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Discussion Starter #1

Nokia has done it tough the past few years.

Once synonymous with innovation, quality, and market dominance, Nokia's stock price has slid steadily (from $US40) since late 2007, around the time Apple's iPhone 1st entered the market. It has lost heavy ground in terms of market share to both Apple iOS and Google's Android platform.

Nokia's staple Symbian operating system, renowned for its user-unfriendliness and frustrating quirks, was hastily adapted for new Nokia touch screen phones but failed miserably to keep apace with competing operating systems specifically designed to make full use of recent innovations in touch screen technology.

One thing that helped keep Nokia's battered banner flying was its reputation as a leader in incorporating quality camera lenses in its smartphones. But even the flagship N8 with its outstanding 12 megapixel camera, released late-2010 and intended as Nokia's big fight back, was again let down by the severely outclassed Symbian user interface.

On top of that, Nokia has had a history of neglecting its phone software and its Ovi app store was more fiddly and not as reliable as those of competitors. With the likes of the iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy S, and HTC Desire around, the N8 just could not penetrate the market – Nokias were just too slow and too unintuitive.

Then, in February 2011, Nokia's new CEO Stephen Elop, formerly of Microsoft, announced that Nokia had signed a deal worth billions with Microsoft that would see a shift away from Symbian into a new era of Nokia phones running the Windows Phone 7 (WP7) platform. Analysts and investors reacted and Nokia's stock price instantly fell 11 per cent.

Many observers hissed that this deal would be the end of Nokia. Symbian loyalists felt betrayed. Apple and Android fanboys gloated that uncool Microsoft could not possibly compete in the rapidly progressive, highly glossy smartphone race.

Others could not understand why Nokia had suddenly abandoned MeeGo, a Linux-based operating system designed in conjunction with Intel which had up till then been seen by many as a promising Nokia alternative to Symbian.

Further restructuring, outsourcing and job losses over the coming months again besieged the already shattered company and appeared to validate the naysayers' points.

Months went by and apart from some confusing leaks there was no sign of any Nokia Windows Phones. In June 2011 Nokia inexplicably announced a MeeGo phone, the N9, but, while being an elegant and simple design, it was received with mixed reactions by observers who labelled it a “dead” platform – Nokia had stated it was concentrating on WP7 and it was believed that there would be few updates or apps available in future for the MeeGo N9.

Nokia's stock value, affected also by the European debt crisis, dwindled to $US4.82, its lowest point since the late 1990s.

It appeared the company was doomed.

I, however, disagreed. I thought it was premature to write off Nokia. It was, by my observations, the best time to invest in the company.

Here are several reasons why I believe Nokia could be on the verge of a major comeback over the next couple of years.


While analysts and investors reacted negatively to the Microsoft deal, I believe it was the best move available. The deal is worth billions to both Nokia and Microsoft, and the investment is so great for Microsoft that it has to make it work. The WP7 platform, despite its potential, has not yet been able to claim significant market share since its initial release in October 2010, perhaps due to a half-hearted marketing effort by Microsoft and early partners such as HTC. But Microsoft now sees its enormous partnership with Nokia as its ticket into the smartphone race. This is also make or break for Nokia, its very survival literally depends on the success of this partnership. Both companies know the stakes.

Many observers thought Nokia should have gone the Android path, but I think WP7 is a good choice – it's different. iPhone and Android phones have already saturated the market. As Microsoft's Steve Balmer put it, the entry of Microsoft's WP7 into the smartphone ecosystem would mean it was now a three horse race.

I should point out that I have owned a Nokia Symbian phone for over the past 4 years. I myself had actually vowed to never again buy another Nokia because of the frustrations I have noted. But then I had a look at Nokia's direction since the Microsoft deal. I have not owned an iPhone, Android phone, or WP7 phone, and so am quite unbiased either way. I also happily cross-pollinate my Apple iPod and iTunes with my Windows PC (cue the fanboy shudders).

So moving on, I have played with each of these three phone platforms in detail and have certain impressions. I must say I am intrigued by Windows Phone 7's unique style compared to the other 2.

WP7 is an elegant platform. I was drawn instantly to its Metro interface. Now don't get me wrong, it really is a matter of personal preference – but I really like the way that the tiles seem alive and animated, constantly updating with incoming alerts and social network updates. I also like the way the pictures album flicks over like a little digital photo frame. I appreciate being able to see everything I want to see – updates, calendar, photo albums, all on the one screen without one blocking the other. iPhone and Android, by contrast, tend to have a wallpaper picture partly obscured by icons or text, or other useful information not readily displayed on the homescreen without entering an app or sliding down a notification panel.

Apple's iPhone is undoubtedly an excellent phone, the smoothness of its user interface is unmatched. Yet Apple is maligned for being exceptionally restrictive with what users can and cannot do. This of course is not a problem for many users but iPhone is just not for everyone.

And despite Android's great ability to customise, its great openness is also one of its major flaws: less quality control means less neatness. Perhaps updates will improve this but I think in general its interface is quite clunky. It comes across as quite a boyish, rough sort of operating system, if that makes sense.

WP7 seems to meet both half way. It seems very easy to use. Especially since its Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” update, its interface is smooth – comparable to iPhone's and slightly less restrictive. And while it may not be as customisable as Android, it is also less clunky and jerky. I believe Nokia Windows Phones, with this elegant feel, would probably appeal well to female and male users alike, if only they knew about it.

This comes to another reason why Nokia might make a comeback. It has been advertising its Nokia N9 (the MeeGo one) very heavily, and I believe that when the Nokia Windows Phones begin hitting major markets Microsoft and Nokia will go all out with marketing and advertising.

Just a couple of weeks ago, at the Nokia World conference in London on October 26 2011, Nokia finally announced its first Windows Phones: the Lumia 800 and 710. The new flagship Lumia 800, boasting a beautiful polycarbonate unibody design, an 8 megapixel still camera, 720pHD video, and features such as free voice-guided navigation and downloadable music playlists, was received well and will be released in selected European and Asian countries over the coming days and weeks.

Australia – and more importantly the United States – will follow in early 2012.

One concern I have is that by the time these phones are released in many countries, particularly the US, other competing phones may be released which severely challenge the specs of these first Nokia Windows Phones. 8 megapixel camera phones are also pretty standard these days, and many, such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and the iPhone 4s, already record video at 1080p full HD. By the time Nokia's phones hit the US market, perhaps other companies will have phones available with higher quality, higher resolution cameras. The rumoured Samsung Galaxy S III, successor to the popular S II, is expected to arrive early next year with monster specs. Many phones also already come with 1GB of RAM and dual-core processors – hardware currently unaccepted in the current Mango iteration of WP7.

And who knows what the iPhone 5 will bring. Being Steve Jobs's last project, it will no doubt be a significant unveiling. Will we see stereoscopic cameras? Solar cells behind the screen or incorporated into the body? Some rumours even suggest it will be bendable.

The Siri voice activated personal assistant on the new iPhone 4s has also been a marketing success for Apple, and there is no question that it is the most sophisticated voice controlled application on any mobile device so far. Its ability to understand conversational speech is quite amazing. But while Windows Phone users may not necessarily be able to enjoy sassy Siri-like responses to off-topic questions such as “Siri, will you marry me?”, WP7.5 has its own Speech application which performs essentially the same functions (sending dictated SMS, voice activated dialling, web searches, weather reports etc.), and performs them well. Moreover, this intelligent voice interaction will continually improve (while hopefully not becoming Skynet).

With regard to the new Nokias, I would have tried to ensure that the Lumia 800 was released with hardware that truly stood out from the rest on the market. A 10 megapixel camera sensor, for example, would have been a stand-out selling point.

But 8 megapixels, backed up by quality lenses and good camera processing, is still nothing to be sneezed at. And Windows Phone Mango, due to the neatness of its code, seems to run very happily on 512MB and single-core. If Microsoft swiftly follows things up with the anticipated “Tango” update for Windows Phone, enabling larger RAM, multiple cores, and different screen resolutions (Bluetooth file transfers and mass storage mode would be nice, too), it would negate most advantages other platforms are perceived as having over Nokia's Windows Phones.


The new Nokia phones already have the right look for success, but it is also crucial that Nokia very quickly follows the Lumia 800 up with new devices, in a competitive timeframe, that have hardware that can face up to anything else out there. It's time to stop playing catch-up. But, not withstanding whatever Apple has up its sleeve, Nokia should be able to hold the line.

Importantly, at Nokia World, marketing managers spoke of the massive campaign to bring the new Nokia WP7 phones to the attention of consumers. It appears that Nokia's marketing team aims to “call back its legions” – drawing on its past position of market power by going all out with, advertising, point of purchase impact and partner accessories.

A crucial aspect of convincing buyers will be to convince (and educate) the sellers. I have, for example, recently been advised by mobile store staff that the Windows Phone 7 would suit a business customer, and that they prefer and recommend iPhone or Android. Others are quite biased against WP7 because of the old issue-ridden Windows Mobile from years gone by. Clearly, these sellers do not yet realise that WP7 is targeted squarely at the mass-consumer market. With a massive advertising and retail education campaign Nokia's Windows Phones will seek to change these outdated perceptions.

I believe that, once consumers become aware of them, Nokia WP7 phones will have significant mass market appeal and impact – particularly because of the elegant design already noted above. The Nokia industrial design in these phones is strikingly beautiful. Again, they are different.

A reason why the iPhone is not often seen as product placement in big budget movies is because “everyone has 1” and they do not seem special. I did, however, notice that Nokia phones were featured in the recent Transformers 3 film. This type of investment is a good move, and the featuring in other films of market available Nokia WP7 phones can only add to awareness and appeal. Sony Ericsson, for example, made quite a big impact by featuring its phones in Casino Royale.

With regard to Nokia's strategic leadership, CEO Stephen Elop has done the best he could under very difficult circumstances. He has obviously invested a lot of himself in Nokia's restructure and planned comeback. A lot is riding on his decisions. While many chastise him for being Microsoft's agent, I have been quietly confident that he has the right stuff. I had this sentiment reinforced after reading his Twitter update in which he quoted Sun Tzu's necessity to believe in oneself, and his desire to execute well against the company strategy.

Nokia also has great patent strength. Apple and Samsung have been having a legal tug-of-war with each other over various patent breaches that have resulted in costly and time-consuming injunctions. Nokia holds thousands upon thousands of patents and has recently been payed a truckload from Apple because of it. This patent strength, and Nokia's ability on the most part to avoid patent breaches, is a significant Nokia asset.

It should be noted that Nokia and Microsoft have been investing a lot of effort into ensuring that its app marketplace and accompanying software (such as Microsoft's Zune) work well. Money has been poured into encouraging developers to fill the WP7 marketplace.

And Microsoft's impending release of Windows 8, which should filter across all its devices – PCs, tablets, phones – should also make a big difference in creating a truly combined ecosystem rivalling Apple's deep and successful integration between its various devices.

Windows phones aside, Nokia has just released an update for its MeeGo N9 and also announced at Nokia World its new “Asha” Symbian phones designed to target its emerging markets (another Nokia strength) such as in India and Africa. These moves will tend to dispel rumours that Nokia will not continue to support the two platforms, at least into the near future.

So it is possible that Nokia (with Microsoft help) may just have the right recipe for success after all. It just needs to get new and competitive phones to the US market as soon as possible – and market them well. It has just been announced that the successor to Nokia's mammoth 12 megapixel N8 is coming in 2012. Well, it's once thing to say something is coming; it's another to actually deliver in time to make an impact in a rapidly moving market. But there are undoubtedly millions of loyalists ready to believe in Nokia again, and many more out there just ready for something different. If Microsoft continues to add new and innovative features to the platform, Nokia and its Windows Phones will be an excellent alternative to all the iPhones and Androids out there.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
710


It's not the Nokia / Microsoft lovechild we've all been patiently awaiting here in the states. No, it's the other Lumia -- the low-end one. And it's headed for a berth on T-Mobile's airwaves next week, on January 11th. Rather than go big (or go home), Espoo's chosen to wade gently into the shallow waters of the US smartphone market, loading this budget Mango device with respectable mid-range specs and an irresistible price. The Lumia 710 is a $50 on contract proposition geared towards easing folks inept at the smarter aspects of wireless gadgetry into the 21st century. With a 3.7-inch ClearBlack LCD display, a 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor aided by 512MB of RAM, a decent 5 megapixel rear shoot capable of 720p video capture and, of course, Windows Phone 7.5, it may do just that. The obvious hurdle keeping this able phone from flying off the shelves has little to do with performance and everything to do with Nokia's stateside brand recognition. So, join us after the break as we put this unassuming handset through its paces and determine whether or not the 710's training wheels are worth a Grant.


Hardware
When Nokia trotted out the Lumia 800 a few short months ago, it shone brightly amidst the clutter of high-end, samey handsets and hinted at an exciting future of mobile design. True, that phone's casing is simply a rehashing of the D.O.A. though much loved N9, but a similar recycling would've been much welcomed here. Instead, the 710 is, at best, inoffensive and a copycat of the Nokia 603; it disappears into the hand and garners no affection for its oddly-tapered rectangular shape. Weighing in at 4.6 ounces (129 grams) and measuring 4.7 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches (119 x 62.4 x 12.5mm), it's considerably lighter than its carrier rival, HTC's Radar 4G, although both go nearly toe to toe in dimensions. The 710 may simply appear to be the thicker of the 2, owing to its smoothly curved back.

Speaking of that posterior, a coating of soft touch, black plastic spreads across the entirety of the 710, extending to its similarly colored edges. Indeed, it feels excellent in the hand and those tapered corners make for a comfortable resting spot for thumbs when held in portrait and pointer fingers when in landscape. It's not a shabby build by any means, but you'll definitely encounter a fair share of squeaks and creaks when gripping the handset. The phone's 5 megapixel camera with f/2.2 lens and LED flash sit right above Nokia's logo up top, while a speaker grill stretches across the bottom. Look to the left side of the device and you'll see a recessed notch for removing the casing (which you'll be able to swap out for more colorful backplates via T-Mo), underneath which lies a 1,300mAh battery and microSIM card slot -- that's all. There's no microSD slot for expandable storage, so you'll have to make due with 8GB.

