Nokia’s Windows Phone 8 launch devices, the Lumia 820 and flagship Lumia 920, will be hitting Australian shelves come the end of November. Both devices represent a new phase in both Nokia and Microsoft’s mobile development and have been keenly anticipated by tech gurus and Windows Phone enthusiasts alike.
Windows Phone 8 is a new and, reportedly, powerful mobile OS from Microsoft. Instead of being merely an update to the varyingly popular Windows Phone 7 platform, WP8 has been rebuilt from the ground up using the same kernel as Windows 8. This means that Microsoft’s newest mobile and PC operating systems should feature many benefits when used in tandem, as very few tweaks will be necessary for developers to port an app from Windows 8 to Windows Phone 8.
Moreover, where Windows Phone 7 was fairly restricted in what kind of hardware it could handle, WP8 supports much more powerful smartphone specs. The Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 will be the first examples of this from Nokia.
The Nokia Lumia 920
The Lumia 920 will be available from Telstra and leading retailers on Lumia 920 plans or for AUD $829 outright. Boasting a stylish polycarbonate casing similar to its predecessors, the 920 will be available in black, white, red and yellow from Telstra. Grey models will be available from retailers. It will also work on the Telstra 4G LTE network.
As far as specs go the Lumia 920 may not seem like the most powerful kid on the block, sporting just a dual-core processor rather than a quad-core. But that shouldn’t matter too much. It’s always important to note when comparing specs between different operating systems that hardware isn’t the only thing that matters. For example, Android is an open source platform, meaning that it has to cater to a huge variety of hardware components. This can hamper efficiency and performance, meaning that more powerful parts may be required to do the same job. So while the Lumia may not compare to high end Android devices on paper, real-world testing is yet to be conclusive.
That being said the Lumia 920’s PureMotion HD+ display beats some of the baddest kids on the block. A resolution of 768×1280 (slightly more than 720p) across the 4.5 inch screen makes for an impressive pixel density of 332 pixels per inch (ppi). On top of that our past experiences with Nokia Windows Phones have lead us to expect extremely crisp blacks, vibrant colours and clear whites. Black in particular is important here, as the default WP8 theme relies heavily on stark contrast.
What we’re the most keen to try out is the Lumia 920’s PureView camera. Test shots that we’ve seen demonstrate a camera that can not only compete with the iPhone 5 in daylight, but actually boast some of the best low-light shots we’ve ever seen from a smartphone. Of course you can never really trust a test photo until you’ve taken some yourself, so we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve had a chance to do our Lumia 920 review.
The Nokia Lumia 820
The Lumia 820 is a sort of high, mid-range device that lacks some of the features of the 920, while also sporting a few of its own. The 820 will be available from Vodafone plans at the end of November and from Optus on Optus 4G plans in December. Both carriers will also offer the Lumia 820 for $649 outright.
In order to maintain its lower price tag the Lumia 820 has made some sacrifices here and there. One missing feature is the PureView camera we’re so eager to get our hands on.
The Lumia 820 instead has an 8MP Karl Zeiss camera. We’ve had positive experiences with a similar camera on the Nokia Lumia 900, but it still couldn’t quite hold its own against an iPhone shooter in many situations.
Probably the most disappointing sacrifice is that the 4.3 inch AMOLED screen sports a WVGA resolution of just 480×800. While we’re happy to see that it’s an AMOLED and thus should still offer great colours and deep blacks, we would have at least hoped for a qHD resolution of 540×960.
That being said the 820 has its own unique perks. The colourful casing surrounding the phone is removable, meaning that users can switch colours if they so choose. Extra cases will of course be an added extra, but it’s nice to have to option to change things up if you get tired of the one colour.
The removable case itself has its own surprise: wireless charging. The Lumia 820 can be charged simply by placing it on a charging pad. We don’t see this being a make or break selling point for most folks, but it’s still pretty cool as a standard feature.
As far as what’s running under the hood goes the Lumia 820 sports the same Snapdragon S4 processor as the Lumia 920.
Two Shiny New Smartphones
Out of all the Windows Phone 7 devices we’ve reviewed we’d have to say that Nokia has made our two favourites. The Lumia 800 and Lumia 900 were by far the most impressive WP7 experiences when it came to visuals and daily use. We can’t wait to get our hands on what we hope to be a continuation of this trend.
Of course it’s yet to be seen how well both Nokia and the WP8 platforms do in the coming months, especially after the ultimately mediocre success of WP7, but we’re going to remain cautiously optimistic.
At the end of the day if WP8 takes off it means more choice for the consumer. More choices generally means more competition and, so long as it doesn’t turn in to another patent war, more competition always ends in the customer’s favour.