Confusion swirls around AT&T's Lumia 950 exclusive

Mark Coppock


There’s been some grumbling this morning around Microsoft’s new Lumia 950 and 950XL smartphone flagships. They’re excellent devices, with outstanding design and specifications. But, as CNET has confirmed, the Lumia 950 is slated to be AT&T exclusives in the US, which is disappointing, to say the least.

“It’s the best distribution for this family of devices,” said Tuula Rytila, corporate vice president of marketing for phones and new devices, in an interview.

The industry has been moving away from exclusives over the last few years. Apple iPhones are everywhere, as are Samsung flagship devices. Blanketing the market is vital to building up an installed base, and it’s surprising to see Microsoft push their newest Lumias on a single carrier.
Granted, smartphones remain a long-term play for Microsoft, and so perhaps the increased marketing push afforded by a carrier exclusive will help them in the short-term. Exclusives don’t last forever, of course, and so getting the Lumia name (back) out there with AT&T’s assistance might make some sense. But there’s a base of rabid Windows Phone fans chomping at the bit to transition to Windows 10 Mobile, and many of them are bound to be disappointed.
However, it’s not all set in stone, apparently. At least for T-Mobile fans, there’s a tiny bit of light at the end of this otherwise dark tunnel. AT&T has only announced the Lumia 950, which leaves room for the 950XL to be carried elsewhere. And indeed, the Microsoft Store currently lists an unlocked 950XL that should will work well with T-Mobile and other GSM carriers.

The Lumia 950XL will be available unlocked at the Microsoft Store.
The Lumia 950XL will be available unlocked at the Microsoft Store.

We’re in the very early stages, of course, and so we’ll be keeping an eye out for any and all information. It’s possible that the fog of war will lift, so to speak, and we’ll get better news soon. Microsoft’s event was an exciting affair full of some surprises and overall excellent hardware announcements, and some negativity was bound to creep in. Time will tell just how long it lasts.