Both the volume rocker and dedicated camera button reside on the right of the 710, but they're nearly indistinguishable from the phone's seams, despite a bit of raised texturing on the former. More often than not, we found ourselves continually checking to see if we were pressing in the right location to control sound or activate the camera. The same can't be said of the power button, situated up top to the right of the micro-USB port and headphone ports, which sticks out just enough to signal its placement without interrupting the device's profile. On the front face, the diminutive earpiece is centered atop Nokia's logo, leaving the unbroken, soft click WP navigation button to border the screen's bottom.

Forget AMOLED: that stunning display tech is reserved mostly for the mobile world's big guns (see: the Lumia 800). The 710 isn't privy to that oversaturated treatment, but its 3.7-inch 800 x 480 ClearBlack LCD does a surprisingly good job, especially when pitted against the Radar 4G's (comparatively) dull Super LCD screen. Viewing angles hold up just as well as they do on the 800, though you'll notice the 710 falls prey to significant washout, rendering our chosen purple theme slightly pink-ish when tilted. We didn't encounter any significant difficulty reading the screen outdoors, but in direct sunlight, expect to bump brightness up to high.


Performance & Battery Life
1,300mAh isn't the amount of juice we'd necessarily recommend for a daily driver, but somehow the Lumia 710 makes it last just long enough. Riding along T-Mobile's HSPA+ 14.4Mbps network, the phone doesn't fall prey to the excessive drain we've seen on the carrier's faster HSPA+ 21 and 42 devices, like the Amaze 4G. Even under moderate to heavy usage, we managed to eke out nearly a full day's worth of productivity on a single charge -- about 17 hours. That's with Twitter set to sync at 15 minute intervals, 1 push email account, brightness at 50%, GPS and WiFi enabled, some light browsing and streaming video consumption -- not bad for a $50 handset. The 710, however, didn't fare so well in our formal battery rundown test, giving up its Li-ion ghost after 2 hours and 35 minutes.

PHP:
	Lumia 710 	Lumia 800 	Titan 	Focus Flash
WP Bench 	85 	86 	96 	92
Battery drain 	2:35 	2:40 	3:00 	3:55
SunSpider 	6,826 	7,200 	6,500 	6,842
They may all be separated by different device manufacturers, but there's a similar thread linking all of the above Windows Phones we pitted against the Lumia 710: a Qualcomm MSM8255 chipset complemented by 512MB RAM. Save for the Titan which clocks in at 1.5GHz, the rest of this Mango bunch make do with a slightly slower 1.4GHz Snapdragon CPU. Of course, the beefier Titan reigned supreme in all categories, but the 710 did manage to more or less keep pace with its prettier Lumia sibling in both WP Bench and battery drain, as well as besting it and Samsung's Focus Flash in SunSpider at 6,826ms.

Considering the Lumia 710 is being marketed as a starter smartphone, you can bet its intended demographic will be making heavy use of its voice capabilities. We placed several phone calls around the New York City area and while T-Mobile's service isn't the most robust, callers continually came through loud and clear. The speaker was also exceptionally powerful, although voices were subject to a bit of distortion when volume was pumped to maximum.


Network speeds

2011 was undoubtedly the year of 4G what with its bevy of LTE and HSPA+ 21 / 42 devices flooding the market and clamoring for your disposable income. This Lumia is not that 4G fast, but it doesn't need to be as its target demo isn't likely to consume mass amounts of data -- just yet (baby steps, baby steps). Running on T-Mobile's 14.4Mbps network, the 710 consistently delivered downlink performance ranging from 5Mbps to 2.5Mbps and uplink from 1.05Mbps to 0.96Mbps -- that's if you happen to be in a strong HSPA+ coverage area. In our time testing the handset in New York City, we never saw network speeds drop below or even rise above those aforementioned maxes, but should you live on the periphery of Magenta's footprint, anticipate slower results.

To get a sense of just how serviceable the Lumia 710's multimedia capabilities are, we streamed video from both the included T-Mobile TV and Netflix apps. Though it did require a bit of buffering before our selected content would begin playing back, when it did picture quality was noticeably smooth and only intermittently resorted to pixelation if signal strength dipped. While we wouldn't necessarily spend an hour squinting at the Lumia 710's 3.7-inch screen, it could definitely serve as a momentary distraction while whittling away time on a bus or in a waiting room. Oh, and if you're eager to share your mobile connection with a nearby laptop or tablet, you'll have to look elsewhere. Unlike other WP 7.5 phones, the 710 does not come with Internet Sharing enabled.


Camera
If you count yourself amongst the snap and shoot then upload to Twitter / Facebook / Google+ set, skip this section and set your sights on other mobile devices. The Lumia 710's 5 megapixel rear shooter with f/2.2 lens is a massive underwhelmer and stops just short of being totally unworkable. It's a confounding experience, with a hit-or-miss autofocus sensor that borders on schizophrenic, occasionally resulting in decent to above average shots -- surprising, given Nokia's track record for imaging on low-end devices. And as if locating the phone's dedicated camera key wasn't hard enough, finding a happy medium depressing this button to focus on objects is yet another exercise in frustration. There's also an apparent disconnect between the image captured on the 710's display and the final result -- snapped pics appear blurrier on screen than they actually are when you transfer them to a computer. Oftentimes, we would dismiss our picture taking as simply more fodder for the recycle bin only to later find we actually had a collection of perfectly acceptable shots.

Despite our attempts to master the module, varied lighting conditions proved too much for the 710, forcing us to continually adopt an array of settings to find a happy medium. Auto is too unreliable for everyday usage, so if you intend to rely on this as your point-and-shoot, buckle up for a mix-and-match session of scene mode swaps. Even when awash in ample sunlight, we still found ourselves resorting to backlight mode to capture the clearest image.

Video on the Lumia 710, however, seemed to be just the opposite. As you can see in our brief clip above, colors appear bright, moving objects remain mostly in focus and, although there are minor issues with image stabilization, the frame rate holds up well. Similarly, audio recording was excellent, with our voice coming across crisply.


Software
If you've ever spent time with Windows Phone 7.5, then you know exactly what's in store for you on the Lumia 710. Unlike the fragmented user experience offered up by Android and its various skins, Mango is solidly consistent. Sure, carriers and manufacturers may load the phones up with bloat, but in most cases that can be easily uninstalled, leaving consumers with that clean, live-tiled UI. The Lumia 710 is a breeze to navigate and it's clear why Nokia would choose to market to wireless Luddites and partner up with Microsoft. More so than iOS, WP tosses out the least amount of obstacles to immersion for the uninitiated. The home screen offers up an unlimited number of customizable tiles that launch their respective apps when touched. Swipe to the left and you're greeted by a list of all the handset's installed applications. Honestly, it goes no deeper than that and that's a very good thing for the tech-averse.

Nokia and T-Mobile have both pre-loaded a good amount of apps onto the 710 and thankfully most of it harbors on the solid end of desirable. There's an exclusive ESPN app for scores, news and video, Netflix, Xbox Live, Nokia Drive and Maps, Slacker, T-Mobile TV and The Weather Channel. That's certainly a long list of apps, but with the rare exception, they're also miraculously uninstallable.

The 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor makes the device a joy to use. You won't find the phone locking up and stuttering as you swipe between panes or even when launching apps; it's all relatively smooth sailing. Web surfing on the native Internet Explorer browser is, for the most part, speedy, with mobile pages rendering in under 5 seconds and full desktop versions coming under the 20 second mark. That's all fairly dependent on your particular network signal, so it goes without saying that plain HSPA will result in longer load times. Pinch to zoom is also remarkably fluid, keeping track of our fingers without any hesitation.


Wrap-up
When you stack the 710 up side-by-side with its sexier sibling the 800, you'll be hard pressed to find exactly what keeps this particular Lumia 90 points lower on the Nokia totem pole. It's certainly not the specs, as both handsets are nearly identical in that respect -- powered by a 1.4GHz MSM8255 processor, 512MB RAM and boasting the same undersized 3.7-inch screen, plus or minus the display tech. Really, it's the design (invisible vs. alluring) and camera module (5 megapixel vs 8 megapixel) that drive a price gulf between these two Mango offshoots. Contrast the 710 with its other budget WP 7.5 peers, factor in that super affordable $50 on contract pricing and, hands down, it's easily the most attractive of the single-core lot. Will it succeed in giving Nokia the US market traction it's long sought after? Probably not. The Mr. and Mrs. Johnny-come-latelies of the mobile world will neither make nor break the company's stateside success. That heavy lifting will surely fall to future Lumia progeny of the higher-end sort. No, the 710 is a solid smartphone for 1st-timers marred only by its faltering camera and nondescript construction. If you're just learning how to surf the internets and / or send a text, this phone's for you.

 

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Discussion Starter #3
Article


Samsung, HTC and other Android vendors are no longer innovating on the hardware look and feel of their phones. The conventional wisdom says consumers no longer care about that. Is it possible this has created an opening for a new design to carve a niche? The timing for the Lumia 900 debut in the US market just might be right. Handsets have never looked this boring, not since the pre-1994 era of whip antenna bricks before the Nokia 2100 changed the dynamics of phone design.

When Volkswagen debuted the New Beetle in 1998, there was skepticism about its success in the US market. The car was basically a reskinned VW Golf with little storage space and some fairly serious quality issues with transmission and windows. Its European vibe was considered possibly too weird for America. Of course, it became a hit – unusual, quirky design was a big selling point at the time when the US car industry was dominated by cautious clones. Later, the offbeat approach was copied with gusto by Chrysler and others.

Nokia announced its 1st major high-end device for the US market on Monday – and the Lumia 900 will basically have to duplicate the New Beetle trick in order to make an impact. This is a single-core phone competing against the new dual-core beasts of Samsung and HTC. It has a regular 4.3 inch display instead of the 4.6 to 5 inch jumbo screens debuted by the Asian Android vendors. It has 2 good cameras, but they do not hit the 16 MP level of the latest HTC.

The two advantages the Lumia 900 possesses are a new silhouette and an original user interface. Compared with the army of Android models AT&T announced, the Lumia hardware pops out. The cyan version features a glass block slightly elevated from a bright blue chassis, contrasting sharply with the Samsung-Motorola-HTC-LG-Pantech monoblock look. It’s no coincidence Nokia opted to use the blue Lumia in its Monday presentation. That’s the approach Volkswagen used in its New Beetle ads that often featured neon colors to underline the quirky design.

There are two obvious obstacles here. 1st – American consumers have not created a big handset hit based on a novel design since the iPhone debuted in 2007. Obviously, you can argue that the iPhone success hinged more on software than the new engineering approach. The days when the hardware design alone could create a bestseller seem to be long gone – before the iPhone, Motorola RAZR in 2004 was arguably the last of the smash hits created by a new shape.

The entire new Android phone wave – and the latest iPhone – is built on the bet that consumers now only focus on software and what is under the hood. Siri, dual-core processors, better camera quality – everything that counts is all internal now.

Or is it? Could the fact that so many vendors have decided to go with old designs this winter open the door for a new competitor that introduces new hardware design combined with a novel UI? The latest Windows OS does not offer ground-breaking innovations – but there are small, interesting touches such as the way the application icons convey a stream of real-time information.

The challenge of getting US consumers to sample Lumia 900 is aided by how boring the new wave of Android models look despite their awesome specifications. But the challenge of getting consumers to abandon the Apple and Android ecosystems is something no car company has had to wrestle with. Apple’s grip on its consumers is likely unbreakable – those people are gone. But Android just might be a different kettle of fish.

A research firm called NPD shocked the mobile telecom world earlier this week when it presented a radical shift in US smartphone market share in the October/November period. According to NPD, Android OS lost a shocking 13 percentage points of US smartphone market share between 3Q11 and the pre-Christmas season. At the same time, Apple soared. This dovetails with the profound smartphone weakness that struck HTC and Motorola during 4Q11. Despite the strong Android activation numbers recently reported by Google, Android’s triumphant run in the US smartphone market may be already over.

This week’s US media coverage of the Lumia 900 has been surprisingly positive, from Daily Beast and Time to the curmudgeons of PC World and PC Magazine. American media is is bored with the Apple/Android narrative, ready to write contrarian pieces about a surprise comeback of Windows. True comeback in North America may be out of reach for Nokia. But I would not count out the possibility of surprisingly strong early showing for Lumia 900 as US taste-makers flirt with deserting the grimly predictable Android camp this spring.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
41 MegaPixels


Well, it looks like we finally get to know what that vague snow video was all about.

A few days ago, Nokia released a 22-second teaser trailer hinting about something so "pure," it mentioned the word at least three times.

Now we know it's in reference to the manufacturer's newest device, the 808 PureView. A phone that has so many megapixels, its megapixels have megapixels. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but the phone -- unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, Spain -- does have a whopping 41-megapixel camera. And that makes our hearts definitely beat like an 808.

Nokia stated that the device will be the first smartphone to feature Nokia PureView imaging technologies, which include high-resolution sensors and optics from Carl Zeiss.

In addition to its large megapixel count, the camera will not lose clarity while it zooms. That means that once you take a photo of something, you can zoom on, reframe, crop, or resize the image and the photo will retain a great amount of detail.

Recording video will also be superb on this handset. It can record full HD 1080p video and will offer CD-like audio recording. The 808 Pureview will also feature Dolby Headphone technology and Dolby Digital Plus for 5.1 channel surround sound playback.

If you're interested in the phone, it will cost $605 before subsidies, and you'll have to wait until it rolls out in May.
 

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900


AT&T and Nokia are bringing out the big guns when they launch the Lumia 900 next month.

"At all levels, this is a notch above anything we've ever done,"
AT&T device head Jeff Bradley said in an interview with CNET, noting that includes the launch of the iPhone.

The resources behind this campaign and the attention given underscore the importance of ensuring the Lumia 900 succeeds in the U.S. The device represents the best -- and some would argue last -- chance for for Nokia and the Windows Phone platform to have a breakout hit, something both have struggled to do in the past.

