As Apple iPhone 5 Release Date Looms, 5 Reasons Nokia's new Windows Phone 8 Smartphones Stand Out
Now that Samsung has set the scene for how to seriously compete with Apple's iPhone with its Galaxy S III, it's time for Nokia to step up to the plate and take a swing with their new Windows Phone 8 powered smartphones. Leaks aside, the upcoming announcement in New York on Sept. 5 is going to be a crucial one for Nokia, for the Windows Phone ecosystem, and the world of smartphones as a whole.
Outside of the specifications of the device and the inclusion of Windows Phone 8 as the operating system, what should you be looking out for during the launch?
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Nokia's PureView Imagaing Technology
Potentially Nokia's last big Symbian powered phone, the Nokia 808, announced at Mobile World Congress (and walking away with the "Best In Show" award), featured a jaw-dropping 41-megapixel sensor. It wasn't just for 'big' images but the software allowed far more over-sampling and processing of an image, providing very high quality images, improved low light performance, and lossless zoom.
It also led to a rather distinctive bulge on the back of the 808, but the image aficionados were happy with that as a trade off.
It's unlikely they would want to add a bulge to a stylish and modern smartphone, but I see no reason why a sensor of 20 megapixels or so, coupled with the PureView software technology, won't be in the flagship device. The Lumia 800 and Lumia 900 camera was comparatively poor, and Nokia will want to reclaim their image as leaders in smartphone imagery with the new devices.
The Ongoing Styling Story
Thanks to recent court cases, a lot of people will be focusing closely on the physical design of the device. But they should rest easy, Nokia have consistently been using the "pillow style" shape on their handsets from the Symbian powered Nokia N8 through the Windows Phone Lumia 900. Expect to see rounded long edges, flattened profiles at the top and bottom, and a very shallow curve over the glass and the rear of the unit.
Nokia's Extra Software
Microsoft has put a lot of effort into keeping the look and feel of Windows Phone as consistent as possible over different manufacturers, and largely succeeded. Differentiation focuses heavily on styling and the extra software available on a device. While HTC and Samsung have a number of extra apps on their Windows Phone devices, this is an area where Nokia excel.
Their Windows Phone 7 devices stood out with apps such as Nokia Music (free streaming music out the box), Nokia Transport (for public transport navigation), Nokia Reading, and their crown jewels of Nokia Maps (coupled with Nokia Drive for in-car directions). Every one of these should be available on Windows Phone 8, but there may be an extra trick or two in software to make the new handsets sand out even more.
That's before we consider what they will bring from their partnerships with ESPN, CNN, Sky News, Trip Advisor, Nimbuzz, Groupon, and The Weather Channel, to name a handful of the companies they are working with.
NFC Payment Support
After much back-and-forth on the issue, it seems the iPhone 5 will not have an NFC chip. And that's a big plus for Nokia. Announced alongside Windows Phone was Microsoft's Wallet hub, promising a single space for users to track credit and debit cards, loyalty programs, membership cards, airline boarding passes, and more. Windows Phone 8 also supports NFC, and this is another area where Nokia has a lot of experience - such as their NFC ticketing trial with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority. It's an area with a lot of interest from the mobile phone networks, and I wonder if Nokia is going to big up the NFC Payment features on any new devices, alongside their practical NFC uses such as "touch to pair" with their bluetooth enabled audio accessories.
Will They Announce Pricing and a US Network?
And, of course, how much will it cost? Manufacturers know that the actual price of the handset is never the price the consumer will pay. Network subsidies will come into play in a huge way, especially in the US market. The Lumia 900 was a '$100 smartphone' when it launched on AT&T, even if the unlocked price was originally $899.
Nokia have traditionally given a price before tax or subsidy when announcing a handset, but giving any hint of the actual price at a US launch, with all their competitors breathing down their neck, is probably a good definition of a bad idea. I hope that Nokia will announce which US networks will be carrying the new hardware, and the subsidized price that will be on the in-store price ticket.