Tag Archives: Windows Phone 8

Lumia 928 For Verizon: Unboxing & Overview

The Lumia 928 is the only Lumia that comes with a Xenon flash, 3 high amplitude audio capture mics and a loud speaker with more thumb than most of its competition. If along with Verizon’s excellent LTE network, these are things that excite you, then read on for the unboxing and overview of this device, that costs $99 on contract.

Lumia 928

The Lumia 928 while looking different from the Lumia 920 (more square than rounded, less colour options) is still very similar to it. Most internals are still the same, a 1.5 Ghz dual core Snapdragon S4 chip, 1 GB of RAM, NFC, a 2000 mAh battery, a 4.5″ Gorilla Glass 2, super sensitive Pure Motion HD+ display, 8.7 MP Carl Zeiss camera with optical image stabilisation, HERE apps, Nokia Music and other apps like Smart Shoot, Cinemagram camera lenses.

Where the Lumia 928 improves is:

  • Despite packing a Xenon flash, is only 10.1 mm thick.
  • 3 HAAC mics for great audio capture no matter where you’re shooting.
  • A louder speaker on the back (although the quality can be iffy at full volume).

(YouTube link)

In case there’s something you’d like me to cover sooner, please let me know in the comments section below.

Hands-On: The Nokia Lumia 920, The Best Lumia Yet

Yesterday Nokia announced its first Windows Phone 8 devices, the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820. The announcements were made at a joint press conference with Microsoft, and the world awaited the official consumer unveiling of the Windows Phone 8 operating system along with Nokia’s delicious hardware. Sadly, only one of them delivered. Microsoft for some strange reason still wants to keep WP8 under wraps, so it was upto Nokia to step up. So while the keynote might have become a bit of a drab because of us being forced to look at the WP 8 start screen being reorganised endlessly, make no mistake, Nokia’s Lumia 920 has actually raised the bar when it comes to premium smartphones.

For the first time, Nokia’s phones have parity with the top tech specs that Android manufacturers are throwing around. The Lumia 920 features a 4.5″ 1280 x 768 HD LCD display that uses Nokia’s Clear Black tech along with PureMotion HD+ that promises lag free scrolling due to extremely fast refresh rates, a 1.5 Ghz dual core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1 GB of RAM, NFC, a 2000 mAh battery with support for wireless charging, an 8 MP PureView camera, topped off with a beautiful polycarbonate unibody construction that comes in yellow, grey, black, red and white.

Hands-On: The Nokia Lumia 920, The Best Lumia Yet

The Lumia 920 has been blessed with the ‘PureView’ moniker, and this time Nokia’s focus has been on improving low light photography. To that end, the 920 becomes the first phone to feature optical image stabilisation, and coupled with a f 2.0 lens, it should allow you to take great low lights shots, and greatly reduce camera shake in our everyday shots as well. 1080 HD video recorded on the Lumia 920 will also benefit as because of OIS, the video will be a lot smoother and a lot less jumpy. If some of the images Nokia’s shared are to be believed, we are looking at a phone that truly deserves the PureView name.

Another ‘Pure’ tech that Nokia’s introduced with the Lumia 920 is the ‘PureMotion HD+’ display. While they could have just stuck to ‘PureMotion’ as far as the naming goes, the underlying technology is impressive here as well. You can use the Lumia 920 while wearing gloves, with objects and unlike other devices with capacitive screens, you aren’t restricted to using your hands directly. Plus the PureMotion HD+ tech helps remove any visible lag while scrolling, as the screen refreshes faster than any other display on a competing device. If you ask Nokia’s they’ll tell you that its also great for watching movies on the 920’s large 4.5″ display.

I was able to spend some hands on time with the beautiful white Lumia 920:

As far as I am concerned, Nokia has ticked all the right boxes with this device. A great design, top notch hardware, a great camera, beautiful display and a solid battery. Then there are also things like wireless charging and NFC to give users something new to play with. Nokia Maps have gone from strength to strength, and with Windows Phone 8 apps like Nokia Maps and Drive can talk to each other seamlessly. Nokia Music is already available in India, so if you look at the device, it does present a very compelling picture. I would have loved Microsoft to have done more to sell Windows Phone 8 to consumers, but since the actual launch of these devices is still more than a few weeks away, there may still be time.

If Windows Phone 8 is nearly as good as one hopes for, the Lumia 920 has the potential to bring Nokia screaming back into reckoning. Actually, roaring back.