For consumers, the blitzkrieg will begin right around when the phone launches on April 8. AT&T and Nokia are readying a massive television marketing campaign to raise consumer awareness. The Lumia 900 will be the centerpiece at AT&T stores, with massive signs and posters promoting the device. Nokia and AT&T spent considerable time training store reps, and a majority of them will be carrying one with them at all times. The phone will launch with a number of accessories, which Bradley said sends an indirect message to consumers that the device is unique and important enough to get significant support.

"Before you walk in to the store, you know this is our hero phone," Bradley said, referring to the Lumia 900's flagship status.

The campaign is expected to last about 6 to 8 weeks, according to people familiar with the situation.

Bradley and Chris Weber, president of Nokia's North America business, both declined to comment on an exact figure for the campaign, but Weber said it was comparable to what it takes to promote a successful smartphone in the market.

"To re-enter the U.S. market, we know we have to be aggressive," Weber said.

Windows Phones, however, have struggled to really make a dent in the market, with the platform controlling only a sliver of the market share for smartphone platforms. The market is dominated by the iPhone and a wave of Android smartphones. While each major U.S. carrier offers a Windows Phone product, there has been lackluster interest, although the low-cost Lumia 710 for T-Mobile has seen moderate success.

AT&T was fairly dismissive of the Lumia 710, with Bradley calling the Lumia 900 the effective re-launch of the Nokia brand. AT&T and Nokia believe they can succeed with the Lumia 900 where other companies have failed with older Windows Phone devices. Bradley said the combination of improved design and software, the 4G LTE service, a stronger catalog of applications, and better marketing and sales will drive higher sales.

The app issue was a major problem for Windows Phone. Bradley said Microsoft has largely shored up its weaker app library with a solid offering, and said AT&T salespeople have been trained to help customers track down the same apps or comparable ones that they used in iOS or Android.

"AT&T's retail execution has been fantastic,"
Weber said.

The $99.99 price makes it the most affordable flagship phone AT&T has ever offered. Bradley and Weber declined to comment on how much of a subsidy was placed on the device, but Weber noted that Nokia was under a mandate to supply a quality phone at a lower price. He would only say Nokia was being aggressive with the price accordance to its strong push to get into the U.S.

Still, both executives note that the companies can't buy their way to success, and are hoping the different user interface -- which rely on live tiles and a look that's dramatically different than iOS or Android -- will draw in new and existing smartphone customers.

While Nokia is still targeting getting its products into multiple carriers in the U.S., so far only T-Mobile and AT&T have committed to the company. Weber declined to comment on the progress Nokia has made with the other carriers. AT&T has an exclusive on the Lumia 900 for a certain period of time.

In effect, AT&T will be the testbed for whether Nokia still has the chops to pull off a blockbuster phone in the U.S. Fittingly, the carrier isn't holding back its optimism for the device.

"We're going big," Bradley said. "We're really bullish."
 

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Nokia Lumia 900 w/ Videos & Audio Samples

4 out of 5 *
Design 9.0
Features 8.0
Peformance 8.0​

The good: The Nokia Lumia 900's eye-popping unibody design sets a new direction for smartphone style. Its LTE speeds, vivid 4.3-inch screen, and 8-megapixel camera are high points.

The bad: Problems with call quality and minor design flaws like some gaps in the construction and weirdly placed buttons get in the way. The designer camera optics are good, but they don't live up to the hype. The phone shoots 720p video rather than 1080p video.

The bottom line: The Nokia Lumia 900's unique design and high-end features make Windows Phone look fantastic, and the $99 price is extremely fair. Despite some flaws, this is my favorite Windows Phone yet.

Nokia sorely needs a "hero" smartphone with the looks, the speeds, the specs, and a price that will hush the doubters. With the Lumia 900, Nokia proves that it has the chops to compete. We thought so at CES, where we awarded it best new smartphone, and I think so now.

But is the Lumia 900 a breakthrough device? The features are high for Windows Phone's threshold (the OS doesn't yet support multicore processors), but the phone lacks a halo-making feature like the Nokia PureView with its gasp-inducing 41-megapixel camera. While a revolutionary new feature could clinch Nokia's victory, what it has now in the Lumia 900 is the best Windows phone I've tested yet, and it's perfect for the mainstream market. Of course, my assessment could always change in a week when the HTC Titan II launches, with its whopping 16-megapixel camera, though to me, the Lumia 900 is ahead in style points. It's also half the price: $99.99 versus $199.99.

Beyond the looks, I'd recommend the Lumia 900 without hesitation to anyone considering a Windows Phone -- although I'm psychologically incapable of leaving out important caveats. I love the Lumia 900's bold look and the way that the phone's style and screen make the Windows Phone interface pop. With Windows Phone nearly identical on all handsets, Nokia really only has the hardware to control, and in terms of specs, it did a great job (mostly). LTE...check. Strong camera quality, check. Fast processor, sturdy construction, check and check. There are still some changes I'd make if Nokia had asked for my opinion, including the placement of some buttons, quality control when it comes to calls and on a couple external components, and 1080p HD video rather than 720p. However, none of these flaws would keep me from using the 900.

Design
If you imagine the cell phone section of a funky, Scandinavian design shop run by avant-garde youths, the Lumia 900 would fit right in. Its lightly sculpted unibody chassis and deliberate use of color scream "lifestyle product." Bold as an exclamation mark, the Lumia 900 has pure pop-art coursing through its electrical veins.


This is the classiest "Smurf" phone you're ever going to see.​

What makes the Nokia Lumia 900 so eye-catching? Even without the electric blue version that I have, the bright white color arriving April 22, or the more-understated black color, the 900's profile stands out. The chassis has a perfectly flat top and bottom, with round sides and a slightly curved back, which Nokia then topped with a large, glossy screen.

At 5 inches tall by 2.7 inches wide by 0.45 inch deep, it's a large phone. The smooth, matte finish helps it slide into pockets and purses, but because of the width and flat back, the Lumia 900 did feel a little flat in my hand. However, it was comfortable on the ear. It may feel a bit heavy at 5.6 ounces, but it's also very solid. I'm a little worried about the long-term effect of finger grease and residue on the color, but in the short term, the finish survived my residual hand lotion and the direct application of a goo-gone solution without marring the color.

Back in its heyday, Nokia phones were largely synonymous with solid construction and thoughtful -- and sometimes daring -- design. The Lumia 900 may not present a strictly new design, since it's clearly adapted from the Nokia N9 Meego-based phone released in Asia, and the Lumia 800, the European version of the N9 that runs Windows Phone, but it's a good 1 that offers slight variations.


The smooth body helps it slide into pockets. Because of its size, the Lumia 900 fits better in my back pocket.​

For example, the Lumia 900 is larger than the 800 and features a front-facing camera in addition to that all-important LTE and a larger battery. Then there are the more-minor surface variations, which you'd only really notice holding the two phones side by side. On the 800, the display bubbles out about 2.5 millimeters, like the surface tension curving a drop of water. The 900's screen, on the other hand, looks more like a slapped-on postage stamp. My review unit had a few gaps that were barely perceptible, but were there nonetheless. The most obvious was large enough for me to stick my fingernail into the space around the SIM card slot, and pull up a corner of the locked door -- that's sloppy. There was also a thin gap where the right side of the screen meets the body of my review unit, with no gap whatsoever on the left side of the screen.

I had no complaints with the display itself, though, and it's easily one of the Lumia 900's key selling points. The beautiful 4.3-inch AMOLED screen features ClearBlack display technology and Gorilla Glass. Colors look richly hued, bright, and sharp. I compared the Lumia 900 with the Samsung Focus S, which has an identical screen size and WVGA resolution (800x480 pixels). In both brightness and richness, the Lumia 900 absolutely blows away the Focus S, which at the time I hailed as a beautiful Super AMOLED Plus screen in its own right. At the same levels of full and automatic brightness, the Lumia 900 shone about a full level brighter than the Focus S.

I also compared high-res photos on the 2 handsets. While they both looked terrific, the Lumia 900 showed noticeably greater contrast, with blacker blacks, more color spectrum variation, and greens so bright they looked a bit unnatural.


I compared the Lumia 900 to the iPhone 4S screen (above) and the Samsung Focus S (below), with brightness on full blast.​

Beyond the screen, there's the front-facing camera and three touch-sensitive navigation controls on the phone's face. Nokia's sense of chic minimalism extends to the silvery controls on the right spine. From top to bottom, you encounter the volume rocker, the power button, and the camera shutter button. I'd prefer a different placement for the power button and volume rocker, but I could get used to it. The top of the phone houses the ports: the 3.5mm headset jack, the Micro-USB charging port, and the micro-SIM card slot behind the push-in door. As with the iPhone, you can insert a narrow "key" (or thin, unbent paper clip) into a hole to pop out the small SIM. Nokia kindly tapes a key right in the box, saving you from paper clip mutilation.

Thanks to its unibody construction, the back of the phone is smooth, with no openings whatsoever. There is, however, the 8-megapixel camera lens and a dual-LED flash.

Operating system and Nokia apps
Thanks to a close partnership between Nokia and Microsoft, the Lumia 900 runs the most recent iteration of Windows Phone OS, version 7.5 Mango. As a result, the Lumia 900 can perform every software task that other Windows Phones do, too.


Nokia doesn't have much leeway on the software side beyond these apps.​

Unlike Android, Microsoft keeps its OS pretty locked down, so Nokia has little room to add its own flair on the software side, a strategy I appreciate for uniting the phone experience across devices, but one that makes it harder for manufacturers to stand out. Still, Nokia does make a mark with the nice Nokia Blue color theme (it's the Lumia 900 default) and with a suite of Marketplace apps that include Nokia Drive, Nokia Maps, Nokia Transit, and Nokia Contacts Transfer. This section also highlights partners' third-party apps, like ESPN and CNN. It's a shame that the Lumia 900 doesn't have Nokia's music app, Music Mix Radio, like its European counterparts, and I hope the right deals are signed soon. The absent app, which serves streaming radio and creates mixes, is similar to a Windows Phone feature, but it's also an alternative that could give Nokia some additional cred.

Features
Since Windows Phone OS pretty much behaves the same on every handset, it's the extras that are important. LTE was the most crucial feature Nokia needed to sell this phone on our shores, and it'll be 1 of the 1st 2 Windows phones with LTE. (The HTC Titan II, which goes on sale the same day, is the other.)

Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth are standards, though sadly, the Lumia 900 ships with Bluetooth 2.1, practically antique compared with the new Bluetooth 4.0 standard we're starting to see in mobile devices.

Windows Phone OS handily provides e-mail and social networking integration through account log-ins in the settings, an option for linking inboxes together, and support for group messaging. There's also threaded text and multimedia messaging, and a cool feature that can weave together messages sent between IM and traditional texts. Task-switching, voice search, and scan searches with Bing are also included, as are conference calling and voice dialing. (For even more on Windows Phone OS, read my full Windows Phone 7.5 review.)


Xbox Live games look great on the Lumia 900's ultrabright screen.​

On the apps side, you'll find basics like the clock, a calendar, a calculator, Internet Explorer 9 (with HTML5 support but no Flash), and podcast subscriptions in the Music + Video hub. There's also a Maps app, with turn-by-turn directions for walking and driving, Microsoft offers Xbox Live integration through the Games hub, an FM radio, and the SmartDJ feature that creates mixes from your collection. When it's time to get to work, you can create and view Microsoft Office apps from a variety of sources.

I already mentioned Nokia's app contributions above, but AT&T also preloads some programs. There's the carrier's usual bundle: a bar code and QR code scanner; AT&T Navigator with turn-by-turn directions; AT&T Radio; and AT&T U-verse Mobile, (the mobile version of U-verse TV for streaming shows; it costs $9.99 per month if you create a new account from the phone). For video chats, the Lumia 900 gives you the Tango video chat app, as well as YP Mobile for yellow pages. For everything else, there's the Marketplace.

Cameras


The Lumia 900 has an 8-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash, autofocus, and its celebrated Carl Zeiss optics.​

Nokia boasts that its 8-megapixel camera on the Lumia 900 has Carl Zeiss optics, which, along with its dual-LED flash and autofocus, are meant to boost image clarity. I took about a hundred photos on the 900, outside during bright daylight, inside with artificial lighting, front-facing, and in low-light situations. As with all smartphone cameras I've tested, the Lumia 900 did best in outdoor shots with abundant natural lighting. Also, like all the camera phones I tested, photos ran the gamut of excellent and very sharp to slightly fuzzy and disappointing.


Outdoor shots looked good, but the Lumia 900 made shots more yellow.​

The camera managed to focus on a wider depth of field than other cameras, say, for instance, the iPhone 4S, but it also seemed to struggle when focusing on more-distant scenes. The Lumia 900 cast a yellow tone on most images, making the color shift away from real life. (Compare our studio shot with those from other camera phones.)


Indoor photos weren't always the greatest, especially when taken from a distance.​

I compared about 15 photos I took on the Lumia 900 with identical pictures I snapped on the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Focus S, and the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, which all have 8-megapixel cameras. No 1 camera came in best for every shot, but the Lumia 900 and iPhone 4S were my favorites every time (and the Droid Razr Maxx came in a disappointing 4th almost totally across the board.)

When you check out my photo comparison gallery, you'll see that the iPhone 4S photos are generally sharper and slightly more vibrant, with greater contrast and a cooler color temperature. The Lumia 900 photos, on the other hand, have a yellow cast, but keep more of the background image in focus.


The Lumia 900 did a great job taking shots of close-range subjects, so long as the subject stood still long enough to take the shot.​

Shutter lag is another area that smartphone-makers set out to dominate. The Lumia takes some time to focus on a scene before rendering the shot. I wouldn't call its shutter speeds much slower than average, except when I repeatedly missed shots of a fat, buzzing bee; adorable but squirmy dogs; and perfect beach waves. When that happened, I found myself yearning for the HTC One X's ludicrously fast shutter speed, reportedly 0.7 second.

Photos with the Lumia 900's 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera were fine: sharp enough to define features without scaring the neighborhood kids with up-close detail best saved for vanity mirrors. After all, it's mostly meant for video chats, or for the occasional self-portrait.


Video playback was pretty good. Streaming-video quality partially depends on your data network connection.​

I was generally happy with video, which shoots at a rate of 30 frames per second, though I wish it shot in 1080p HD resolution rather than in 720p. The picture was clear, audio was strong, and playback was smooth. There were some weird moments when the camcorder darkened a scene, but if I shot with the right lighting, my home videos were pretty good.

