Nokia was once one the premier names involved in the mobile phone market, after its initial range of frills-free mobile phones became massive sellers. In fact, to this day it is a Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) handset that holds the title of biggest selling mobile phone of all time. The rudimentary Nokia 1100 has shifted over 250 million units in total, leaving more salubrious competitors from recent years thoroughly in its dust.

However, the mobile marketplace has changed hugely since the Nokia 1100 ruled the roost. Today, consumers expect their mobile to do everything short of driving their kids to school, and a basic handset such as the Nokia 1100 delivers nowhere near what the market demands. Thus, Nokia has attempted to move into the smartphone market, but at this point in time the Finnish company has a lot of work to do to catch up with the biggest names in the sphere.

Nokia Lumia Icon

The new Nokia Lumia Icon

Nokia is far from finished, though. Some of its recent releases have looked to be a step in the right direction in terms of establishing a significant market presence, and with this in mind Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) and Nokia announced the release of a new Lumia phone, the Icon, in the last 24 hours. This smartphone intends, with a pretty decent multimedia set-up, to re-establish Nokia as a significant player in the smartphone market.

Is the device up to it, though? Taking on Apple and Samsung is certainly far from easy, but this particular Nokia offering looks to have a decent spec list. Firstly, it has a 5-inch display which is more than creditable, and actually bigger than any of the previously released iPhones. In addition to the screen size, the Icon sports a 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 1080p HD display and 32 gigabytes of memory. If 32Gb of storage is insufficient for your needs then you can also claim 7 GB of free storage on Microsoft’s SkyDrive.

Nokia Lumia Icon

In addition, the Icon also has an outstanding camera which is superior to the snapper in both the Galaxy and iPhone. Its 20-megapixel camera and advanced features related to it mean that anyone purchasing this phone can certainly use it as a high-quality camera as and when required. The Icon boasts advanced zoom and editing features enabling anyone that uses it to take the sharpest photos and videos.

Generally speaking, the Icon seems to have received pretty decent reviews thus far. Time Magazine rated the device as “the best Windows Phone for Verizon”, which is no small achievement for Nokia, even if the drawbacks of being a Windows phone have been discussed here already. CNET noted that the Nokia Lumia performed particularly well in terms of speed, and that the operating system used by the device is particularly impressive, allowing users to zip around and navigate the menu system smoothly and seamlessly.

But though the device has a solid set of specs, in this day and age smartphones need to offer something truly outstanding and/or unique in order to prosper. As the Nokia device is a Windows Phone it cannot draw upon the vast catalog of apps that are offered by both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems. One wonders whether the Icon can find a significant niche in the market given the immense competition which exists in the smartphone strata.

The Windows Phone quandary

At this point in time, achieving any market penetration if you’re not a Galaxy or an iPhone is extremely difficult. Aside from the app-related drawbacks of Windows Phones, they simply don’t have the prestige of either the Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) or Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) devices. And while the Icon comes in at a much lower price point, consumers have been shown over the last few years to be more than willing to shell out a couple of hundred extra dollars to get their hands on the most sought-after smartphones.

The relationship between Microsoft and Nokia is an interesting one, and one that could conceivably shake up the mobile marketplace. But Microsoft knows from its own experience that establishing yourself in a market in which there are powerful competitors can be extremely difficult. The company itself has dominated the desktop PC operating market, and indeed the desktop PC software market in general, despite the fact that Windows has been criticized by many. Yet competitors to Windows have really achieved very little.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) may believe that it can force its range of Nokia phones into the forefront of the mobile phone market in much the same way that its Xbox video games consoles have at least equaled the market leaders in this strata. But the mobile phone space is an extremely competitive marketplace, and one in which fashion counts for a hell of a lot, even more than in video games consoles. Gamers will generally play the best games, but as we’ve seen in a mobile phone survey today, smartphone users need to be given an outstanding reason to ditch their favored handset.

Though it is a solid performer with an excellent camera, it is doubtful that the Nokia Lumia Icon is that device.