Details Of Parallel Nokia World Events Start Popping Up: New York – Sep. 5

With this year’s Nokia World, Nokia’s decided to move away from the single, large-scale event that Nokia World usually is (was), to a ‘number of smaller, more intimate events with specific audiences in mind’. The first such event is scheduled to happen in Helsinki on September 5-6, and will be an invitation-only event that will cater primarily to Nokia’s operator and retail partners. This leaves no room for media announcements, and press presence. Therefore, it was doubtful whether Nokia would announce its first Windows Phone 8 devices, or would they just show them to their retail/operator partners in behind the door, hush-hush meetings.

However, details of a joint Nokia/Microsoft press conference taking place in New York on Sep. 5 have emerged. September 5 being the same day on which Nokia World takes place in Helsinki. The doors to the NYC press conference open at 9:30 am NYC time, fairly early for a press event of this magnitude, but also a good time if they were trying to hold it parallel events in multiple time zones around the world.

Ever since the official announcement of Windows Phone 8, Nokia’s been under pressure to keep selling its older Lumia devices, especially when they won’t be getting the upgrade to WP 8. Therefore it is imperative for them to refresh the lineup as quickly as possible and a September announcement is a very positive indicator indeed. Remember, Nokia’s flagship store in Helsinki is already promising that something amazing is coming on September 7th. If Nokia can announce devices on September 5th and put them on sale on September 7th, that would classify as something beyond amazing.

There are still a lot of ‘if’s’ in the equation, but all indicators to point to a hardware reveal on September 5th. Windows Phone 8 looks like a worthy upgrade and coupled with Nokia’s uncompromising Maps and Camera goodness, the new Lumias might just be the flavour of the holiday season.

Finally, the New York press conference is just one such event, don’t be surprised if we see something similar happening in other cities around the world, after-all London’s been a Nokia favourite in the past as well. Nokia World has always had all these tracks running simultaneously with Nokia’s CEO jumping in and out of each, but with parallel events happening across the word, what I’m curious about is, to which of these events will Stephen Elop go? What does he prioritise, press interviews and a public reveal of Nokia’s latest and greatest, or a heart to heart with Nokia’s operator and retail partners? Although if the new Lumias are to ship in September, deals with operators/retails would have been hammered out long before then.

[Image credit: TechCrunch]

Windows Phone 8 & The Road To Nokia’s First Hurrah

When Nokia chose to embrace Windows Phone with open arms in February 2011, Microsoft needed Nokia more than Nokia needed Microsoft. A little over a year into the partnership, with Symbian being virtually killed off and MeeGo/Harmattan being non existant, Nokia needed Microosft to deliver like it has never before. For Nokia’s safe Microsoft needed to knock this one right out of the park.

Windows Phone 8 was finally announced at Microsoft’s Windows Phone Summit late yesterday night. This was a developer preview, a sneak peak to the platform changes that MS is bringing to Windows Phone, with more details about consumer centric features to follow.

In early January I did a post about 7 things Windows Phone needs to do better in 2012, and I am glad to say that most of them have been addressed. Windows Phone 8 infact is a whole new operating system, completely different from Windows Phone Mango. The only thing that really remains is the Metro UI, under the hood its a whole new ball game. It borrows a lot of code from Windows 8, and is based on the Windows NT kernel, shares common networking, security, media and web browser technology, and a common file system. Another thing that remains is the support for existing Windows Phone apps, all 100,000 of them, they will run unmodified on WP8.

But before we delve into what I think of WP8, here’s a quick rundown of the major improvements Windows Phone 8 brings.