Call quality
I tested the quad-band (GSM 8500/900/1800/1900) Nokia Lumia 900 in San Francisco on AT&T's network, and Brian Bennett tested it in New York.

Call quality sounded muted and muffled on my end, but was otherwise loud. Thankfully, I didn't hear any beeps or blips marring the call's clarity. Brian heard clear and crisp audio when he dialed out. He also experienced 1 dropped call in Manhattan, but that's not a usual number for any carrier. When I called Brian from the Lumia to his landline phone, he said the quality was clear and crisp on his end, without any static unless he listened very closely. In that case, he said my voice did sound a little scratchy, with a slight metallic tinge, but nothing distracting.

I called another tester twice. He described 1 call as loud and clear, and 1 as just loud. He said there was a hint of distortion, which made me sound flat, but again, didn't distract from the conversation.

Hold onto your seats, because speakerphone is actually pretty good. It was very loud, with some pronounced echo, but I found conversation very successful. Thanks to the warm voice tones and stronger bass in the speaker than in the earpiece, I found speakerphone more comfortable.

1 caller found speakerphone extra echo-y, which made the distortion he heard in my voice more noticeable. I also sounded muted and flat, according to my caller, and he had to ask me to repeat myself. Brian noted that I sounded distant and a bit muffled.

Speeds
Dual-core phones may be all the rage (with many thirsting for quad-core), but Microsoft claims that its single-core processors are just as efficient for performing top tasks (Windows Phone OS isn't yet compatible with multicore processors). Combine AT&T's 4G LTE data speeds with a 1.4GHz processor for overall performance that seemed zippy enough. I can't say that the internals blew me away, but I didn't have too many complaints, either.

To test LTE speeds, Brian Bennett and I both used the BandWidth app in our respective cities. AT&T performed great for Brian, averaging 19.5Mbps down and about 6.13Kbps up. My speeds in San Francisco were much slower, and averaged closer to 6Mbps down and 2.5Mbps up. Read the full rundown here.

Admittedly, the diagnostic LTE speeds I saw on the Lumia were much slower than those I've seen on other LTE phones. However, it's also possible that with more LTE customers, there's also more congestion now. Both San Francisco and New York are notorious markets for slower speeds on more than one network.

In real life, I was able to download and upload images and Web pages quickly and without issue. CNET's graphically rich desktop site, for instance, finished loading in about 15 seconds.

Battery life
The Lumia 900 has a rated talk time of 7 hours over 3G, with 12.5 days of 3G standby time on its 1,830mAh battery. In our in-house battery drain tests, talk time on the Lumia 900 lasted 6.86 hours. Nokia also calculated 60 hours of music playback time and 6.5 hours of video playback time.

Anecdotally, the phone lasted a full day without charging under moderate-to-heavy use. Expect to plug in your phone more often if you stream audio and video over LTE.

Every cell phone emits radio frequency. The FCC measured a digital SAR of 1.49 watts per kilogram for the Lumia 900.

Who should buy it?
The LTE speeds, high-end features, and crazy-reasonable $99 price tag make the Lumia 900 a sure choice for Windows Phone fans looking for a statement piece to help them stand out. It's also great for people on the fence with Android or iOS who are interested in trying a new operating system, and for people transitioning to their very 1st smartphone. There's definitely a youthful vibe to the phone, but I don't think it would alienate people looking for a less in-your-face handset, especially if they chose the black version with a darker color theme.


Compared with the plentitude of black phones out there, the blue version of the Lumia 900 stands out.​

Those who value highly customizing the OS experience should stick with Android. I think most people will be happy with the camera in a wide variety of scenarios, but if you care about shutter speed most, then you may want to wait for the HTC One X to arrive before making your final decision. If you plan to use photos in the highest resolution, you might also likewise check out the HTC Titan II Windows Phone, which promises double the megapixel count.

Final thoughts
It won't outsell the Samsung Galaxy S II or iPhone 4S (which together gobble up 95% of all smartphone profits), and the design isn't strictly new, but the Lumia 900 is nevertheless a successful handset for the Microsoft-Nokia partnership.

Of course, not everyone likes Windows Phone and not everyone will like the design, but in my view, Nokia has provided a great handset on a platform that's frankly still immature, but with the camera and call quality, it has left room for the upcoming Titan II and its jaw-dropping camera to do a better job. We'll have to wait until we review that phone to compare.

In the meantime, it's Microsoft's turn to help out Nokia by issuing software features that will make Windows Phone a smoother, smarter, and stronger OS that can compete more completely against the much more mature Android and iOS.
 

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Nokia 808 PureView
Its small display and and Symbian OS are pitfalls, but as a camera phone, the Nokia 808 PureView easily beats all current handsets on the market.

Following up on its N8 camera phone, Nokia has upped the ante with the 808 PureView. When it was announced at Mobile World Congress in February, we ranked it among the top 5 handsets unveiled at the trade show. Some of the CNET editors who attended felt the 808 stole the show.

Like Nokia's N8, the PureView is also a camera-oriented phone, but it's pretty much the 1st of its kind in terms of imaging chops. Much has already been said about Nokia's PureView Pro imaging technology -- if you still don't understand what it's about, try reading Nokia's white paper (PDF).

Before we begin, we'd like to set out a disclaimer that this is, by all means, a review of a smartphone, so we have to take other features of the 808 PureView into full consideration.

Editors' note: Because the 808 PureView was reviewed by our companion site CNET Asia, we are publishing this review as an in-depth hands-on article without an official starred rating.


Design
The design of the Nokia 808 PureView can be simply described as solid. Solid in the sense that the construction of the phone is robust and sturdy -- which is really no surprise, seeing Nokia's strong tradition of producing durable handsets like the Nokia 3210. Coupled with the Gorilla Glass display, this phone is built to last.

In fact, when we dropped the review unit accidentally on a friend's foot from waist level and it crash-landed on concrete afterward, the polycarbonate handset escaped unscathed without any scratches or dents. On the other hand, his foot was worse for wear, probably due to the phone's rather hefty 5.96-ounce weight.

Unfortunately, the 4-inch nHD display is too small and has too low a resolution (640x360 pixels) for a smartphone with such an imaging pedigree. It would have been nice to be able to enjoy our shots in at least qHD or 720p glory. By comparison, the Sony Xperia S, a smartphone in the same price range, has a 4.3-inch HD (1,280x720-pixel) display.

On the other hand, an upside of the 808 PureView's screen is Nokia's proprietary ClearBlack display technology, which is touted as giving good readability even under direct sunlight. We found this to be true. Yet, do note that the touch screen tends to retain fingerprints and smudges, so keep a cleaning cloth handy.

In our opinion, the slightly curved edges of the glass are a nice design element, which is reminiscent of the Nokia N9. Overall, it's a refreshing change from the flat and boxy look of some me-too smartphones out there.

We aren't too keen on the bulge on the back. This is due to the gigantic PureView lens adding bulk to the phone's chassis. Measuring almost 18mm (0.7 inch) at its thickest point, the 808 PureView may be a slightly uncomfortable fit in your pocket, especially when you sit down. On the bright side, the phone's narrower girth means that it's suited for 1-handed usage.

Interestingly, the extra bulk doesn't result in a top-heavy phone; in fact the 808 PureView felt well-balanced in our hands. It also helps that the ceramiclike finish is easy to keep a grip on, even one-handed (though the ridge on the back could have been more pronounced, or made of a more textured material, to provide more grip while shooting).

You also won't have to worry about scratching the lens, as it's slightly recessed.

Finally, Nokia chose to go with a screen lock slider on the side of the phone, instead of a lock button. A useful feature is that holding the slider down turns on the camera's flash to use as a flashlight, making it a nifty shortcut.


Features
The Nokia 808 PureView runs on the latest Symbian Belle OS, which brings with it a refreshed look and new features such as up to 6 customizable home screens, improved multitasking, scrolling widgets, and an Android-like dropdown notifications menu.

Yet, our complaints about the OS remain the same as for its predecessor, Anna. We mentioned them in our review of the Nokia E6, but the major disadvantage of getting a Symbian phone is the dearth of apps in the Ovi Store. The number of apps in the Ovi Store is a tenth of what's available in Apple's App Store, there are no dedicated Twitter or Facebook apps in the Ovi Store (so you will have to access these social-networking sites via the Ovi Social widget on the home screen), you won't be able to set the refresh intervals, the only way to update your feed is to access the app, and it doesn't have a notifications feature.

Our 1 minor quibble with predictive text input also hasn't changed. Belle does not automatically change lowercase i's to capital letters, nor is it able to predict correctly the words you're trying to type. Users unfamiliar with the Symbian OS may find a high error rate, especially when typing with predictive input turned off.

Athough Belle does not support Wi-Fi tethering, the 808 PureView comes preinstalled with JoikuSpot, an app that allows you to share your 3G connection wirelessly. Other standard bundled apps include Quickoffice, F-Secure Mobile Security, Microsoft Communicator Mobile, and Adobe Reader.

In terms of connectivity, you get the full range of options here: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, DLNA, GPS, and HSDPA up to 14.4Mbps. Additionally, the 808 PureView has NFC capabilities and a dedicated HDMI port.

The 16GB of onboard storage is expandable via a non-hot-swappable microSD card. The battery is removable.

Finally, there's Dolby Digital Plus technology for surround sound, though note that it only works with compatible headphones or speakers plugged in.


Let's face it, the only reason why you're reading this review -- and the 808 PureView's most important selling point -- is its bumper 41-megapixel CMOS sensor. It measures 1/1.2 inches, larger than the N8's and those of most advanced compact cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 and Fujifilm FinePix X10. The 808 PureView also uses renowned Carl Zeiss-branded optics, which features a molded glass aspherical lens.

1st, let's look at what the PureView does better than some of the best smartphone cameras out there: it gives the user a lot more control over settings in Creative mode, maintains detail when zoomed in to 100 percent, and has minimal noise even in low-light situations. For more advanced users, you'll get bracketing mode for high-dynamic range (HDR) photography and time lapse recording. Nokia even sells an optional tripod mount adapter for those who are serious about stabilizing the device when shooting. We find shutter lag to be minimal, although there's a little wait of about 1 to 2 seconds while the shot is saved -- especially when shooting at full resolution.

A thoughtful feature is one-finger swipe-to-zoom capability, which is faster than having to press repeatedly on the volume rocker to zoom in. This is particularly useful while recording video (full-HD 1080p by the way), where you swipe upward on the screen to the required crop factor. Once you lift your finger off the screen, the camera zooms in automatically, eliminating jerky movements that result from manual zoom.

At MWC, Vesa Jutila, Nokia's product marketing director of smart devices, said that the mechanical shutter, autofocus system, and ND filter are the only moving parts in the robust camera module, which has gone through rigorous drop tests.

Yet, for all those impressive imaging chops, the camera software has a few downsides. For one, there's no burst mode setting, though you can capture sequential shots by holding down the physical shutter button.

You can directly access the camera from the lock screen in less than a second by pressing the hardware shutter button. However, you're limited to shooting in auto mode, with no access to advanced image controls except flash. Also, if your phone is password-protected, you won't be able to preview the photo immediately after snapping it unless you unlock the phone. With Android and iOS, you can preview photos just taken without unlocking, but don't get access to all the other photos in the phone -- a more sensible solution. All this means you may miss out on photo opportunities unless you don't mind having a relatively less secure phone and going without a passcode.

When you preview your photos, there's a quick shortcut to share them on Facebook immediately. Flickr is also integrated, but not Twitter. The quick preview doesn't reorient photos to portrait mode, so if you want to see a portrait photo in full, you'll have to exit the camera app and fire up the gallery. That's annoying.

Also, the gallery app behaves more like a gallery from a digital camera. When zoomed in, you won't be able to flick to the next image unless you manually zoom out first. This is unlike iOS and Android, which let you swipe to the next image (which automatically zooms out the image).

Although the onboard Xenon flash is twice as powerful as the N8's -- so Nokia's Eero Salmelin, head of imaging, told us -- it was a tad heavy-handed. To quote our camera reviewer, Shawn Low, the 808's flash "looked more like a beam from a torch" and "created a pink color cast in images produced."

As we've also seen in our camera shootout, the 808 PureView loses out on minimum focusing distance for macro shots. Nokia's lead program manager of imaging experience, Damian Dinning, pointed out in his comment that "the 808 uses the widest-angle optics of any smartphone when used in its default fully optimized 16:9 aspect ratio. This does create something of a trade-off in close-ups."

That's where the PureView's "lossless zoom" technology comes in, in the form of "close-up scene mode as a full-time option, touch AF in any mode, or close-up focus mode in creative [mode] accessed via a long touch of the viewfinder screen," Dinning wrote. He went on to note the reduced depth of field in the end result as a result of the larger sensor size.

What he neglected to mention is that this method also reduces the effective area of the sensor used (depending on the amount of zoom), which results in a trade-off in oversampling. For instance, if you zoomed in completely while shooting at 5 megapixels, you would be shooting pixel-for-pixel and there would be no oversampling to speak of. Shawn has done a comparison of shooting in the various modes.

Although you can shoot at full resolution (38 megapixels for 4:3 and 34 megapixels for 16:9 aspect ratio) and then crop the photo, the tradeoff is more noise because the oversampling feature will not be used.

As such, it's probably best to shoot on the default 5-megapixel setting -- or at 8 megapixels -- unless you plan on printing out a life-size poster.


Performance
The 808 PureView's 1.3GHz single-core processor isn't exactly the snappiest in the market (especially with quad-core smartphones being released), but the phone was relatively responsive overall. The 512MB of RAM was also sufficient for multitasking, and we didn't experience any major lag while using the handset except for when saving pictures, as mentioned earlier. This is especially noticeable when taking full-size 38-megapixel shots.

For extra processing power, the 808's camera module has a special companion processor that handles part of the workload before sending it to the graphics processor. This process may explain the lag we experienced.

The 808 PureView's 1,400mAh battery lasted us a full day with average usage, with Wi-Fi and GPS turned off and 2-mail accounts set on push. Due to the limitations of Ovi Social, we were unable to use our standard test settings of Twitter and Facebook at 2-hour refresh intervals.

