Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop showing off the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 in NYC. Photo: Noah Devereaux/Wired
NEW YORK — Microsoft and Nokia joined forces on Wednesday for a launch event in New York to announce several new features for Windows Phone 8 along with two all-new devices—the high-end Lumia 920 and a mid- to high-end Lumia 820.
“The Windows Phone is unlike any other phone on the market,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience. “It keeps you closest to the people and the things that matter to you most. In a very powerful way, our partnership with Nokia brings that power to life, and you can really see it in the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820.”
The Lumia 920 features several innovations, including wireless charging and Nokia’s advanced PureView camera, which first appeared in the Symbian-powered PureView 808 smartphone. The camera technology has won several awards but suffered from running on the Symbian platform. This should make it available to a broader audience, though there are some differences here. For one, the Lumia 920 has an 8-megapixel camera, as opposed to the 41-magapixel camera in the PureView 808. Still, the technology that allowed Nokia to get such gaudy numbers should help here, too, especially in tricky settings like low-light scenes.
“This latest PureView innovation is an example of how Nokia will challenge the conventional limitations placed on smartphones,” Nokia executive VP Jo Harlow said.
Nokia Executive Vice President Jo Harlow on stage talking about PureView in the Nokia Lumia 920. Photo: Noah Devereaux/Wired
The Lumia 920 also features the full Nokia location and navigation app suite, including Nokia Maps with indoor mapping and augmented reality; Nokia Drive with directions and estimated arrivals; and Nokia City Lens, which has come out of beta and features an augmented-reality discovery app.
The phone has a new viewing experience dubbed Nokia Pure Motion HD+, which Nokia claims is the best display on the market. The screen will adjust to sunlight, making it readable even in desert sunlight, according to Harlow.
One of the most exciting developments in the Lumia 920 is wireless charging. Nokia partnered with Fat Boy and JBL to create accessories that make it possible to charge the smartphone just by placing it on a pad or speaker. And Nokia has partnered with Virgin America and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to start placing these wireless charging pads at their locations.
As expected, the Nokia Lumia 920 features a dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip, which Nokia says enabled it to deliver 30 percent more battery life.
Aesthetically, the Lumia 920 looks like a sleeker, more stylish Lumia 900 but with a gloss polycarbonate shell that Nokia says is even stronger and sturdier. And Nokia is sticking with color. The phone comes in red, gray, yellow as well as the standard black and white.
The Nokia Lumia 820 is basically a 920 without the PureView camera. It has the same polycarbonate shell, HD+ display, NFC, built-in apps, and wireless charging (you need to purchase a special, charging back for this feature). But it also gets a changeable back cover, which will allow users to switch the colors of their smartphones.
Both phones will, of course, come loaded with Windows Phone 8, and Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s manager for Windows Phone Program, took the stage to demonstrate some of the new features of the forthcoming OS. Belfiore focused a lot of his time on apps and Live Tiles. He customized his Start Screen with various sized tiles, including a new small-sized option, and showed off IE 10, which users can also customize to show what they want when they launch the app.
Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore discussing all of the customizable features in Windows Phone 8. Photo: Noah Devereaux/Wired
Belfiore also demonstrated that Windows Phone 8 can finally support taking quick screen shots — a small feature but one that Windows Phone users have been clamoring for. Just press the power and Home buttons at the same time to save an image to the Screenshots list in the photos app.
Photography is a big part of Windows Phone 8. The Camera app has been revamped to support pinch-to-zoom and features a new lenses button. Third-party developers can create lens applications that integrate with the Camera app. For example, Bing is integrated so that you can take a photo of an item — a book, for example — and do an image search to figure out what that item is.
Other lens application include a filter app called FX Suite, which lets you take images with live filters like B&W, negative, sepia and more, making Windows Phone 8 a bit more friendly to lo-fi loving smartphone photographers. Windows Phone 8 also enables full-resoulution uploads to SkyDrive. The built-in Photos app has a SkyDrive camera roll with all of the same photos as the camera roll — not unlike Photo Stream in Apple’s iOS.
“The net benefit is the experience of taking photos,” Belfiore said. “You get an experience that lets third parties add value for creativity, social networking, for image quality. This capability means that third-party software developers can write amazing apps with creative experiences with high-quality photos.”
There’s no word yet on pricing or availability for either phone. But check back later today for our first hands-on impressions.