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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.

The improvements to Nokia Maps, Drive, and Transport also are impressive, and these products have a good reputation, but the proof is in the pudding with such things. Some of the improvements are the inclusion of public transport schedules and walking directions (like Google Maps has had for a while). When you find a route and tell it when you need to get there, the phone will tell you when you need to leave based on schedules, traffic patterns, or both.

Nokia Maps on the 920 also has true offline maps, which is a really good thing. Nokia insisted this doesn't mean cached maps, but actual locally-stored maps, so if the data connection is slow or gone, you still have maps. That's cool.

As for the "augmented reality" capability? This is weird and cool stuff--look through the camera and the phone combines the image with GPS coordinates and its location database to overlay the names of restaurants and other such locations on your field of vision. But it's not the sort of thing I'm likely to use. This I gotta see for myself; perhaps it's just a parlor trick and not really all that useful. After all, you could stumble upon a really good place just by keeping your eyes open.

The "augmented reality" feature lays information over the camera's viewfinder.

Finally! Windows Phone 8 does screen shots. Press Power + Home.

The demo by Microsoft's Joe Belfiore focused mostly on the camera using Microsoft software included in Windows Phone 8. From the image viewer the user can bring up applications, called "lenses", which can filter or otherwise modify images. Microsoft's Photosynth panorama tools also will be included to create and view 360-degree panoramas with a Windows 8 phone.

PCPro in the UK reported that Nokia decided to nix a Micro SD card in the 920 because "...it would have harmed the clean design," quoting Nokia executive VP Kevin Shields. This seems odd to me. I have a Lumia 900, which looks from a distance to be a similar design, and it has a keyed door for the SIM card. Why not another such door for a Micro SD? Bad decision if you ask me. Maybe there just wasn't room.

Another thing observers complain about is the lack of apps. There are a lot more apps than they might think, but this is another example of where I think those observers don't understand Windows Phone 8: It shares a common code base with Windows 8 and apps for it will be close ports of Windows 8 programs. If you like the idea of having an app that you can sell both for Windows 8 (Pro and RT) and Windows Phone 8, then you're going to be interested. This is why I expect the Windows Phone Marketplace to overflow with software not too long after Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are actually available.

In fact, all things considered, it's easy to see now why ISVs and handset makers gave Windows Phone 7.x the cold shoulder--they knew it wasn't the real deal, and that phones for it would not be upgradable to version 8. With version 8 many of these companies will see Windows Phone as a game worth playing.

I'm not in love with everything about the Lumia 920, but I still want one and I want it soon. I hate the idea of having to live with my iPhone 4S much longer.

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