We expect that if you're going to be spending a day (or night) out and taking lots of pictures, especially with flash, it's probably safer to bring a spare battery or an external charger along.

Reception was generally fine, although we ended a few calls unintentionally when the screen did not turn off and our cheek accidentally touched the "end call" onscreen button. This didn't happen every time, so we don't think you should be overly concerned about it.


Conclusion
To make a long story short, the Nokia 808 Pureview has near-perfect imaging chops for a mobile phone, but does a so-so job at being a communication device -- something important to the average person.

Smartphones such as the iPhone 4S, HTC One X, and Samsung Galaxy S III are popular not only because of their competent cameras, but also because of the ecosystem (apps, camera-related accessories, and so on), broad user base, and intuitive UI. These elements are sorely lacking in the Symbian OS, which is why it's the 808 PureView's stumbling block on the way to mainstream success.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has previously announced that the company will stay committed to Symbian only until 2016. At MWC in February, Nokia's then-EVP of Sales, Colin Giles, declined to comment on what's next for Symbian after Belle but stated that innovation on the platform will continue.

However, once the PureView Pro technology is brought to the Windows Phone platform, we would say the smartphone-OS big boys had better watch their backs.

The 808 PureView isn't a smartphone for the masses. For the more discerning photography enthusiasts who are looking for a compact camera replacement -- and current N8 users -- though, it's a different matter entirely. Let's face it, you probably skipped right to the part about the camera and ignored the rest of the review. If you just want a camera that can also be used to make calls and send and receive e-mails, then the Nokia 808 PureView fulfills this purpose very well.

At $839 Singapore dollars (U.S. $654) without operator subsidies, it's pretty expensive considering you can get a high-end smartphone with a modern OS at that price. But if it means saving on buying a dedicated digicam, it could be worth the price to some.

Our review unit was the black version, but the 808 PureView comes in white and red as well. Do check with your carrier for availability as the red version is not available in Singapore.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Steering Wheel


I should have found this patent application from Nokia before but it’s neither too late now. This may be related to the thigns going on between Microsoft, Ford and Nokia and Nokia Maps, it may be not.

Nokia was granted a patent application filed at United States patent & Trademark office (U.S.P.T.O).

This patent explains that on the steering wheel, there are some sensors to be fitted in and those sensors may also be on the other device too, most probably on your Lumia.The sensors could give you some combination of vibration feedback that will let you know about the action being performed on your device or car. The good thing is that we can control all the basic actions that your device does like media controls, G.P.S, Calls, etc through touch and vibration feedback. The sensors can be piezoelectric or it could be microphones also (which hints about the actions can be performed by voice). Well the piezoelectric sensors raise the doubt more here as the feedback can be touch based also(as it’s not clear what types of piezoelectric sensors are to be used). Maybe the feedback could be touch, vibration and voice all 3 together.

The list of awesome controls that can be performed on your device and car:
1.Select next song or channel.
2.Fast forward/backward.
3.Volume up/down.
4.Mute/unmute.
5.Answer/end call.
6.Increase/decrease cooling/heating.
7.Activate navigation.
8.Turn on/off spoken feedback.
9.Switch on/off traffic announcements.
10.Show the current location through car/device’s GPS.​

So all this brings our story to down here below:

Press Release: Ford and Nokia research a smarter and more personalized driving experience : My Nokia Blog

Just made this post for the readers to provide a better explanation for the above post.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Gtr


Here’s a post for all you car buffs out there, Michael Hell of Fonearena took his 808 for a spin in a Nissan GTR, the results are breathtaking (Full res. Flickr link under each image):


And here’s a video of the GTR tearing through the street (filmed with the 808 of course): Just listen to that sound, the rich recording does it justice, if there are any car buffs reading my all time favorite car noise is this, the Aston martin DBR9.

 

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Discussion Starter #11
China


The past week saw quite a few developments in the mobile sector. Nokia ( NOK ) scored a major coup by signing on China Mobile ( CHL ), the world's largest wireless carrier by subscriber base, to sell a TD-SCDMA version of the Lumia 920, starting later this month. On this news and other developments, Apple's ( AAPL ) stock took a big 7% tumble Wednesday - its biggest single-day loss in 4 years. Nokia's joint-venture with Siemens, Nokia Siemens Networks, announced the sale of its optical networking business unit to Marlin Equity Partners as part of its ongoing restructuring that will help it cut costs and sustain operations on a standalone basis. Towards the end of the week, China Mobile said that an iPhone deal with Apple is contingent on successful negotiations of a mutual 'benefit sharing' agreement between the 2 parties. (see Apple's China Potential Could Be Limited By A Subsidy Compromise With China Mobile )

Nokia's China Mobile deal

Nokia's stock received a major boost Wednesday, rising almost 13% on news that the company has entered into a deal with China Mobile to sell a version of the Lumia 920. Earlier, there were rumors in the market about the Lumia 920T for several weeks prior to the announcement but Nokia finally confirmed that it will indeed be bringing the TD-SCDMA variant of its flagship Lumia 920 smartphone, the Lumia 920T, to China Mobile before the end of the year. While Apple's iPhone 5 will be launched on both China Unicom ( CHU ) and China T elecom ( CHA ) next week, China Mobile's huge subscriber base gives Nokia almost twice as big an addressable market for its comeback Windows Phone bid in the world's biggest smartphone market.

This comes on the back of several reports claiming that the Lumia Windows Phone 8 smartphones are seeing impressive demand leading to sell-outs in multiple developed markets, including the U.S., Germany and Australia. A Yahoo China report goes as far as to claim that Nokia received more than 2.5 million orders for the Lumia 920 in less than a month since launch. To add perspective, this is just a tad shy of 2.9 million sales that Nokia recorded for the entire Lumia portfolio during the previous quarter. With the world's largest subscriber base of close to 700 million and 3G penetration of only about 11%, China Mobile presents a big opportunity for Nokia to make the most of the rising Lumia popularity. (see Nokia Inches Closer To $4.50 Fair Value With China Mobile Deal)

Apple's big fall

Despite high expectations from the ongoing holiday season, Apple's ( AAPL ) shares took a big tumble Wednesday, falling almost 7% by the end of the day and recording its biggest single-day loss in four years. Such a huge trading loss cannot obviously be accounted for by a single reason and multiple explanations have since emerged for the decline. While some have put it down to margin requirements for Apple positions being increased by clearing firms, others have attributed the decline to decreasing expectations about the declaration of a special dividend from Apple this year before the impending fiscal cliff. These reasons, however, have little to do with the fundamentals of Apple and don't therefore impact our long-term view of the company from a valuation perspective.

Apple's big fall on Wednesday however coincided with a few other important news reports that might impact its long-term competitive standing. Research firm IDC, for instance, saw Apple's tablet market share slipping to 53.8 percent in 2012 from 56.3 percent last year in the face of rising competition from Android tablets such as Google's Nexus 7, Amazon's Kindle Fire and Samsung's Galaxy Tab. Growing competition in the smartphone market from a resurgent Nokia, which announced a China Mobile deal for its flagship Lumia 920T the same day, was another big reason for the nervousness. Somewhat disconcerting was also AT&T's announcement that it expects to sell only 26 million smartphones this year, implying a year-over-year decline in Q4 smartphone sales. Given how important iPhone has historically been to AT&T's smartphone sales, this was seen as having a direct implication on the overall iPhone sales.

While all the above listed concerns may have cumulatively pulled down the company's market capitalization by $35 billion in a single day, we maintain our $710 price estimate for Apple's stock as our model takes into account the impact of the growing competition on Apple's margins both on the iPhone and the iPad front. As for the impact of the recent developments on Apple's iDevice sales, we see that our estimates might actually be a tad conservative. (see Why Apple's Fall Was Exaggerated; Sticking With $710 Estimate)

 

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Discussion Starter #12
Amazon Sale

For those interested, Amazon.com is having a big sale on current Nokia phones:

The 920 is only $39.99 (60% off current price) with a 2 year AT&T contract:
Amazon.com: Nokia Lumia 920 4G Windows Phone, Black (AT&T): Cell Phones & Accessories

Anyone still down with Symbian can pick up the N8 for only $199.99 unlocked:
Amazon.com: Nokia N8 Unlocked GSM Touchscreen Phone Featuring GPS with Voice Navigation and 12 MP Camera--U.S. Version with Warranty (Silver/White): Cell Phones & Accessories
 

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RIP Symbian


Symbian is finally dead. In Nokia's 4th-quarter financial results, the company announced that the Pureview 808 would be Nokia's last Symbian phone. We've seen this coming for a while, as Nokia said it would start moving away from Symbian in 2011. But this is the period at the end of the sentence: the final chapter for the 1st cellular smartphone OS.

When pundits claim that the iPhone was the "1st smartphone" - or anything like that - I rage silently, because it's so far from the truth. Apple's iOS is a fine OS, but it's a 2nd-generation smartphone OS, coming a full 7 years after the 1st Symbian phone, Ericsson's R380, arrived in 2000. (In our review of the R380, we said that "the Symbian EPOC OS has an elegantly designed interface with a fast response to input.")

Symbian's roots are even older than that. It's descended from Psion's EPOC16, introduced on Psion's Series 3 PDAs in 1991. Psion's later 32-bit OS, called EPOC32, was renamed Symbian in 1998. In our 1998 roundup of handheld computers, we gave the EPOC32 (aka Symbian)-powered Psion Series 5 an Editors' Choice award, saying that no other device we tested at the time "surpasses the Series 5's balance of features, price and battery life."

I did my 1st smartphone roundup at PCMag in 2004: 14 phones, 6 of which ran Symbian. By then, Symbian had become the dominant global smartphone OS, outpacing Palm OS and Windows CE. At the OS's height of popularity between 2004 and 2007, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and LG all churned out Symbian phones with a range of UIs for hungry, early smartphone users.

Apps? Yeah, we had apps. Back in 2004, I wrote approvingly of the "hundreds" of 3rd-party apps available for Symbian. The platform had app stores, too: Handango's InHand, for instance, was available for Sony Ericsson Symbian phones starting in 2003.

I was a Symbian user myself for a few years, thanks to the amazing Nokia N95 and E71. In my mind, these were the 2 finest Symbian products, and the best Nokia products, in all of history: the ultimate multimedia phone and the perfect messaging phone. The N95 had a 5-megapixel camera with a great camcorder mode while Apple was puttering along with a 2-megapixel camera with no options. The E71 outpaced BlackBerry with its gorgeous metal body and eminently usable, domed keyboard.

Symbian never became as popular in the U.S. as it was globally, because its main champion, Nokia, grew arrogant. After some success with early Symbian phones on AT&T, Nokia refused to offer customized versions of future devices to U.S. carriers, insisting that they pick up global models. U.S. carriers like a bit more coddling than that. Nokia and Sony Ericsson also stepped away from making CDMA phones, locking Symbian out of Sprint, Verizon, Alltel and other carriers.

You could say that Symbian's death was sealed by the massive shift to touch screens around 2009. Like BlackBerry OS, the Series 60 UI wasn't originally designed for touch screens, and as a result, Symbian touch-screen phones were never considered intuitive. But if you zoom out a little, you see that mobile operating systems just have about a 10-year lifespan. Symbian, Palm OS, BlackBerry OS, and Windows CE were the first round, originally designed for the low-power processors and slow networks of the early 2000s. They've since been succeeded by Windows Phone, WebOS, BlackBerry 10, and Android, all designed for more modern hardware and usability concepts.

So mourn Symbian, but don't rage. It was great in its time. Its time passed. Instead, let's take a look at my 10 favorite Symbian phones through history, in order of preference. My perspective is very U.S.-focused, so I'd be interested to see what some people from outside the U.S. think. Add your own thoughts below.
Nokia N95 (April 2007)
1 of the best smartphones in history on any platform, the N95 was the greatest achievement of Nokia, at the height of its power. In my 4.5-star, Editors' Choice review, I said the N95 was "so loaded with high-end features that it sometimes seems as if it dropped out of a time warp from the future … It's the first 5-megapixel cameraphone to hit U.S. shores, the 1st decent camcorder-phone, the best music phone … The phone's GPS mapping is gorgeous, its Web browser sublime, and its 3D games will knock your socks off." The N95 came out a few months before the iPhone.

Nokia E71 (Sept. 2008)
Symbian still had some hits to deliver in the post-iPhone era. My favorite was the E71, which out-BlackBerried BlackBerry with its gorgeous slim, metal body, far better Web browser and built-in Microsoft Exchange support. This phone was my primary device through much of 2009. "There's a lot going on with this high-end PDA phone, and that's not even counting the thousands of 3rd-party Symbian programs out there. Google Maps, Gmail, Go, and Yahoo! all run on Symbian, for instance," I said at the time.

Nokia 3650 (April 2003)
The 1st Symbian phone available in the U.S., the 3650 was very unusual for being a consumer-focused smartphone with apps. At the time, most smartphones and PDAs were considered business devices, but with its colorful shell and whimsical keypad, the 3650 was aimed straight at the average consumer. "The 3650's most impressive extra is the integrated 640-by-480 resolution digital camera, but the list goes on to include a video recorder, a voice recorder, a RealOne video player, and an XHTML browser," reviewer Bruce Brown wrote at the time.

Nokia 808 PureView (June 2012)
By the time the last Symbian phone was released, the OS was clearly on its way out, but it had 1 final surprise to deliver: a 41-megapixel camera. Nokia had been working on the technology, derived from satellite imaging, for years. The PureView is the best cameraphone in history, at least from a camera perspective, and no other smartphone has matched its huge sensor, which combines pixels to create nearly noise-free images. Unfortunately, no U.S. carrier picked up the PureView.

Nokia E90 (December 2007)
The E90 was the height of Nokia's Communicator line, which began with the 9000 all the way back in 1996. It was significantly smaller than previous Communicators, and so packed with features that it could replace a laptop for business travelers. Our 1 major complaint was its unlocked price: at $1,049, it was for CEOs only.

