**Editor's Note: Click here for our most recent list of America's hottest selling smartphones to see how Nokia fared against the competition.**
Nokia isn't set to release its full slate of fourth-quarter numbers until Jan. 24, but the Finland-based handset giant is beaming about the first increase it's seen in smartphone shipments in a year.
The Lumia 920 and a handful of other devices based on Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system are the reason why; that, and a big marketing push by both the manufacturer and the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant. Nokia says it shipped 4.4 million Lumias in Q4 2012, a number that was only tempered by the company's announcement that its devices and services division would still have a drop in net sales from the year-ago quarter – down from €6 billion to €3.9 billion. Its total number of device shipments – mostly feature phones – were down significantly, from 113.5 million to 86.3 million.
Nokia, once the world's preeminent handset maker, is still in catch-up mode, and could be for a while. The smartphone revolution, led by Apple and a handful of prominent Android device makers, left it behind until last year, when the company established a partnership with Microsoft and its Windows Phone OS. The first fleet of Lumias – based on Windows 7 – failed to gain much traction. But the most recent batch – based on Windows 8 – has been greeted with more enthusiasm by carriers and customers, as evidenced by a number of sellouts at retail outlets around the world in the past couple of months.
Some analysts have pooh-poohed those sellouts, claiming they were more due to a supply shortage than a new Nokia phone craze. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop acknowledged the lack of supply on a conference call, the Wall Street Journal reported, but spun it more positively, saying, "Demand for our products has been greater than the available supply. If you went into a store to buy a new Nokia, there were times when our devices weren't available, so indeed we could have sold more Lumias."
Component shortages have been an issue for Nokia and other vendors, Elop noted. He said sales exceeded expectations, especially for the flagship Lumia 920, which, in the U.S., is an AT&T exclusive. He said customer response has made him "very pleased."
Look for Nokia to give more financial details in its earnings report in a couple of weeks, when the company is expected to deliver "underlying profitability."
Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.