Mobile // Mobile Devices
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9/6/2012
04:29 PM
Larry Seltzer
Larry Seltzer
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Lumia 920: Nokia, Microsoft Finally Bring Their 'A' Game

Poor Windows Phone. All this time, nobody has paid much attention to it. That's about to change with the just-announced Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8. It looks to be a top-notch phone that showcases the killer OS Microsoft has been planning all along.

I'm surprised at the skeptical reception the Nokia Lumia 920 got on Wednesday. I watched the LiveStream of the press event and I was totally impressed. I think most of the press doesn't really understand what it's dealing with. After years of distracting us with older Windows Phone versions and mostly inferior phones, Microsoft and Nokia have brought out the big guns. After I'm done with this column, the next thing I write is an e-mail to our head of IT begging him to let me have one of these phones.

Our own Eric Zeman's bad impression came from the lack of detail provided about Windows Phone 8, and certainly there's a lot we don't know yet. But remember, this was a Nokia event, not a Microsoft event.

It's true that Nokia and Microsoft left out a lot of details: price, carriers, release dates, little things like that. Microsoft and Nokia say these will be divulged in the fourth quarter. My sense of it is that this event was rushed out in order to give people something to think about when the iPhone 5 comes out next week. And perhaps Microsoft and Nokia don't want to be committed to a price before Apple commits to its price.

If you want details about the phone itself, there are a lot of them on the specifications page.

One of the questions was partly answered Thursday by the Wall Street Journal: Verizon confirmed that it will sell Nokia phones in the future, and it's a reasonable guess that the Lumia 920 will be one of them.

The operating system aside, there are a number of noteworthy features in this phone. Many of them, like the quality of the PureView camera, can't be vetted of course until reviewers get their hands on the Lumia. But they will eventually, and if the reality of the features don't match the high expectations, Nokia and Microsoft are in for some major blowback.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that the camera is as good as they say. That means it's really good, and the software they showed is perfectly plausible. Some of what it does, such as being able to take multiple images and select the best one, have already been released in the Samsung Galaxy S III. I suspect it's all based on tech from the same outside vendor, possibly Scalado, who we interviewed earlier this year in Barcelona.

They claim that the screen is the most responsive and brightest ever shipped on a smart phone--although given that it hasn't shipped, and some other very important phones are about to ship, that might be a premature statement. Let's just stipulate that it's a really good screen, to the point where I can't tell the difference between it and anything better.

Another cool demo Nokia gave was the screen's two modes of touch: the usual capacitive mode where it detects the conductivity of the user's skin, and another mode that works differently. In the demo, the user had mittens on and still was able to use the display.

When I heard that the 920 had a 2000 mAh battery I was somewhat impressed; then, later in the day, Motorola announced that the batteries in its new Droid Razr line range from 2000 mAh up to 3300 mAh. Yowza! I hope this is a trend.

The wireless charging built in to the Lumia 920 is a good gee-whiz feature, but I've already called it a stupid gimmick, and I haven't changed my mind. But the 920 still has a micro USB slot, so no harm done, other than the added cost and space.

I did like the JBL Power Up wireless speaker and headphones they demonstrated working with the phone. In the demos, they made the wireless speaker (below) play a song that was playing on the 920 by tapping the phone on the speaker to invoke NFC. They did the same with the JBL headphones. The Power Up speaker also is a base for wireless charging.

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