  • New Start screen: One slightly unexpected, but still very welcome move was MS redesigning the start screen. Putting huge tiles on the top of the screen just to receive notifications didn’t make sense. Now you can turn them into small icons that despite looking like icons on Android or iOS, still work like live tiles. If you choose you can also turn them into the gigantic blocks that were earlier reserved for the Pictures hub and Calendar. If third party developers put in slightly extra work, all three live tile sizes can have varying functionality depending on the screen real estate available to them.
  • Multi-core processor support: Not dual-core, but multi-core. So going forward don’t be surprised if you see Windows Phone devices running on a quad-core chip. Although the keynote stated that the optimisations so far have been done with dual-core in mind, so don’t expect quad-core devices in 2012.
  • Bigger, sharper screens: Windows Phone 8 supports two new screen resolutions—1280×768 and 1280×720. A feature Windows Phone 7.5 was sorely missing. I just hope that manufacturers choose to adopt the 1280×768 resolution that is wider than the 16:9 1280×720. Most of time you use the phone in the portarait mode and having a narrow yet tall display is no joy at all. Manufacturers should stick to 15:9 or slightly wider for phones and 4:3 for tablets.
  • MicroSD support, file system access: During the keynote, the words ‘microSD as a delivery vehicle for music, apps etc’ were used. So you can swap microSD’s between phones, or to copy stuff from the PC. This means that the file system is finally visible to end users on Windows Phone. You should no longer be restricted to using Zune or something similar to sync your music across. Think Symbian, Android. Ideally, you should also be able to use the phone itself in the mass storage profile, similar to how Nokia’s other phones work. This will make a lot of people happy.
  • NFC sharing & Wallet: Tap your phone to share photos, documents etc with another NFC enabled device. Cool, and something a modern smartphone should support. What is especially cool is that Microsoft is also bringing adhoc peer to peer WIFI support. So even if you’re in the middle of the desert and want to send a large video file to a friend, the phones will connect using NFC and create an adhoc WIFI network to share the file at speeds which are much faster than bluetooth. No word on whether you can share music this way, but hey, there’s always the option to swap the microSD. Then there’s the  Wallet. It keeps keep debit and credit cards, coupons, boarding passes and when paired with a secure SIM from your carrier, you can also pay for things with a tap of your phone. It’ll take some time coming, don’t expect payments to work before 2013.
  • Internet Explorer 10: The next version of Windows Phone comes with the same web browsing engine that’s headed for Window 8 PCs and tablets. IE10 is faster and more secure, with anti-phishing features like SmartScreen Filter to block dangerous websites and malware. In the SunSpider test, WP8 beats iOS 6 beta on the 4S, the HTC One X and the Galaxy S3. Microsoft promises 4 times faster javascript performance and twice the HTML5 feature support compared to the current release.
  • Nokia Maps & Navigation for all: No longer a Nokia exclusive, but excellent news for the platform. The best part is that Nokia Maps now will also support offline access as well. Previously map data for Nokia Maps had to be downloaded online, while you could store maps for navigation in Nokia Drive.
  • Cooler apps and games: Native code will go a long way in bringing better games, and more fluid apps to Windows Phone. Things will no longer run inside an emulator and along with better multitasking support, things like Skype, WhatsApp and other apps that need to stay alive in the background will perform much better. 
  • Improved bluetooth support: This phrase was thrown around, but not really commented upon. Given how used-to bluetooth sharing Nokia’s users have been, I’m almost certain that Nokia would have pushed Microsoft to support this functionality. If file system access and bluetooth sharing turns out to be present, which it seems to be, it’ll help shut a lot of critics up.
  • Better Enterprise support: Not something the everyday user cares about, but MS has brought in device encryption, secure boot, remote management and a company hub to really make WP8 attractive to the enterprise market.
  • Better update policies: MS clearly understands that they have burnt a lot of their existing users. To build a bridge, they are promising updates for ‘at least’ 18 months for every new WP8 device. So whoever buys a new Windows Phone is being assured that he/she won’t be thrown under the bus again. Next, updates will be delivered over the air. Excellent. Finally for all eager users who can’t wait for firmware updates, MS is creating a program that will give registered enthusiasts early access to updates prior to broad availability. Its a win-win for all, eager users get access to cool stuff early, and MS gets a ton of free beta testers.

This huge set of changes solves almost every problem I had with the platform. I hated seeing a splash screen everytime an app launched, but with better multitasking and native code that should become a thing of the past. Better push notifications for the platform will also help, and things like Skype and Whats App should now have a pretty seamless experience on Windows Phone. VOIP apps infact will work just like regular phone calls, deeply integrated. One thing I believe MS could still have implemented was a notification hub, and I’m still not sure if third party apps can show notifications on the lock screen now. The smaller live tiles do help, and the lack of a notification center will not be an issue for most people.

Now lets get to the bad news, albeit expected. The current generation Windows Phones will not be upgradeable to WP8. Instead they’ll be transitioned onto Windows Phone 7.8 that features the all new WP8 startscreen and a few other things that haven’t been announced. I wouldn’t expect anything major, but things like new accent colours for the tiles should make the cut. This is a major problem for Nokia. New Windows Phone 8 devices are at least 4 months away, and the obvious question is why would anyone buy a current genration Windows Phone? Devices like the Lumia 900 are still to launch in major markets like India, and its hard to justify buying a product which will be outdated before the end of the year. Nokia for their part are trying to bring as much value to the existing devices as they possibly can. Samsung or HTC have nothing to say when it comes to supporting their existing users.

