Yesterday, Nokia unwrapped it’s latest batch of smartphones which the Finish company hopes will help it regain phone market share and start to make a dent in the considerable leads of Apple and Samsung. Nokia is burning through cash at an alarming rate, with much of the company’s future aligned with the success of these smartphones and the Windows 8 OS that they are running.
So, how does it stack up?
Looks: Bold and Colourful
Nokia has a habit of putting out phones which are either beautiful or impressively functional. With the Lumia 920 they have produced a phone as beautiful as the much-praised Lumia 800, but with it’s brightly coloured and durable polycarbonate unibody shell it is even more striking.
There is no way Apple’s lawyers will be gearing up for a Samsung-esque copycat fight here – the Lumia 920 is bright, bold, colourful, and most importantly – very different to its competitors. The curved glass of the display, wrapped in such a sleek shell is an impressive sight. Nokia are one of the few firms that can match Apple on build quality, and they have certainly done that here.
Display: Better than HD
The Lumia 920 offers a 4.5″ screen running at the WXVGA resolution of 1280x768px – that’s 332ppi (just a little higher than the iPhone 4S) – all with a beautiful curved glass display that Lumia 800-owners have raved about. Nokia also claim that their PureMotion HD+ processing technology delivers blur-free motion from video and app scrolling. More importantly, the display also uses a new ClearBlack system for automatically adjusting brightness, colour, and contrast to deliver a clear viewing experience even outside in the bright sunshine on the beach.
Camera: PureView technology and image stabilisation
Most smartphone cameras offer 8-10MP these days, but there is still a wealth of difference between the output due to the lenses used, and the image processing power of the chip. The Lumia 920 comes packing a 8.7MP camera and a Carl Zeiss lens capable of shooting 1080p video at 30fps – which in itself would put it on a par with the best around.
However, Nokia have a couple of extra pieces of their own technology to throw into the mix which appear to produce vastly improved photographs and video. First is the introduction of PureView technology, something Nokia first released in the PureView 808 smartphone – but in essence it enables the camera to take in much more light than traditional smartphone cameras, meaning photographs in dimming light will have that rich depth and subtle light of a SLR-shot photograph but from your smartphone. Second is the image stabilisation technology which Nokia have wrapped around the actual lenses within the phone – meaning that video shot with the phone will be much more like when using a Steadycam than the normally up-down jerkiness we have come to expect from phone-shot video in the past.
We have yet to see these technologies used by real people in real situations, but if they work as claimed and shown in the presentation then these are major leaps forward in smartphone camera technology.
Performance: Fast and efficient
The Lumia 920 will be powered by Qualcomm’s market-leading 1.5GHz S4 Snapdragon processor which will give the device some serious oomph without sacrificing battery life – it is around 30% more power efficient than its quad-core competitors. The device will also come with 1GB RAM, 32GB storage (+7GB Skydrive cloud storage). These internals should see the Lumia 920 very competitive amongst the future iPhone 5 and the top Android handsets.
Battery: Long life and wireless charging
Wireless charging is great, but a bit of a gimmick, and a gimmick offered by Palm a couple of years ago. It is much nicer to be able to just lay your phone down on a surface than to fiddle with wires, but it is hardly a game changer. What is much more important is that Nokia have bumped up the battery capacity to 2000mAh, which should mean plenty of hours of use from the device, especially when combined with the Snapdragon S4 chipset.
Software: Windows 8 – social and Nokia maps
There is little doubt that Nokia have done their part on the hardware side of things to make the Lumia 920 stand out from the crows both in looks and technology, but with the device running Windows 8 – they are starting from a more difficult position than their competitors running Android. Windows Phone 7 was popular with its users, but it never really made a dent in the mobile OS market and old handsets are not upgradeable to Windows 8 much to many users’ disappointment, but how will Windows 8 fare?
Windows Phone 7 was always a stop-gap OS release, and whilst the looks of the OS were striking it did have some drawbacks and most manufacturers focused on Android. Windows 8 is a finished product, a Windows XP over Windows Millennium on the desktop. Microsoft will be pouring money into promoting this OS as it is unifying products across the desktop, tablet and smartphone space, with the striking “Modern UI” (that’s the Metro UI to everyone else) being used across all platforms.
The Windows Phone marketplace already has over 100,000 apps, and one would imagine most of these will get a Windows 8 upgrade. On top of that Microsoft and Nokia have both been working exclusively with app developers to get their popular apps across onto the platform as quickly as possible. And with Android consistently under fire from Apple and Microsoft for patent infringement to the extent that most Android smartphone manufacturers pay Microsoft a license fee for each Android handset sold, I think we will be seeing a lot more Windows-based mobile devices being produced in the next 12 months.
But Windows 8 is very different to both iOS and Android in looks and functionality, so users making the switch will both lose their app collections and need to learn their way around a new OS. This may only take a few days, but most people a change-averse, so they will need to be tempted to make the switch.
Price and Release Date
There is no word on price yet and the release of the Lumia 920 is likely to be October, which will mean that Nokia will be able to undercut the price of the iPhone 5 to give the phone and Windows 8 ecosystem a launching boost.