It doesn't matter if Microsoft stops making Lumia phones

Surface phone

There's a rumor going around that Microsoft is going to drop the Lumia brand from its portfolio. So what?

The rumor came from a line in the press release from the Redmond firm, which announced that Microsoft was selling its feature phone business to FIH Mobile and HMD Global – essentially cutting off a big part from the deal it struck with Nokia in 2013.

The line goes as follows: "Microsoft will continue to develop Windows 10 Mobile and support Lumia phones such as the Lumia 650, Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, and phones from OEM partners like Acer, Alcatel, HP, Trinity and VAIO. "

OK – you can read that how you want. On the one hand, it's a triumphant battle cry from Microsoft, pointing out that it doesn't matter its exiting a declining featurephone market as it'll still be right behind the smartphone platform, and that's the reason it purchased Nokia anyway.

We've not heard anything from Microsoft in the past year that suggests otherwise either, despite the terrible decline in sales of its Lumia smartphones year on year, even with new flagship models appearing.

Or you could read the word 'supporting' as meaning 'we'll look after the phones, but that's your lot'. No more Lumia phones.

Well, that kind of makes sense anyway. The heavily-rumored Surface Phone is in the offing, a high-spec device that Microsoft will concentrate its marketing efforts on in an attempt to replicate the success of the Surface tablet range that's turned into a billion-dollar line.

Dropping Lumia would be like LG getting rid of the word Optimus from its range of handsets, or even Samsung dropping Galaxy – it makes no difference to what's underneath. A Surface Phone could be called the Lumia 960 Pro and have the same specs – but it would be easier to market.

If 'buying a Lumia' had the same cachet as 'buying an iPhone' then things would be difference – if the iPhone 7 suddenly became the iPad Pro Pocket (OK, I'll never get a job in Apple's marketing department) then we'd have a real clue about what was coming.

But Microsoft, if it does drop the Lumia line, should be commended for its bravery and agility – it's not giving up on Windows 10 Mobile despite its faltering performance, and pivoting the name to improve its chances is a great thing.

Surface phone

If anything, it would probably be a brilliant move for Microsoft to drop the Lumia line, as it links it with Nokia too heavily. The Nokia Lumia 520 was one of the best-selling phones for the brand, and while it didn't hit the same heady heights, the Lumia 530 / 535 was also a success, coming too under the Nokia branding before it disappeared on the Lumia 550.

So with that in mind Microsoft doesn't want to be associated with an old project if it's trying to create a new marketing image for its high end phones, and Surface phone tells a stronger message than something named Lumia.

That said, there's still a market for the Lumia names on phones, if only just to differentiate between the high- and low-end handsets in Microsoft's portfolio – there's still a strong market for cheaper smartphones and Lumia is a better-known brand name than Surface in some regions thanks to the past performance of the 500-series phones.

So the question of whether or not Microsoft is dropping Lumia is moot – it just needs to do whatever it can to make Windows 10 Mobile a success.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.