After months of rumors, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) has just confirmed its Lumia 928 does indeed exist. The slightly modified version of its Lumia 920 flagship is expected to launch on Verizon's (NYSE:VZ) network, although neither company is spilling the beans regarding any official dates quite yet.
The Finnish smartphone maker has posted a teaser image on its website, along with some print ads to the same effect. In line with Nokia's new differentiation strategy, the company is focusing heavily on camera capabilities and touting its PureView brand. Nokia notes that the new model will boast better low-light performance as well as optical image stabilization.
Scoring a spot on Big Red's lineup would be a boon to both Nokia and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in the important U.S. market, since Verizon Wireless remains the largest domestic carrier. Verizon has historically given Windows Phone low priority, in part because the HTC Trophy fared poorly among consumers. Nokia only has one device on Verizon right now, the Lumia 822, which was initially launched as a mid-range device but has since been dropped to free on contract.
Microsoft has been making progress in the U.S. market, thanks largely to Nokia since the Finnish OEM is the predominant purveyor of Windows Phones. Kantar Worldpanel Comtech's most recent figures show that Windows Phone grew its U.S. market share to 5.6% in the first quarter, a healthy gain relative to the 3.7% slice it had a year ago.
In doing so, Microsoft has successfully claimed the No. 3 title from BlackBerry (NYSE:BB), whose U.S. share has fallen to 0.9%. BlackBerry's Z10 launched in the U.S. at the very end March, so if the Z10 is going to turnaround BlackBerry's fortunes, investors won't find out until second-quarter U.S. figures are released by industry watchers. There had been reports of high return rates for the Z10 in the U.S. after launch -- reports that BlackBerry adamantly disputed.
Verizon has been known to be ambivalent in the past, though. Big Red's decision to bail on Palm in favor of its own Droid campaign was a death knell for Palm. The difference is that Palm was betting on carrier exclusivity, while Nokia is diversifying with a wider range of carriers so its reliance any single carrier is less.
Nokia still plays the exclusivity game with carriers. The Lumia 920 is still an AT&T exclusive, but the slightly modified Lumia 928 is free to pair up with Big Red.
Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple and Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.