Nokia will be introducing Marketplace apps like digital Camera Extras that brings panorama shots, a self-timer, action shot for capturing movement and smart group shot for creating the perfect group shot from several different images; new features for Nokia Drive and Nokia Transport; Contact Share to send contact information via Email and SMS, a Counter app to help you keep a track of your data usage, or voice calls, then there’s Play To for DLNA streaming, new Zynga games  and updates like WiFi tethering and flip-to-silence. Firmware updates for the Lumia800 and 710 roll out on June 27.

Some of these apps are must haves and really bridge the functionality gap that Windows Phone Mango leaves, but will they be enough? Despite the Windows Phone 7.8 update existing Windows Phone devices will not have better multitasking or deep VOIP support and apps that are specially made for Windows Phone 8 won’t run on existing devices either. To be fair, there isn’t much that Nokia or any other manufacturer could have done. These problems stem from Microsoft’s shortsighted hardware requirements for Windows Phone Mango. Windows Phone 8 is made for dual core processors and upwards and porting the new kernel to a single core processor doesn’t make much sense.

Its not as if Windows Phone Mango/Tango is going away, mid end devices will still run the same OS, WP8 is high-end for now. There is a market for the current Lumias, but at a much lower price point. Post the official WP8 no-no from Microsoft, even the Lumia 900 cannot command a $600+ pricetag.

Now start the most excruciating three months that Nokia’s ever seen, Q3 will be brutal. But fortunately there is light at the end of the tunnel. Windows Phone 8 has everything that a modern day smartphone should have – high performance specs, flexibility (NFC sharing, microSD support), great social integration, ability to support killer graphics and multitasking. With Nokia’s design and superior optics (plus the Scalado magic) we could really see Nokia’s first real Windows Phone hurrah!

Nokia World is slated for September 5-6, 2012. But unlike previous years, this one is  invitation-only and will ‘cater primarily to our operator and retail partners‘. But since media presence isn’t mentioned, I’m not sure Nokia is willing to publicly show off its first Windows Phone 8 devices by then. But when they do decide to lift the curtains, the launch must be global. Unlike the Lumia 800 or 900 roll-out. The devices must ship the day of the keynote, across the world and on all major carriers. Its a tough ask, but its close to make or break time for Nokia.

Nokia, I’m looking for a 4.3″ 1280 x 768 display, at least a N8 level camera if PureView for Windows Phone isn’t ready by then, dual-core, 1800 mAh or bigger battery and a Lumia 900 like design. Of course with goodies like NFC etc built-in. Should be easy enough. Bring on Q4 then.

Windows Phone Developer Summit Announced For June 20-21, San Francisco

Microsoft has just announced the Windows Phone Developer Summit, which will take place in San Francisco and is slated for June 20-21st. The timing of the summit is what has my interest, June is also when Microsoft is expected to unveil details about the next generation Windows Phone software, codenamed Apollo, and the upcoming developer summit should be all about enthusing developers and getting them to code for Windows Phone 8.

The location of the summit is right at the heart of Silicon Valley, and Microsoft will be going out of its way to bring iOS and Android developers on board with Windows Phone.

Windows Phone 8 cannot come soon enough.

[via: Unleash The Phones, CNET]

How I Got Pulled Into Apple’s Ecosystem & Why Soon It’ll Be Too Late To Get Out

The real magic in Apple’s products isn’t that they are great looking or that they come with great features, the real steal is in the fact that each one makes you want to buy the next one, across product lines. Just like iPods sold Macs back in the day, today iPhones sell iPads and vice-versa. Talking to a friend yesterday I realised that I have (un)knowingly become completely entrenched in Apple’s world. At the time of writing this I own a MacBook Pro, an iPad 2, an iPhone 4S and an Apple TV. This did not happen overnight and I am concerned.

The Move To A Mac

I switched from a Windows laptop (an HP tablet PC) to a Macbook in 2009 and very soon I grew to absolutely love it. Infact working on a Windows machine started turning into a not so pleasant idea. With this my perception of Apple as a brand changed. It went from being a company that had its set of fans that at times mindlessly raved about it, to one I actually started paying more and more attention to. This was of course after the introduction of the iPhone, and looking at the first few iterations I had decided that there was no way I was switching to one.

So for the next year or so, I happily used a Mac along with a Symbian/Maemo/Android device. Then the iPad came along. My first reaction to it was the exact same one that I had to the iPhone – too restricted, no multitasking and so on. However, iOS 4 came along and with it came multitasking. I took a long hard look at the iPad and decided that I wanted one, and what clinched it for me was the fact the that even if I needed to do a task necessary for a ‘power user’, then I’d have my smartphone which wasn’t shackled one bit.

