The Lumia 900, Nokia's flagship Windows Phone 7 model, launched in the U.S. on Easter Sunday. But many stores that are expected to carry it were closed, muffling the impact of a premiere that an AT&T spokesperson had said would be "a notch above anything we've ever done," including the iPhone.

On Friday night, Nokia had sponsored a concert by singer Nicki Minaj in New York City's Times Square to promote the launch of the 900. There were electronic displays, free "Lumia Light" cocktails, and other promotions. But, according to news reports, on the actual day of the launch, Sunday, virtually all of the 39 AT&T stores near Times Square were closed or did not answer phone calls, while others did not yet have the 900 in stock.

'A Mistake'

The Easter Sunday launch has been getting a thumbs-down from many industry observers, especially since the 900 is considered critical to the success of the Windows Phone 7 platform and the alliance between Nokia and Microsoft.

We asked Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis, why the companies would launch on such a big holiday. He said that the holiday is the start of AT&T's spring promotional campaign, and "Sundays are when the stores generally change over their promotions."

But, Greengart said, "it was a mistake to launch on Easter, and they should have waited" until Monday, adding that it is "too early to tell" if the U.S. launch will be successful.

As for the phone's competitive advantages against a crowded field that includes hit devices running on Apple's iOS and Google's Android, Greengart praised the industrial design of the 900, whose machined polycarbonate shell "looks and feels like nothing else on the market."

'The App Gap'

The phone also differentiates itself in the new Windows Phone 7's interface. Greengart said he expected that the interface's hubs, live-data Relevant Products/Services tiles, and other unique features will be appealing to many potential users.

But the Phone 7 platform will need to ramp up available apps, given what Greengart called "the app gap." While there are tens of thousands of apps now available for Phone 7 devices, he pointed out, there are "hundreds of thousands" for competitors' phones.

As part of its promotional effort, and to emphasize the efficiency of its Phone 7 platform, Microsoft has set up "free-time machines" in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, from which users can obtain free offers of meals, personal shoppers, cleaning, dog walking and other daily tasks.

Reports on online sales have indicated the 900 is selling comparatively well, driven at least in part by its $99.99 price. As of Monday, the 900 models in black and cyan were first and third, respectively, on Amazon's list of best-selling phones with service plans.

But a possible wrinkle in the rollout is a report of problems in connecting the 900 to a data network. Some users are complaining that the issue occurs not on first use, but occasionally on subsequent ones.