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Nokia, Motorola Try to Front-Run Apple’s iPhone 5: “It’s a Hail Mary,” Analyst Says

·Editor in Chief

A week ahead of Apple's widely expected unveiling of the iPhone 5, Nokia (NOK) and Motorola are each launching their latest smartphones today.

Nokia is expected to launch it latest Lumia phone running on the Windows 8 operating system while Motorola is expected to unveil a new Droid Razr M smartphone running on Android.

At separate events in New York, both handset makers will try to make a splash and steal some thunder from Apple (AAPL) ahead of the iPhone 5. It's a bold strategy but one destined to fail, according to Brian White, managing director of tech research at Topeka Capital Markets.

"I think it's a big mistake," White says of the strategy of trying to front-run the iPhone. "For a lot of these companies it's a Hail Mary [pass]. One last chance to put out a blockbuster and compete against the iPhone."

The bottom line, White says, is the Nokia and Motorola brands have "deteriorated significantly" and it's going to be nearly impossible for them to steal mind share — much less market share — from Apple.

"When's the worst time to launch a smartphone?" he asks rhetorically. "When Apple does."

Many observers believe the recent jury ruling against Samsung's Android phones could benefit Nokia and the Windows platform, since it's so clearly distinguishable from Apple's iOS. The ruling might be "incrementally positive" for Windows phones, White concedes. But "Nokia in the U.S. is still a nobody" and "most consumers have opted out of the Windows platform for smartphones," which had just 3.6% share of the U.S. market in July vs. 52.2% for Android and 33.4% for iPhone, according to comScore MobiLens.

To be sure, White's skepticism about Nokia and Motorola -- as well as Research In Motion (RIMM) and HTC, which is launching a new phone on Sept. 19 — is predicated on his unfettered optimism about Apple.

White, who has an $1,111 price target on Apple shares, expects the iPhone 5 will be a blockbuster hit; he predicts sales of 8 to 10 million units between the Sept. 12 unveiling and the ship date on Sept. 21.

"iPhone 5 will be the big upgrade everyone is expecting," he predicts. "Even if you bought the iPhone 4 or 4S, you're probably going to want to upgrade."