Nokia 6682 (June 2005)
From 2003 to 2005, Nokia rolled out a range of excellent Symbian smartphones on AT&T, each 1 better than the last. The 6682 was one of the big hits. It worked very well as an ordinary cameraphone; nobody had to bother with the smart features if they didn't want to. But with Symbian under the hood you could install "hundreds" of apps, including the Opera browser, Agile Messenger IM program, and Microsoft Exchange email. Opera, especially, was the best mobile Web browser of the time.

Nokia N82 (Feb. 2008)
For a while, Nokia was the king of cameraphones. The N82 took the N95's groundbreaking camera and added a xenon flash, making it 1 of very few phones with a real flash that could take decent pictures in the dark. "You can finally ditch your digicam: This talented smartphone is also the best camera phone we've ever seen," I gushed in the review at the time.

Nokia E7 (April 2011)
The culmination of Nokia's keyboarded business lineup, the E7 is a truly beautiful piece of hardware, with an excellent slide-out keyboard, a touch screen, and an 8-megapixel camera. We liked it much more than Nokia's flagship N8 cameraphone because we felt that the larger screen and QWERTY keyboard outweighed some of our concerns with Symbian on touch screens. With Symbian on its way out at this point, though, no U.S. carrier would pick up this handset, so the E7 never had a real chance to catch on with the professionals and messaging-focused consumers who might have wanted it.

Sony Ericsson P990i (Sept. 2006)

I wanted to include a non-Nkia Symbian phone in this list, and in my mind, the P990i was the best thing to come out of the UIQ branch of the platform. UIQ was the version of Symbian designed for touch screens, discarded in 2008 for an attempt to graft touch capabilities onto Nokia's S60 platform. The P990i had a neat design, with a traditional phone keypad on the front that flipped down to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard and a high-res-for-the-time 320-by-240 screen. It got good reviews, but as no U.S. carrier picked it up, it was very expensive here.

Nokia N-Gage QD (June 2004)
We didn't give it a good review, but I wanted to save a space for Nokia's stab at merging the smartphone and portable gaming worlds, something Nvidia is trying to do now with the Shield (and that one can argue Apple has been doing for a few years now as well.) Years before either of those companies saw gaming handhelds and phones coming together, Nokia tried to reduce the bulk in gamers' pockets and delivered big-name games on a mobile platform, including Tony Hawk games and The Sims. But without deep roots in gaming, Nokia couldn't provide a steady stream of games for the N-Gage line, and Nintendo crushed the platform.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Toyota



Nokia has won another bout in its everlasting battle with Google. Only this time the stage was not the smartphone platform but maps. In a major victory, Toyota has adopted Nokia’s HERE for its next-gen navigation system over Google’s Local Search in Europe.

An ecstatic Nokia announced in a press release that Toyota Motor Europe has joined hands with it to bring new local search tech to its next gen ‘Touch & Go’ navigation system. Nokia claims that Toyota drivers will have easy online access to high-quality industry mapping information and community-generated content including ratings, reviews and images fed directly into their cars by leveraging Nokia Local Search for Automotive.

Nokia has helped with supplying content to Toyota through automotive-grade maps and reference data in the past. Toyota is now planning to make Nokia HERE an integral part of its vehicles in Europe, Russia and the Middle East. It isn’t bound to happen anytime soon though, with the Japanese car giant setting the date for this integration to early 2014.

Currently, Toyota has been out showcasing its Verso DPL that ships with Google Local Search, Maps and Points of Interest. "In the current navigation systems we have Google Local search which will be complemented by Nokia Places from 2014," explained a Toyota spokesperson.

Nokia also announced that it will be collaborating further with Toyota to study how HERE’s navigational potential can be furthered. "Nokia and Toyota share the same vision of what the in-vehicle location experience should be - immersive, always on. Today's announcement underlines Nokia's commitment to providing fresh content and services to the auto industry so it can deliver innovative consumer solutions," said Eric Fumat, Vice President Sales & Business Development, EMEA, Nokia Location & Commerce.

Nokia announced the rebranded avatar of the mapping service HERE, formerly known as Drive, in November last year. While the service more or less remained the same, Nokia added new features like collections, 3D maps and a maps editor to it to make the refurbished service look more attractive.

Collections lets you save locations you search for through the mapping service to your Nokia account. This allows you to quickly access the saved locations instead of having to search for them again. This also allows you to quickly access your locations from other devices by logging into your Nokia account.

3D maps lets you get a 3D view of key locations around the world. Comparisons can be drawn with Apple's own 3D maps service, called Flyover, as the provider of the data is the same for both the services – C3 Technologies. The maps editor lets users update street names and traffic information. The information will then be available to other users of the mapping service.

Post acquiring Earthmine, the mapping company that brings street view functionality to it, the Finnish giant is in works on releasing its own version of Street View.

Even when there are questions being raised about Nokia’s relevance in the smartphone industry, there is no doubt that surely but steadily the company is gaining ground in the mapping world, even with giants like Google Maps and Apple Maps threatening to overshadow it.
 

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Living with a 41-MegaPixel 808 PureView:
Symbian's Heroic Last Stand

808 State: The Nokia SmartPhone that REFUSES TO DIE

Last year Nokia released to the world a mobile phone that is still unique. It's a smartphone with a 41-megapixel camera sensor, scooping up more detail than some professional DSLRs: it's the 808 PureView.

When I say "released", that’s a little misleading. This showpiece won the Best New Phone gong at last year’s Mobile World Congress, but it was hard to buy. Since the phone ran Symbian OS, it was considered toxic by carriers, and it was not distributed in the UK.

So for the past year the 808 has had a crepuscular presence. It’s lived on, in a spooky afterlife: Nokia wanted you to know about it, and prominently placed the thing on the front page of its main website – but it did not want you to actually buy it. Nokia had already transferred some 3,000 Symbian engineers to Accenture, and last February cancelled all Symbian devices on its phone road map bar the 808.

Yet, something unexpected has happened. The 808 as been quietly receiving lots of loving care and attention. Regular updates and tweaks have continued from the Other Side, including a major overhaul of the OS late last year. Every update is expected to be the last. But still they keep coming, and if anything, the pace is accelerating.

Over the past few weeks I’ve attempted to live with an 808 PureView. And it’s been an interesting and surprising experience. This is the 1st Symbian phone I’ve used regularly in 4years and it isn’t quite how I remembered Symbian.

There are some very sound reasons for giving you an extended look at the 808 today. The 808’s camera remains utterly unique to a phone – a showpiece for a unique technology that is expected to arrive on Nokia’s Lumia Windows-powered phones, perhaps later this year. And since our authoritative real-world 808 camera review last October, the user experience has changed substantially. In addition, falling prices mean you can pick 1 up for under £300. What does this get you? And what must you be aware of – what pitfalls lie in wait?

Because it’s the user experience that’s changed, rather than the camera, I’ll focus on what’s new and the state of the apps world; so think of this as complementary to last year’s camera work-out. But I should stress, as if it isn’t obvious, that the main reason for owning and using an 808 is because of the camera. There’s no 2 ways about it: the 808 is a powerful camera wrapped around a phone.

So briefly, let’s recap what this gets you.

The photographic hardware in a nutshell

The 808 uses a gigantic 41-megapixel sensor to deliver images with a maximum resolution of 38Mp (7152 x 5368 pixels). That’s not the default mode; pictures can be snapped at 5Mp (which is what you see when you 1st open the Camera app), 3Mp, 8Mp or the full 38Mp. Clever software algorithms oversample the sensor data to refine the image into a lower resolution. The results are, in most situations, the best on any camera phone.

As an example of the detail available, from North London I was able to see the Kentish Flats Offshore Wind Farm, an array of wind turbines off the Kent coast, some 40 miles away. This picture was taken from a disused railway viaduct that’s part of the Parkland Walk, at Muswell Hill, in PureView 38Mp mode.

In typical real world usage, the 808 defies many limitations of smartphone cameras. There’s a great showcase of images at the 808 fan blog PureView Club. Here are a few of mine, far less impressive, but examples of challenging shots taken at ‘ordinary’ (eg, 5Mp or 8Mp) resolution.

The shot of the Hotel Porta Fira in Barcelona, outside the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress, might be expected to show aggressive sharpening when you zoom in. It doesn’t.


The Hotel Porta Fira in Barcelona​

The photograph of the Starflyer, a 150m-high chair-flyer fairground ride, poses 2 challenges: it was taken into the Sun, with distant, fast-moving objects. You can expect glare to ruin such images, but not here, and the detail of the "flyers" is perfectly adequate. It’s helped by the 808 camera's infinity focus. As with the hotel, it is a standard 5.3Mp point and snap image.


What's it like taking a photo into the Sun's glare?


Picking out the detail on the image​

The detail is also apparent in this indoor 38MP – not great light.


An indoor shot in not the best lighting conditions
Now here’s that picture in detail.


A simple crop of the green wheel shot


Let's zoom in on these snowy footprints...


How the 808 does its stuff: an unfeasibly large sensor (click for slightly bigger)​

I found the 808 was beaten only by Nokia’s 920 at dusk or in low light. In such conditions, the 808 performs pretty well, as you can see.

The 808 shuns the usual single or dual LED flashlight, and instead uses a proper Xenon flash: this creates much brighter photos with more colour and detail and less noise. I’m less enamoured of Xenon flash than most camera-phone enthusiasts, but that’s partly because I don’t like the results of flash photography, full stop.

The 808's imaging tech serves you well in video, too, with excellent software-powered stabilisation of the footage as you move the handset while recording – but it cannot match the steadiness of the 920 and professional cams, which isolate the sensor module on gyroscopes.

The 808 also has the superb HAAC (High Amplitude Audio Capture), which Nokia developed with microphone manufacturers. This captures distortion-free audio at deafening volumes, up to 140dB (A white paper can be found here [PDF].) Naturally, it records in stereo.

The 808 handles zooming quite beautifully on still or moving images. You swipe up gently from the edge of the screen for a preview frame inside the viewfinder, and let go. If you’re taking a video, the zoom in and out is quite smooth.

Steve Litchfield, the Herodotus of the Symbian world, has a great comparison of the 808 alongside the Samsung Galaxy S4, here. The competition is pretty fierce from Samsung, and I doubt S4 owners are going to complain much about their excellent camera. But Sammy's highly aggressive sharpening of photographs takes its toll on image detail.

With the 808, there are great results almost every time, partly thanks to the camera's controls. The 808 flicks instantly between 3 modes: automatically adjusted settings; settings for specific scenes, such as snowy, spotlit, nighttime, close-up and landscape shots; and “creative mode” that lets you take full 38Mp photos.

The 808 has spawned such an enthusiastic following on the web, and there are a number of specialist camera apps available for it. For example, this 1 provides a burst shot mode, a timer and other stuff, and here’s a 3rd-party HDR app. (Of course, you can argue that what the 808 is doing with every photo is HDR - distilling lots of pixels into a few good ones.)

And once you know what you’re doing, you can take photos like this 1 – without carrying around a proper camera with you.

Modern Symbian: It's not iOS, it's Android, but it was an embarrassment

Symbian devices dominated the 1st era of smartphones, but by 2011 it had become an embarrassment. The iPhone and Android operating systems appear to have been designed as mobile touchscreen computers 1st with phone functionality added on – the emphasis was on ease of use, a fluid graphics-intensive touch-friendly user interface, and web browsing.

Symbian’s traditional fortes, such as low power consumption, were no longer important – the market now demanded performance, features and ease-of-use over long battery life. Even before the arrival of CEO Stephen Elop, Nokia had realised this shift, and anointed its homegrown Linux (Maemo, then Meego) as its modern successor. But that project couldn’t deliver in time.

Elop made a rapid conversion to Windows Phone, which left Symbian withering on the vine and withering far more rapidly than Nokia anticipated. Rather than selling 150 million units over a 2-year period from February 2011 as Nokia had hoped, Symbian-mobe sales fell off a cliff.

In 2011 Nokia disowned itself of both the Symbian brand (it became “Nokia Anna” and the subsequent update “Nokia Belle”) and the labourforce: some 3,000 Symbian developers at Nokia were transferred to Accenture. The following February, it torched everything on the roadmap except the 808 PureView. Most Accenture-bound developers were let go or reassigned.

Nokia had actually planned for a touchscreen tablet future in the late 1990s – and by 2001 had a very rich and flexible interface and stack of applications - but it failed to turn the work into reality. (See our special report Nokia’s Great Lost Platform for that story in depth.)

By 2006 all Nokia had left were variations, evolutions if you like, of work inspired by the 1990s-era, 1-handed Navikey interface. Symbian gained a menu-driven interface that used 2 soft (on-screen) buttons, a non-radical design that avoided alarming Nokia customers. The Finnish company's smartphones were pretending to be dumb phones. Then the Apple iPhone came along, and what Nokia needed was a radical new-look system. It struggled to make Symbian even half-way decent.

The Anna and Belle updates finally gave Symbian a modern makeover. Belle in particular gave the OS a user experience much more similar to Android, and finally released the interface from its crippling legacy design. How does it work in practice?

Belle features an on-screen back key, inspired by Android, that takes you back to the home screen; popup menus in the user interface were finally banished in almost all situations.

The 808 PureView was released with a special variant of Belle, and late last year a formidable bunch of changes including, incredibly for 2012, Symbian’s 1st multitouch on-screen keyboard. These updates are now available for all Symbian^3 devices, including the N8. But the stream of updates hasn’t ceased: camera tweaks, Skydrive support, uploading to Facebook and Flickr, and Nokia Music support have all been added in the past few weeks.

So what do all these updates mean in practice? It’s not all plain sailing, but it’s much better to use.

The old warhorse, updated

Many of the old complaints against Symbian, such as its reliance on an archaic menu-driven interface, are no longer valid. The Belle update, when it finally and belatedly emerged last year, removed many of these flaws. The 808 was equipped with a decent 1.3GHz ARM11 processor core, Broadcom BCM2763 graphics processor and memory – rather than the constrained resources and cheap CPUs that were depressing features of many late-period Symbian devices.

The basics of communicating, and general housekeeping, are now handled very slickly. The way in which users can make voice calls and send texts is as good or better than any of the more modern rival phone interfaces - although previewing an SMS requires a 3rd-party app.

1 single addition alone - instant Spotlight-style search available from the home screen - goes a huge way in making the device very usable: finding the settings in Symbian had become a nightmare, but now locating a contact or a setting is fairly instant.


