In the build-up to the October release of Windows 8 for desktops and tablets, Nokia released details of their new Lumia range comprising of the 920 and the 820, both in-place upgrades to the existing Lumia 800 and 900 which will forever be stuck with Windows Phone 7.8. Motorola, sensing the impending wave of press-made drool from the upcoming Apple iPhone reveal, also chose to reveal the lineup of the Razr refresh, details of which will follow. Amazon is also doing a reveal of its new Kindles today, but that conference hasn’t yet started. In the meantime, let me introduce you to what could be your next upgrade.
First up, Motorola’s Razr family.
First things first, though, forget about the Droid Razr MAXX HD for the next few months. Yes, it might have a 720p 4.7″ screen, a Qualcomm Krait dual-core 1.5GHz processor, oodles of RAM and a massive 3300mAh battery wrapped in a carbon-like kevlar body. But you won’t get to use it. No, unfortunately you’ll only be able to own one right now if you’re on the Verizon CDMA network. GSM versions are expected next year, giving Verizon enough time to market the phone and grab all the market share it can.
The Razr HD and RazrM will, however, be heading to all countries with GSM networks. The HD isn’t all that different from the MAXX, boasting the same 720p 4.7″ Super AMOLED screen, 8MP camera with flash, 32GB of flash storage with a SD slot to further expand that, the same Krait dual-core 1.5GHz processor and Android Ice Cream Sandwich, with a Jelly Bean update on the way.
The RazrM is a little more likely to land in your hands in the future. Featuring a 4.3″ screen at 960 x 540 resolution (the same as the original Razr), the phone features a rather slim chassis that almost wraps around the screen to reduce the size of the bezel, making it seem smaller than it actually is. This makes the phone easier to handle than most other mobiles of the same size, many of which actually pack smaller screens of the 3.5″ variety. It uses a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor running at 1GHz and maxes things out at 1GB of RAM, with 8GB of RAM available for user storage before you shove in a SD card. Just how big is it? Its around the same size as the iPhone 4 and 4S. So if you’re not a fan of the massive Galaxy S3 (or don’t have big enough pockets for one, hehe) then this might be something to look forward to.
And Nokia also brought out its big guns, but I need to say something before I go into those phones. I’m watching the Nokia Press Conference from last night, in 15-second short bursts, using the Realplayer built-in browser. If you have a faster line speed than my pitiful ADSL 384 connection, this is the only way it’ll work properly. And you can skip through Jo Foley’s reveal if you’re going to read the rest of this column, because unfortunately she is extremely boring as a speaker. Sorry Jo, that’s just the way things are.
Another thing that you have to keep in mind is that the sample videos and photos that you see that are purported to have been shot by the Lumia 920 have actually been done by professional cameras. The first hint was a reflection of a camera crew travelling in a van alongside a very attractive Finnish girl on a bicycle, caught in the window of a caravan they passed. The night-time shots were also done by a professional camera and had elements like extra lighting and a slight over-saturation of colours that seemed too good to be true.
However, its not that bad, merely a PR blunder that should have been avoided (and one which Apple will take advantage of later, no doubt). To evidence the real capabilities of their camera, Nokia built a brick wall with a vase hidden inside showered by some poor lighting conditions. They demonstrated that coupled with their optimisations to the camera and the stronger flash, they were able to take a decent, well-coloured shot of the vase inside.
The Lumia 920, shown above, is the flagship Windows Phone 8 device for Nokia and just about crams every little bit of technology the company has worked on in the last few years. The impressive stats start off with a 4.5″ ClearBlack LED-backlit display that Nokia calls PureMotion HD+. In reality, its just a high-definiton panel running at 1280 x 768 and protected by Gorilla glass. The processor is a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor running at 1.5GHz and RAM is set at 1GB with 32GB of flash-based storage space and 7GB of free Skydrive cloud storage. Unfortunately, just like previous Lumias, the 920 won’t support SD memory cards which is a bit odd for a device with the Pureview label tacked onto the camera.
Speaking of the camera, its a 8.7MP unit with a f/2.0 aperture (for comparison the Nokia Pureview 808, with the 41MP sensor, was massively ahead with a f/1.2 aperture size) for catching in more light. The camera features Image Stabilisation of the same sort found in the iPhone 4S, something omitted from the final specifications of the Pureview 808 because Nokia wanted a hardware path they could build on. The camera also features auto-focus and allows for macro shots. There’s a front-facing 1.2MP unit for use with Skype and other vide0-calling apps.
