Nokia WP8 phones will ramp up differentiation but trim down carriers

Nokia's next-gen Lumia handsets could see a significant departure from the design, functionality and approach of current models, CEO Stephen Elop has teased, with the company preparing strong differentiators for WP8. "As you see the next wave and the wave after that of Lumia products you'll seen an increase in differentiations" Elop said during the Nokia Q2 2012 financial results call today. However, don't expect to see every new Nokia available through every carrier out there.

Elop blamed a lack of time in shifting to Windows Phone 7 initially for the limited differentiation seen so far. Although the Lumia 800 and 900 use a distinctive polycabonate unibody chassis, that was borrowed from existing work on the MeeGo-powered N9. "We've had more time to go beyond that as we go into future releases" Elop suggested.

What that differentiation might be is not specified, but Nokia's chief exec had already set out his strategy for following in the footsteps of Google and Facebook. Nokia will reinvent itself as the "Where" company Elop said, pushing development of location-based services and systems that tie into the various sensors included on each smartphone. "The mobile device will become the nucleus for collecting real-time data from sensors" Elop predicted.

So far, Nokia's differentiators have been generally limited to apps. The company includes Nokia Music, a free streaming radio service with a customizable "Mix Radio" feature, and Nokia Drive, which offers unlimited turn-by-turn navigation. There's also Nokia Transport, which does something similar for public transportation.

As for carrier partners, Elop revealed that Nokia would be using specific carrier targeting for the next Lumias, based on the success of US sales. The broad focus across multiple carriers in Europe wasn't, in fact, as successful as the more specific focus on AT&T with the Lumia 900 in the US, he argued, despite the fact that Nokia sold just 600,000 devices in North America last quarter.