A sample Nokia 808 PureView home screen (left) and the pull-down Notifications page (right)


Nokia Belle's handy mail widget allows you to delete mails from the home screen (left); the 3rd-party utility Belle Extra Buttons gives you a configurable pop-up with a swipe (right).​

The once notorious on-screen widgets of information and configuration controls - an emblem of iPhone-era Symbian’s suckiness - now work very well. Nokia includes an impressive pack giving you very rapid access to a button to turn off Wi-Fi and 3G, for example, and a nicely functional email viewer, comparable to Android widgets in all but the amount of detail on offer. (The 808’s 640x380 screen is the constraint, here.) Generally, the widgets "just work".

I saw no lags in the image gallery or music playing applications, which are huge improvements and well up to snuff, although Gallery lumps everything in 1 continuous view for simplicity.

So the 808 PureView isn’t quite the horror of old. What else does it give you, other than the camera?

The main draw has to be the call quality and battery life, the latter of which comfortably lasts into a 2nd day of operation. Just as designed, this is a deterministic system with no surprises. Overnight it will drain 1 or 2 per cent of the battery. Even with push email switched on I get well into a 2nd day of use; if I throttle back email I often get a 3rd day – all on a now modest 1350mAh battery.

The phone can juggle dozens of running applications at any 1 time, and if they need to run in the background – for example, syncing with Evernote - they’ll do so without overly draining the battery.

The phone's communications stack is a very well debugged – as it should be after a decade of running 3G. And it’s now bang up to date with high-quality voice calls. As a bonus, the version of VoIP client Skype for Symbian is probably the most parsimonious out there, in terms of power consumption. It lacks chat messaging and video calling, alas.

And the final highlight is Nokia’s outstanding mapping software, which it continued to update. This works offline, too. Nokia recently added a version of its superb public transport search app (look for "Public Transit") to Belle, but I found it fairly buggy – asking for "transport near me" just sent it into a spin.

What else? The quality of music playback is outstanding. Apple Mac users will need to use a 3rd-party app called DoubleTwist to transfer files to the handset, but it’s a passable kludge that leaves iTunes playlists intact.

But that’s about it for the good news.

In daily use, you get the satisfaction of using an absolutely beautifully made device. A huge amount of care went into the design and build quality. It looks bulbous and unbalanced, but it’s far from uncomfortable, largely because it's narrower than today’s Android slabs. The downside is unavoidable: an app ecosystem that was poor in 2011 and very patchy today.

Meet the app store that time forgot

Many thousands of apps found on Apple’s iTunes store or Google Play marketplace are obviously absent from Symbian's arena of 3rd-party software. That didn’t bother me so much. It’s just that by and large you will find a very mixed bag in terms of programs available. (See the box-out titled "Surviving Symbian" below.)

There are some real gems in the Symbian online app store – a superb Evernote client called Notekeeper was more than adequate, for example. And there’s a thoroughly slick and modern-looking Twitter client, the Qt-based Tweetian. But much else is woefully inadequate – or simply isn’t there at all.

The BBC’s iPlayer arrived on Symbian 1st, but hasn’t been kept up to date. Forget about Instagram. Most disappointing of all is the social networking widget. Again, Nokia predicted the web social boom very early, in 2002, but could never turn this foresight into products. Its engineers consistently produced the worse social software in the world. Here the gap is filled with a "Nokia Social" widget that does the basics of Twitter and Facebook – but very, very slowly.

The downsides include a display that is 640 x 380 pixels, which feels not quite right. And Symbian never could quite get the keyboard right, either. Oh, for a Swiftkey on-screen keyboard for the 808 – I’m not the only owner who’d pay a premium.

Surviving Symbian Belle

So, you’re tempted by the 808 and can leave the fancy tech wizardry stuff to a Nexus or Kindle Fire or an iPad Mini. You know you’re getting an amazing camera, 1st-class Maps app, and almost certainly the best mobile telephone anyone is carrying on your bus. But if the 808 PureView is to be your main phone how are you going to fill the gaps? Can it do so at all? Here’s a survival guide.

For all the loving care and attention to it, Nokia’s Webkit-based browser remains a sore point – rotten to the very end, and slow and poor at rendering pages. The built-in messaging client only handles 1 Exchange ActiveSync account at a time. This is going to hit users harder than it used to, as many people have multiple email accounts. There’s still no unified inbox, let alone basic features such as flagging messages. So much for the support that Microsoft’s Elop promised here in 2009.

I found the default mail app to be horribly temperamental – often refusing to sync on demand at all. Which is odd, because if you give it a schedule, it faithfully fetches the mail on time. Looking around the forums, this wasn't a widespread complaint. And the OS no longer supports CalDev calendars, which combined with the 1-ActiveSync limit proved to be my biggest productivity hit: I simply rely on more than 1 calendar. You have to use the in-built calendar and sync and backup to a local desktop.

For web browsing Opera Mobile will do, but it can’t match the rendering quality of its rivals, and the phone can't match the blistering pace of modern mobile hardware. For IMAP and POP email, the venerable ProfiMail is probably manadatory. ProfiMail was the best-of-breed IMAP client just 4 years ago and the best mobile email client outside the BlackBerry world. Today, it still has many features absent in other smartphones – custom rules and alerts, fine control over fetching IMAP, and scheduling; but what it doesn’t have is a unified inbox.

Social networking software poses a problem too, as you really don’t want to use Nokia Social. I ended up usng Tweetian for tweets and being pretty happy with it. A portmanteau client called Gravity is available that does Twitter, Facebook and RSS, but it needs scaling down for the 808 PureView – the fonts it uses looked gigantic. It’s hard to see anyone else matching the functionality of this well-regarded app. fMobi seems to be the preferred Facebook client of choice. For other online services, you'll need to use their mobile-friendly websites: eBay probably being the biggest service-without-an-app.

Extra Buttons is a 3rd-party utility that probably made the most difference. It adds, as the name implies, extra buttons to system icons creating a Swiss Army Knife of useful functions: popup folders (reminiscent of the old Mac OS’s popup folders), and all kinds of system function shortcuts and app shortcuts. You can even now swipe the bar to invoke a function, such as the multitasker.

There’s also a brilliant context-aware app called Situations, originally developed in house by Nokia but now spun out. Based on rules encompassing a range of criteria - such as where you are, or the time of day, or your battery level - it can perform certain actions. These include changing network settings, the screen brightness, launching and closing apps, or sending an SMS. So, leave the house and it will turn off the Wi-Fi. Drop it in your car holder to turn on "drive mode", and tell people via SMS you’re in the car. Motorola has a similar app for Android, called Smart Actions, but the Nokia version was 1st.​

Conclusion

I found myself using the 808 at weekends and in downtime when I didn't need to check email or social media feeds, and was positively surprised by the ease of use.

So what’s the value proposition for the 808? Good, dedicated cameras can be found for under £200, and good, modern phones for under £99. You’ll pay a little more for a new 808 or less if you take a risk on eBay. But if you opt for using 2 separate devices, you've got to remember to keep them both charged and in your pockets.

As the cliché goes, the best camera in the world is the 1 at your fingertips – and I've taken terrific pictures that I wouldn’t have snapped otherwise taken – because I simply wouldn’t have had a dedicated camera with me, merely an ordinary smartphone. And the 808 is no ordinary smartphone.

If this whets your appetite for the PureView's tech, then luckily we won’t have to wait long for it to arrive in other Nokia handsets. This discussion of camera shortcomings in Windows Phone 8 shows how far ahead the 808 is today.

Alas, I found the 808 couldn’t hack it for me as the sole "work phone", largely because of the slow browsing and lack of calendar sync. But then I have a work BlackBerry and can call on a tablet for the fancy stuff.

The market looks very different now to 2007 when the iPhone was launched, and affordable small tablets do this "fancy stuff" (email, browsing, social media) better than a phone – that could be a justification alone for choosing a device that specialises in 1 or 2 things. ®

Many thanks to Symbian guru Steve Litchfield for tips and steers.

Resources

To get up-to-date features and user interface changes, start with the Belle Feature Pack 2 review. Also see how to get the most from the 808 PureView camera, how to double your battery life, and how to use scene modes.

The PureView Club has regular updates on accessories, interesting usage cases and showcases some of the most striking 808 photos.

 

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Discussion Starter #16
Geek Out


Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) is the company everyone loves to hate. And it's not just Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) iFans that bemoan all things Microsoft; that goes back decades and isn't likely to change anytime soon. It seemed analysts and disgruntled investors alike blamed Microsoft when Windows 8 was rolled out for not single-handedly re-energizing the PC industry; as if that's even possible.

So it's not surprising the Microsoft naysayers were out in force expressing their displeasure when it teamed up with struggling Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) to dive into the high-end smartphone market. Take on Apple? Samsung? Insanity. Thing is, with each passing quarter, the news for both Nokia and Microsoft keeps getting better, in spite of what some would have you believe.

A few highlights
Though Microsoft didn't quite go all-in with Nokia when it came to which manufacturer's smartphone would run Windows phone OS, it's working out that way, regardless. According to a report by AdDuplex, as of April, 80% of all Windows phones sold globally are made by Nokia, led by its flagship Lumia 920 device.

Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG ) Android and Apple's iOS still rule the domestic smartphone OS marketplace of course, owning 51.7% and 41.4% through Q1 of this year, respectively. But interestingly, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, iOS and Windows phone OS both grew faster than Android compared to the 1st quarter of 2012, with iOS leading the way up 2.3 percentage points, followed by Windows Phone's 1.8 percentage point gain.

Here's where it really gets good
The success Verizon had in Q1 of this year selling Lumia smartphones, particularly compared to the 1st quarter of last year, is a significant win for both Nokia and Microsoft. Sprint is also reaping the benefits of upgrading its smartphone offerings; enjoying a nice jump in sales thanks to Apple's iPhone.

Analyst Mary-Ann Parlato of Kantar said, "For Verizon, Windows' share rose from 0.2% in the three months ending April 2012 to 6.8% by the period ending April 2013. At Sprint, they continued to reap share increases thanks to their iOS offering- iOS sales share on Sprint grew from 33.4% to 38.4% over the last year."

The much-anticipated shift from feature phones to smartphones is complete after smartphones took over the No. 1 spot in sales compared to feature phones last quarter. And that's good news for Microsoft and Nokia. Of all the Windows phone OS sales in the past year, the majority of which are Nokia devices, 42% were feature phone users upgrading to smartphones, 25% swapped Windows devices, and 23% came from an Android smartphone. No word from Kantar on the remaining 10% of Windows OS sales.

The shift from feature to smartphones makes the number of users upgrading to Windows phone OS especially intriguing for Microsoft and Nokia fans. To put it in perspective, only 31% of Apple's iOS phone sales in the past year were from feature phone users stepping up to a smartphone. It's also worth noting that Microsoft is making inroads with younger smartphone buyers, "gaining share among those aged 25-34," according to Kantar's Parlato.

There's huge potential in the mobile phone upgrade market, and the data indicates Microsoft and Nokia are poised to take advantage of the shift. And with Apple reeling from a lack of new devices and questions regarding innovation, Microsoft and Nokia are primed to continue growing market share. Like it or not, the Microsoft and Nokia partnership appears to be working.

With the release of its own tablet, along with the widely anticipated Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft is making inroads in the booming mobile computing market. In a new premium report on Microsoft, a Motley Fool analyst explains that while the opportunity is huge, so are the challenges. The report includes regular updates as key events occur, so make sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
1020


You can sum up Nokia's just-unveiled Lumia 1020 in 3 words: 41, megapixel, camera.

Teased and leaked to death up to the very last minute before the big reveal, the Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel shooter is what makes Nokia's next marquee Windows phone, and what gives hardware jockeys a reason to salivate.

The Windows Phone 8 device will sell in the U.S. exclusively at AT&T for a hefty $299.99 with 2-year contract. Preorders begin July 16, with the Lumia 1020 becoming available online and in stores July 26. (The Lumia 1020 will also sell globally.)

It's all about the camera
Make no mistake about it: the Lumia 1020's stunningly enormous image resolution is this smartphone's single killer feature and sole reason for being. Yep, the 1020 puts the mega back in megapixels.

Nokia Lumia 1020 debuts
Crazy-big 41-mp camera explained
Windows Phone tweaks back Lumia 1020's 41MP camera
Why the Nokia Lumia 1020 is AT&T-only
Path, Flipboard are coming to the Lumia 1020
What's old -- and new -- about the Nokia Lumia 1020's camera​

Here, Nokia pairs an ultralarge camera sensor with the company's PureView image-processing software, finally bringing us the smartphone we hoped the Lumia 920 and its many variants would be.

Camera geeks looking for the nitty-gritty will find 6-lens Carl Zeiss optics (as in the recently unveiled Lumia 925), which also takes on wide angles.

It has high-resolution 3x zoom, autofocus (you can manually focus, too), and a dual-flash system. A smaller LED flash complements the larger Xenon flash -- a design we saw in Verizon's Lumia 928 -- and the entire shooter captures 1080p HD video at a rate of 30 frames per second.

Ball bearings surrounding the lens promise image stabilization, which CEO Stephen Elop demonstrated onstage with photos he took on a wobbly boat. We suspect that ball bearings replaced the stabilizing springs found in the Lumia 920 to conserve space and keep the camera mount profile as low as possible.

Nokia has also made strides -- and had successes -- with its low-light photos. In fact, the Lumia 928's camera has the best low-light quality of any phone's that I've seen, with the iPhone 5 a close 2nd in my photo tests. Nokia aims for even more improved low-light performance from its Lumia 1020.

Nokia's Pro Camera settings boast controls that let shutterbugs and serious photographers easily navigate their options on the 41-megapixel beast, including manual exposure settings and long exposure times. The camera app also includes a tutorial, which sounds helpful for newbies wanting to learn how to use their high-octane phone, though we'll have to wait and see what the phone can teach us.

Couple that with Windows Phone camera apps, called lenses, that layer on additional settings you won't find in the native camera app, and you have an interesting camera story that -- Nokia hopes -- will run Samsung's 16-megapixel Galaxy S4 Zoom smartphone camera into the ground.


