Nokia on Wednesday unveiled its latest Lumia Windows Phone devices at a New York press conference aimed at raising its U.S. profile, and further distancing itself from Apple and Android.
Its flagship handset the Lumia 920, and its mid-range sibling the Lumia 820, are two of the first Windows Phone 8 devices to be publicly announced, following Samsung's unveiling of its Ativ smartphone at IFA in Berlin last week.
For one analyst, the significance of Nokia showing off its new phones in New York could not be over-stated.
"Nokia's decision to unveil its second generation Lumia devices in the U.S. is extremely significant for the Finnish handset manufacturer, which has always struggled to make an impact in the country, even before the advent of Apple's iPhone," claimed Tony Cripps, principal analyst, devices and platforms, Ovum.
Nokia has seen no growth in device volumes in North America for the last six months, shipping just 600,000 units in each of the first and second quarters. In Q2 2011 it shipped 1.5 million devices in North America.
The Lumia 920 was the main focus of the event. Nokia said LTE and HSPA+ versions will go on sale later this year; pricing information and operator partnerships will be announced on a country-by-country basis.
Powered by Qualcomm's 1.5-GHz, dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip, the phone demonstrates the steps taken by Nokia to maintain its position as the Windows Phone vendor of choice.
For instance, its eight megapixel camera incorporates some of the PureView technology Nokia first demonstrated at Mobile World Congress earlier this year. Among other things it enables people to take better night-time pictures, and capture stable, HD-quality video while on the move.
"We're challenging the conventional limitations imposed on smartphone cameras," said Nokia's executive vice president of smart devices, Jo Harlow.
"Improving the imaging capabilities of its smartphones is a reasonable strategy in an age when meaningful differentiation between different makes of smartphone can be hard to identify," noted Ovum's Cripps.
Nokia has also added augmented reality to its range of navigation applications, overlaying the camera's viewfinder with additional local information. The Lumia 920 also incorporates wireless charging, based on the Wireless Power Consortium's Qi standard, as well as NFC, enabling it to connect to other similarly capable products, such as speaker docks and headphones. Including NFC could also pave the way for a number of m-commerce services.
Physically the Lumia 920 takes the same design cues from one of its predecessors, the Lumia 800. It incorporates the same slightly curved display panel encased in a single piece of polycarbonate. However, it now comes in a broader range of colours, aimed at making it stand out from the raft of monochrome rivals.
Meanwhile Nokia's senior vice president Kevin Shields spent most of his brief Lumia 820 presentation focusing on the phone's interchangeable rear cover, which is reminiscent of the interchangeable faceplates that first featured on Nokia's 5110 handset, released in the late 1990s. Not only can end users pick the colour they want, some Lumia 820 covers will come embedded with wireless charging technology.
The press conference also featured a late cameo by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who took the stage briefly to emphasise that the new Lumia phones represent "a very important milestone" in the company's 18-month-long partnership with Nokia, and how Windows 8 is converging the user experience across phones, tablets and PCs.
Indeed, "this is also a notable launch for Microsoft," said Ovum's Cripps.
"[Microsoft] needs to pull out all the stops to guarantee greater awareness and demand for Windows Phone 8 devices, among consumers, business users and carriers," he said.(http://www.totaltele.com)