Nokia’s next phones: is this a grand plan in the works?

n8 colorsToday The Verge revealed that Nokia is apparently planning a successor to the Nokia 920, only with an aluminum body to make the phone lighter, to arrive sometime this year.  While it would be foolish to think that Nokia is doing anything OTHER than planning a new phone, today’s news is interesting on two fronts.

First, of course, is Nokia’s answer to complaints that the 920 is too heavy.  Using an aluminum body, as Nokia did with the (Symbian) N8, their last big release before switching to the Windows Phone platform, allows them to continue emphasizing color as a differentiator while lightening the load.

Next, it may actually explain another complaint about the 920, and that’s the very tight inventory, and difficulty in actually finding a 920 to buy.  If you think of the 920 as a stopgap and a placeholder, designed to create buzz, showcase the Nokia (and Windows Phone) brand, build out production and distribution channels, and soften up the market for a big blitz of 2013 Nokia devices, then it makes a lot of sense to use the 920 to get people talking about, but perhaps not actually buying a current Nokia flagship phone.

Now that doesn’t mean that Nokia wouldn’t sell more 920s if it could, but building out the (especially US) distribution channels takes time, and Nokia is in no position to squander precious resources on phones it might not sell.  Using the 920 to create buzz while greasing the skids for this year’s models, but functioning mainly as a stopgap until everything is up and running, makes a lot of sense in the long run.

This year, when Nokia introduces “Catwalk” (The Verge’s revelation of a codename for this new aluminum body phone), there’s almost no doubt that it will be compared favorably to the 920 (Lighter! Prettier! Available Now!).  If Nokia and Windows Phone play their cards right, it should be in good position to compete with the rumored launch of the iPhone 5s, which may be coming as early as midsummer.

Nokia has come a long way with the Lumia series and Windows Phone.  After jumping off the burning platform, Nokia has slimmed down, concentrated on a few key differentiators like vibrant colors and superior optics, helped Microsoft to push the Windows Phone OS forward, and begin to change perceptions in the marketplace.  Now, in 2013, it’s time to sell some phones.