A closer look at the Nokia Lumia 1020 camera app.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

We got a chance to try out the Lumia 1020's camera app, which felt lively when fired up, taking photos quickly. Manipulating the Nokia's graphical camera settings was also intuitive once we got the hang of it. We did notice that the phone's fancy Map app took a while to launch and stuttered a bit when we tried the "Here" augmented-reality function.

41 megapixels amounts to a lot of captured information, more than most people can and will really use, but -- as with the Symbian-birthed Nokia 808 PureView before it -- the Lumia 1020's higher megapixel count translates into a 5-megapixel image with lossless zooming for higher-quality cropped photos.

In the Lumia 1020, Nokia is extending this "oversampling" method to video as well, which could mean some really high-fidelity HD captures when you zoom in. It isn't just about images with Nokia. Audio technology that Nokia calls "rich recording" promises to capture clear, distortion-free sound even in loud surroundings.

Design and specs
Of course, the matte white, black, or yellow Lumia 1020 is more than just a camera. Toss the large, round shooter module aside and it looks a lot like the Lumia 920 phones, both in terms of the squared corners and rounded spines, and also its guts.

Close up, there are a few differences between the 2 handsets. When we got a chance to handle the new Lumia 1020 in the flesh, the phone certainly impressed with its build quality and premium feel. Like its predecessor's, the 1020's chassis is a unibody piece molded from high-quality polycarbonate. It also sports similar smoothly rounded edges and a slightly curved back, making it comfortable to hold.


Shutterbugs of all levels can dive into the Nokia Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel camera.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The Lumia 1020 is slightly thinner and lighter than the Lumia 920; that's no mean feat considering the enormous camera. The back of the 1020 also uses a soft-touch coating that feels less slippery than the 920's often-glossy back surface.

The screen on this 4G LTE smartphone has the same familiar 4.5-inch AMOLED PureMotion HD+ display with a 1,280x768-pixel HD display and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Nokia's Clear Black filter lies on top for cutting down outdoor glare. As with the new guard of Lumia phones, this 1020 has an ultrasensitive touch screen that you can operate with your fingernail or gloved hand; the 1020 is new enough to get Gorilla Glass 3 as its topper.

Above the display, a 1.2-megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera sits at the ready to capture shots and HD video.

The 1020 runs on a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, and has 32GB of internal memory, supplemented by 7GB of SkyDrive cloud storage, courtesy of Microsoft. The phone is sealed in typical high-end Lumia fashion, so there's no expandable memory, though 32GB is a healthy helping.

Nokia has managed to keep the phone fairly thin, coming in at 0.4 inch like the rest of the Lumia line.


You can buy aftermarket Lumia 1020 accessories like a wireless charging cover or this camera grip.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Although the Lumia 1020 will not come with wireless charging built in, you can buy an aftermarket charging cover. You can also pick up a camera grip made for the phone for $79.

Turning up the heat
With its 41-megapixel camera, Nokia's Lumia 1020 absolutely brings the wow factor, proving that Nokia can innovate in its own way, that it is a mobile force to be reckoned with.

Nokia has certainly made good on its promise to produce Windows Phone devices at every price point. Yet with the Lumia 1020 being unveiled so soon after the Lumia 925 global flagship and Verizon's 928 variant, Nokia is now out and out flooding the market.

Still, it's hard not to get excited about a modern smartphone powerful enough to replace your point-and-shoot, and possibly even your dSLR. The $300 asking price is a high 1; we haven't seen costs like this for some years. However, Nokia is betting on folks seeing the value of a true 2-in-1 device and making an investment.

I'd bet on those prices certainly coming down as the months progress, particularly around the holiday season. But before then, we'll have plenty of time to see just how this PureView camera handles.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Connected Driving


While Nokia continues to work on clawing back some of the once-market-leading smartphone business it has lost in the last few years to Apple and Android handset makers like Samsung, it has also slowly been building out a business based around its mapping and navigation division, rebranded as HERE earlier this year. That strategy — which has seen deals with the likes of Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW and Garmin for its in-car navigation systems — is going into high gear today. Nokia is launching Connected Driving, which included HERE Auto for embedded in-car navigation; HERE Auto Cloud for extra services like real-time traffic updates; and HERE Auto Companion, apps that will make it seamless to link up location data that you want to use or that you’ve created in your car, with what you are doing when you are outside the car and using your smartphone instead. On top of this, it’s upgrading its HERE Traffic system with a new data processing engine called “Halo.”

The launch today, in some regards, represents 1 of Nokia’s biggest challenges yet: it’s pitching itself as an operating system provider for other hardware makers (car companies; in-car system makers) to use as the platform for new products. Call it Nokia’s Android strategy.

Nokia is unveiling this suite of services today at the the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany. As with the rest of the products in HERE, Nokia’s intention is for all of this to be interoperable with different smartphone platforms. What that will mean in theory is that while HERE Auto and Auto Cloud will be loaded on to in-car systems, the apps in the Auto Companion will be launched for multiple platforms, including iOS and Android. In practice, though, Floris van de Klashorst, VP of connected cars for HERE, tells me that it’s likely that we will see the 1st services to be built on the platform that Nokia itself uses for smartphones, Windows Phone.

A rundown of the new services:

HERE Auto. This is Nokia’s embedded in-car navigation service. Using cached content, Nokia says it’s the 1st on the market that provides comprehensive mapping data even when a user doesn’t have a data connection. This includes turn by turn voice guided navigation in 95 countries, as well as 2D, 3D and satellite map views, with street-level imagery. Van de Klashorst tells me that Nokia is now also working on an SDK (yet to be released publicly) that will let third parties integrate services directly into this experience. He pointedly tells me that this will not include ads, which users they have surveyed have said are too distracting in cars. But this doesn’t rule out placing markers, for example, for a particular pizza joint when you are driving by it looking for some Italian food. Other features that are likely to come in by way of the SDK are music services and social networking services (not distracting like ads at all, right?!). Early users of this before the wider release include in-car system maker Continental, which is using them as part of its “Open Infotainment Platform.” I’d expect other app makers and navigation service companies to be added to the list soon.

HERE Auto Cloud. Like HERE Auto, this is also designed to work with and without data connections — useful for when you are in remote areas, or you are in regions where you may be roaming outside of your carrier’s network. This is Nokia’s own layer of extra services around driving — for example real-time traffic updates, helping drivers avoid congested areas, road closures or blockages that occur en route, as well as other services such as recommendations on places to eat, parking spots, information on where to charge an electric vehicle or where to find the most inexpensive fuel.


From the screenshots that Nokia provided to me, it looks like this is 1 of the fruits of its relationship with 4square:


Here Auto Companion. This is the bridge between what Nokia is doing in the car and what it is doing outside of it. The Auto Companion, as Van de Klashorst demonstrated to me, works both on the web and as a mobile app, and it’s actually very cool: what it lets you do is create mapping instructions or take notes of a place that you’d like to visit, when you are sitting at your computer or on your phone, and then, when you get into your HERE-powered car, those data points follow you. If you start a trip in your car, and then park it, you can continue finding your way using your handset. Taking a page from the many apps that let users control what their TVs at home are recording, Nokia says that drivers can also use the app to find their car (using LiveSight augmented reality technology) and check stats for fuel levels and tire pressure. Part of this will be based on the new HALO platform, which basically will gather data using different sensors on the car. This will be used not just for app services for the consumer but to help gather more accurate information about weather in a particular place and more.

For cars that are shared between more than 1 person (say, in a family) each user can have his or her own interface in a vehicle:

Van de Klashorst tells me that the big idea here is to personalize those in-car experiences: “1 thing that is apparent is that people have a strong relationship both with their cars and with their phones, but the in-car systems are ice cold. People cannot influence or modify or personalise them. To make them personal is a very important aspect.”

And when you think about this, it’s a potentially interesting area when you link it up with wider trends in the automotive space, such as with car sharing services like Zipcar. “With car sharing services, this car that you don’t own becomes your car. Systems like this once will be a very important part of elevating and experience to make it your own,” he notes.

Apart from the challenges of competing against other smartphone players (including Google, Apple and BlackBerry) who also have stakes in the automotive game — Apple already has integrations with several car makers and there are often rumors swirling of how this will expand over time; Google has gone so far as to create self-driving vehicles; and BlackBerry has QNX — Nokia is doing this from a position that is not without its own challenges. In Nokia’s last quarterly earnings, Here posted sales of $305 million, down 18% over last year, up 8% on the previous quarter and it remains loss-making, with a $116 million operating deficit, which is at least marginally better than the $120 million a year ago.

Still, Nokia has in its hands a very key asset: it holds 1 of the biggest databases of mapping information in the world, meaning it doesn’t need to rely on 3rd parties for it. 1 even with its many layoffs, it still employs hundreds of engineers that are thinking of clever ways of using that to Nokia’s advantage. Nokia has nothing to lose by trying to get out into pole position in this space at this still-early stage in the connected car revolution.

 

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Discussion Starter #19
MarketShare


Over a quarter of a billion smartphones shipped in Q3 2013. Compared to Q3 2012, this represents a 44 percent year-over-year increase.

The latest figures come from Canalys, an independent analyst firm which found Samsung and Apple managed to maintain their positions for smartphone shipments in Q3 2013, with market shares of 34 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Huawei, Lenovo and LG rounded out the top 5.

Shipments of large-screen (5″ and above) smartphones reached their highest ever level, accounting for 22 percent of shipments (56 million units). Canalys says this trend continues to be driven mainly by Samsung, which dominates the large-screen segment. Breaking down the figure further, 66 percent of the 56 million smartphones had a 5″ display, 31 percent had screens between 5″ and 6″, and 3 percent had 6″ screens or larger.

As for the platform wars, Android and iOS shares were static sequentially. Microsoft’s Windows Phone, however, managed to increase its share of the market to 4 percent. This represents a year-over-year increase in shipments of 185 percent to 9.2 million units in Q3 2013.

More interestingly, Windows Phone placed as the 2nd biggest OS in 19 countries, including Finland, with a 39 percent share, Vietnam (16 percent), Italy (15 percent), Thailand (11 percent), Turkey (11 percent), and Russia (8 percent).

“Nokia’s new Lumia handsets will help shore up this position in the holiday quarter, but Microsoft and Nokia must ensure that momentum is kept up well into the New Year as the acquisition goes through to completion,” Canalys Analyst Jessica Kwee said in a statement. The rise of Windows Phone during this past quarter is a trend we reported about in Europe already, but now it looks like it is more widespread than that.

Unsurprisingly, Greater China (China, Hong Kong and Taiwan) again grew the most (64 percent), with nearly 100 million units shipping. The region now accounts for 39 percent of the global market. Latin America had the 2nd highest growth rate, at 59 percent, though it is the smallest region, with 19 million units shipped.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Audio


As an industry 1st, the Nokia Lumia 1520 includes four high-performance digital mics for directional stereo recording and for a stunning audio experience in videos.

Hear the directional mic capabilities of the Nokia Lumia 1520 in action (if you have headphones, plug them in now). This live performance by Niila of his song “Bottle of Wine” was captured using 6 Nokia Lumia 1520 prototypes (and, the video was edited in Adobe Premiere with no adjustments to the audio quality):

It started this past summer with the release of the Nokia Lumia 1020, showing us all so much more than our eyes could see. Now, with the release of the Nokia Lumia 1520, you will be in a position to both see more, and hear more than ever before.

“Nokia has been pioneering in mobile phone audio for decades,” says Heikki Sassi, head of the audio technology management team for Lumia. “To take the imaging experience to the next level in videos, audio has become a very important part of the story.”

The Nokia Lumia 1520 includes the Nokia Rich Recording capability found in the Lumia 1020, and it goes a step further with the use of 4 high-performance digital microphones for directional stereo recordings.

Directional recording enhances the clarity of your recordings by rejecting the sounds outside the direction of capture. In other words, the sounds in front of the camera are recorded in best possible way.

“Previously, if you wanted audio recording capabilities like this you would need to buy a professional video camera or external mics to do the job. Nokia is the 1st company to introduce 4 microphone directional stereo recording in a camera phone,” Heikki says.


Nokia Rich Recording

The Nokia Rich Recording functionality found in the Lumia 1520 is based on High Amplitude Audio Capture microphones, combined with Nokia’s state-of-the-art audio capture algorithms and acoustics design to get the very best recordings possible.

You can capture the full hearing range from the lowest bass to the highest treble (ca. 20Hz to 20 KHz in frequency spectrum).

“None of the other smartphone microphone solutions out there cover this bandwidth in all conditions. The sound is either distorted or bandwidth limited,”
Heikki notes.

Unlike competitor devices, when using the Lumia 1520 you can record more than 6X louder sound levels than conventional mics. “You can go to the loudest rock concerts, and you will not get any distortion in your recordings,” he says. “The quality is amazing.”

Combine this audio recording capability with the imaging features of the Lumia 1520, and you will be able to create videos (dare we even say “movies”) like never before.

“It has been said that music is 50% of the movie-watching experience. On a 6-inch screen, maybe it is more like 75%,” Heikki suggests.


Directional stereo recording

In the Lumia 1020, you have Nokia Rich Recording combined with 2 mics for omni-directional recording to take in the sound all around you (whether in front of you or behind you). With the 4 microphone directional stereo recording included in the Lumia 1520, you are recording the sounds in the front of the camera, while attenuating unwanted sounds from other directions.

There is also a great sense of direction in your recordings, such as someone walking around you. “You can easily tell which direction sounds are coming from – either with headphones or speakers – it adds a sense of immersion, and being there.”

At the same time, those 4 mics are used for other purposes in the device, including advanced noise-reduction in wideband and standard voice calls.


Making the most of all 4 mics

You might think that having 4 mics built in to Lumia 1520 poses a problem for how to properly hold the device. You don’t want to accidentally cover up one of the microphones. Heikki assures us that the mics have been positioned so that they are ergonomically in the best place possible, and that you won’t inadvertently block them with your fingers.

Finally, the capabilities of Nokia Rich Recording open up great possibilities for the app developer community, too. “We have thought about this and we are looking into possibilities for unlocking the capabilities for app developers too”, Heikki tells us.

Learn more about high quality audio recording in Nokia Lumia smartphones in this whitepaper.

 
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