Eighteen months ago Nokia bet big on Microsoft's Windows Phone, as its Symbian OS had lost its way -- and with it any customer interest -- and its attempts to invent a new mobile OS (Maemo and MeeGo) had gone nowhere. Nokia's first Windows Phone 7.5 devices, the Lumia series, shipped this spring to positive reviews but few sales, as customers remained focused on Android and iOS. Then in July Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8, due in late October, would not run on existing Windows Phone devices, putting the brakes on what momentum Nokia had.
Today Nokia announced its Windows Phone 8 flagship, the Lumia 920. The Lumia 920 looks very much like previous Lumia devices, but features an 8.7-megapixel rear camera with what Nokia says are advanced lenses and optics hardware; 8-megapixel cameras are typical in today's high-end smartphones, and Apple and HTC have both included advanced optics in their recent models.
The Lumia 920 also uses a high-resolution, 4.5-inch display that Nokia says is sharper than competing displays, including Apple's Retina display. The screen uses WXGA resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels, compared to the iPhone 4's 960-by-480-pixel resolution. It also has automatic polarization to make the screen more readable in sunlight.
Nokia will include its Nokia Maps application in the Nokia 920 -- the same mapping technology and offline maps that Nokia provides to navigation devices used in cars. When Nokia first announced its Windows Phone plans, it said it would use its maps technology to differentiate its smartphones from competitors' models. What distinguishes Nokia Maps from other map apps is its "City Lens" augmented reality capabilities, where you can display information about a building or other landmark that you've aimed the camera at. Nokia CEO Steve Elop described the experience as "immersive," a term he also used to describe the Nokia 920's high-resolution display.
As widely rumored, the Lumia 920 uses an inductive charger rather than a cable, so you can lay the device down on its charging surface to recharge its 2000mAh battery. Nokia is using the Qi standard for such "wireless" surface-contact chargers.
Unlike most modern high-end smartphones, the Nokia 920 uses a dual-core ARM processor (Qualcomm's 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4) rather than a quad-core chip. Nokia claims the performance is similar but the power usage is significantly less. The Lumia 920 will have 32GB of flash storage and a near-field communications (NFC) chip that can be used for mobile payments and other short-range wireless interactions.
Nokia had little to say about Windows Phone 8 itself, although Microsoft has announced it will include some management and security features that Microsoft's first two versions of Windows Phone lacked.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.