The major enhancements to the camera interface for all future Lumias is the lenses. Lenses are apps that are side-loaded by the camera that can control the picture once you’ve taken it. CNN iReporter, ESPN sport and other plugins will he available for the phone and for other Windows Phone 8 devices, allowing you to upload or edit the picture using the plugin. In addition, the camera now has an overlaid GUI to use the Augmented Reality engine powered by Nokia’s Maps and Locations database, called Nokia City Lens. As shown above, launching the camera and using the City Lens app overlays names and ratings of restaurants and stores nearby you that you can visit and walk to. In the Press demo this integrated in with Microsoft’s Local Scout, allowing you to rate locations and even bring up contact information like phone numbers if you wanted to book a table at a restaurant. Note the nifty little directional compass on the top-left side of the screen.
The phone also ships with a large 2000mAh battery, keeping it powered, Nokia says, for over two full days. How it achieves that figure remains to be seen, but its a welcome update if you’re one that loathes charging your phones regularly. And on the subject of charging, the Lumia 920 supports the Qi Wireless charging standard, allowing for a range of devices to be able to charge your phone without plugging in any cables. Nokia will be partnering with coffee and book shops across America to have Qi chargers built-in to tables and other surfaces, allowing you to charge your phone while you’re sitting down for coffee. Jo Harlow had something called the Fatboy on the screen behind her, a fabric-covered Qi-based charger than actually folds over the arm of your sofa and charges your phone while it rests on it. That’s pretty damn cool.
The Lumia 820 is a bit different and even features a different design language to what we’ve become used to with the Lumia 800 and 900, The phone is more slab-like in appearance (and more crucially looks nothing like an iPhone), with the same set of volume buttons, a lock screen button and a half-press camera shutter on the right of the phone. The back is a glossy, curved affair and the back covers can actually be snapped off and changed on a whim. Nokia shows a total of seven colours, which means that you could have one for each day of the week.
The screen is a 4.3″ PureMotion HD+ unit if 800 x 480 resolution, protected by Gorilla glass. The processor is again a Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core. RAM is again set at 1GB with user-accessable storage sitting at 8GB. But the Lumia 820 has a rather welcome SD card slot underneath the interchangeable covers, purportedly with a hot-swap feature. There’s more to it than that, though, as you’ll see in the demonstration by Nokia Conversations of how the covers work.
Skip to 0:50. That there is a user-replaceable battery, something Lumia users have been clamouring for, for ages. Not only does this mean that you won’t have to send your phone in because of battery failures, as has been the case previously with the Nokia N8, N9, Lumia 710; 800 and 900 mobile phones, as well as dozens of other competitors such as the Apple iPhone and the Motorola Razr. Being able to swap out batteries was something sorely needed when people started realising the phone’s limits.
The rest of the phone is an upgrade all-round over the outgoing Lumia 800. The back covers also match the colours of various available accesories Nokia is creating, giving you the option to have everything purple if you so wished (sexual frustration jokes aside). The phone carries some of the same camera enhancements of the 920, with image stabilisation being the only omission. Physically, the phone is similar in thickness to the Lumia 800 and will fit into your pocket with the same ease. The front-facing camera is now a VGA unit, capturing footage in 640 x 480 resolution.
Both phones can be charged wirelessly, with the Lumia 820 only requiring special snap-on covers that come with the charging coils built in. Both pack NFC, Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n cards, digital compasses and GPS navigation units that support A-GPS and the Russian-developed GLONASS system, another hint that Microsoft/Nokia is taking Mother Russia very seriously as a potential market. Both screens can be used with gloves, something that capacitive touch units haven’t been able to do since they were first released.
And both come with Windows Phone 8, a mobile OS that, from what I’ve seen, is just about as perfect as I could ask for. The way the interface works from the tiles Start screen, the way in which social networking is the primary focus and the way in which photos and videos are handled on Skydrive is just completely different from the design philosophy Microsoft had years ago when they first debuted Windows Phone 7. They’re doing an astoundingly good job and one hopes that eventually they’ll turn their attention to the Zune software and make some improvements there. As far as these new phones are concerned, they’re nearly perfect.
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