inch display. Unlike the 1520 which commands the highest price premium of all Lumia devices, the Lumia 1320 was priced between the Lumia 720 and Lumia 820. This creates some confusion with customers are they expect the Lumia 1320 to be a “better device” than the Lumia 920 or even the Lumia 1020.
Because Lumia devices are sold globally and thus must support not only multiple languages but country specific network requirements, each Lumia device may have one or more variants. This variant is tracked with a “RM-Code” (The Lumia 920 has 3 different variants RM-820, RM-821, RM-822). Within each variant there will multiple product codes that related to region, network carrier and device color. Each product code has its own specific ROM. Once you factor in the number of continents supported (6), then add countries (115), then device models, then product firmware (e.g. Cyan, Amber, Denim etc.) and finally all the different product codes, it is apparent that managing the Lumia Product family is a herculean task. It’s no wonder that OTA (over the air) updates take some time to fully deploy globally.
Why Does Lumia Have Multiple Devices Classes
With Android and iOS controlling over 95% of the mobile landscape, Microsoft changed their strategy to focus on affordable devices not only for customers based primarily in emerging economies, but for consumers in developed economies as well. As the Windows Phone Platform was designed to run well on minimal requirements, this is a sound medium term strategy. However, this presents two challenges:
As the customers that Microsoft are targeting are very price sensitive, they cannot afford to purchases devices that have all the specifications that the high devices have. Thus Microsoft product managers have to balance features versus cost. For example, the recently announced Lumia 435 is very similar to the Lumia 532. The latter has a 5 MP camera of the 2MP camera of the 435. The price difference of $11 dollars between devices may seem irrelevant to an iPhone buyer. But to someone whose monthly income may be 1/3rd of the device cost, that difference is significant. This can be seen in the Lumia Device Release Schedule Chart 1. More devices are being released in the Lumia 6XX Lumia 5XX device classes.
Supply chain cost reduction
Hardware development in the mobile world is ever accelerating in two directions. As more complex components are designed at the high end, the existing technology becomes even cheaper and more plentiful. This presents a problem when designing a phone to reach a certain affordable price point. Initially the components available to build this device may not provide the desired customer experience (as better components are too pricey), but in order to capture that market segment, the device is released. Over a time, the desired components are cheap enough to be used in the device.
The replacement of the Lumia 530 (just 6 months after launch) with the cheaper AND better Lumia 435, is illustrative of this phenomena. Whereas most Lumia devices have a life cycle of 1 year, the affordable Lumia devices are averaging 3 quarters before they are replaced (refer to Lumia Device Release Schedule Chart 2.)
What Should Microsoft Do To Lessen the Confusion of the Lumia Product Range?
Reduce the number of device classes
Though it is highly unlikely that Microsoft will reduce the number of device classes to three or less (like Apple), it can consolidate and eliminate 2 classes. The Lumia 13XX class needs to be folded into the Lumia 7XX class. Even though it is a phablet design, the high model number causes confusion to consumers who logically think it is has better specifications than the Lumia 8XX, Lumia 9XX and Lumia 10XX series. As much as I love the Lumia 1020, I firmly believe it is unlikely that we will see another Lumia 10XX device, as Microsoft will opt to include all imagining innovation in their Lumia 9XX and Lumia 15XX flagships.
Communicate the differences in Device Classes with better clarity
As mentioned earlier, the shorter product life cycle in the affordable device classes may present some challenges in the communication of new product capability when there are existing products in the market. However, Microsoft needs to do a better job of explaining the differentiation in products within the Lumia family to consumers. Often the devices are marketed separately without any clear message on where the product is placed in the range (with respect to features and price).
Reduce the number of models in each class
The increasing popularity of Dual SIM devices as well improved SOCs (system on a chip) that feature multiple networks bands on a single unit, will reduce the need to have a separate 3G device (Lumia 630) from a LTE device (Lumia 635) and a Single SIM device from a Dual SIM device (Lumia 735 comes in both variants). We should expect to see Dual SIM devices being the stand for mid to ultra-affordable devices from hence forth. Unfortunately, there are certain carriers who demand that devices slated for their network not only meet their specific network configuration, but also but visually different from the global variants. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile in the United States are notorious for this.
UPDATE March 2nd 2015: Microsoft heeded some of the recommendations we outlined about clarifying the Lumia Naming Scheme and just released the Lumia 640XL as the replacement for the Lumia 1320. read about the new Lumia 640XL here.