With that I took a keen liking to the iPad, and slowly but surely its limitations became a less of an annoyance. The quality of apps and the general utility of the device was worth the sacrifice. Then the iPad 2 came along, so did Airplay and while picking up the iPad 2, I also got an Apple TV. Wirelessly showing off photos and videos did sound very cool, and 99$ wasn’t a huge deal. With iOS 5 Airplay really improved, more and more apps started taking advantage of it and wireless mirroring meant that if you could see it on the iPad, you could see it on the TV.

An iPad Sells An iPhone

By the end of 2011, I had been using Apple devices for 3 years, iOS for the better part of 2. Some things still bothered me, but I had become used to the Apple way of things. Yet, till this time I had never used an iPhone as a primary device. This is where’s Apple’s mastery at making one product sell another comes in. It was because I had been using an iPad, I was ready to switch to an iPhone. For all the limitations of iTunes, one thing that works great is wireless sync. Being able to put music, photos, video etc onto the iPhone or even back it up wirelessly is fantastic. The iPhone or iPad could be anywhere in the house and you’d still be able to act as if it is plugged into the computer.

Apple TV

Another huge draw was the fact that a ton of quality ‘paid for’ apps were already waiting for me. Spending money on the same apps on Android/Windows Phone/Symbian and then on iOS for the iPad didn’t make much sense, yes I could have the best of both worlds, but was that so necessary?

The fact that you can buy an app on the iPad and in more cases than not it’ll automatically be downloaded on your iPhone too, for free, makes a lot of psychological difference. E.g. I recently bought the iPhoto for iOS app on the iPad – it is 5$, but when you see it on the iPhone too its almost like you got 50% off, or got it in a buy 1 get 1 scheme. This definitely encourages you to buy more apps, the knowledge that two device will be benefitting from a single purchase lets you pull the trigger much easier. This means that slowly you’ll come to a point where you’ll have a substantial amount of money invested in that platform.
All my Apple devices talk to each other seamlessly. Everything is wireless and it involved no setting up whatsoever. Now the iPhone 4S isn’t the only phone I use, for the sake of keeping current I use the Galaxy S2 too and carry a Lumia 800 along most of the time for the freshness of Windows Phone. But if whenever I need to copy music and pictures, I need to get the USB cable out. I cannot seamlessly show photos on the TV and DLNA is still hit and miss for the common man. All of this pushes me into the Apple ecosystem more and more.

What can change this status-quo?

There isn’t a compelling reason to switch to an Android tablet, and Android in general is too fragmented to create such an ecosystem. Plus there is no Android on the PC. The only people who can pull this off are Nokia and Microsoft.

Windows 8

But there are a few fundamental things they need to do first. The vision is there – an Xbox instead of the Apple TV, Xbox live/Skydrive instead of iCloud, Windows 8 phones and tablets in sync, and a lovely Windows 8 powered laptop. But will they be able to make everything so seamless? Instead of keeping the phone and tablet in sync with each other, Microsoft has decided to keep the tablet and the PC in sync. Something Apple has avoided, Lion looks nothing like iOS on the iPad, yes some features are inspired by it, but that’s it.

What this means is that apps in all probability the apps that you buy once from the Windows Store on the PC should automatically become available on the Windows 8 tablet as well. But this will only happen if they are Metro (ARM compatible) apps. The usual x86 apps won’t work on ARM tablets and that’s where the seamless chain is broken, ergo less incentive for the users to put money down in your ecosystem. (Yes there will probably be X86 tablets also, but I don’t see Nokia doing one).

Next, very few apps will work across both the tablet and phone, and because the developer will have had to do some work to optimse for each; I doubt he’d be willing to offer an iOS like 2 for 1 deal.

Next we need an AirPlay equivalent, doesn’t matter if its DLNA based or ABCD based, it should have an easy to remember name and be bulletproof. Wireless syncing across all devices is a must, and I would go so far as to add WIFI direct capabilities as well. Make it extra seamless.

The problem is that time is really running out. The next wave of retina display powered MacBooks will really begin to impact the Windows laptop market. Macs are no longer the more expensive option, the iPad is the best value for money tablet around and the iPhone isn’t showing signs of a slowing down. All of this puts a lot of pressure on Windows 8. Nokia World 2012 happens end of September, so this means we’ll have not only the Windows 8 release for tablets and PC’s, but also Windows Phone 8 in Q4. If they don’t have an answer to this Borg like ecosystem that just keeps sucking you in, starting the end of this year, it won’t matter what they do in 2014.

The outlook is bright, there are a few niggles here and there, but the bigger picture isn’t bleak. Time to deliver.

Almost forgot – Nokia, if your Nokia World 2012 flagships don’t have an a retina like display for both the phone and possible tablet, don’t bother.