NEWS ANALYSIS: Nokia's Lumia 920 promises to be a real alternative to the upcoming iPhone 5, without the legal exposure of Android, and with some features available nowhere else.
Nokia's launch of the Lumia
920 in a hoopla-filled New York City event is significant for several
reasons. First is the venue-Nokia is clearly pinning its hopes for sales of the
new Lumia phones to the United States, and chose to launch in Manhattan instead
of Finland. But there's more than just that. Nokia and Microsoft have worked
hard to integrate Windows
Phone 8 into Nokia's hardware, and in the process develop capabilities you
really can't get elsewhere.
Much of the announcement focused
on the new PureView
camera that resides in the Lumia 920. This phone features more
light-gathering capability for its camera than other phones, and it performs
optical stabilization to make sure the photos are sharp. Other phones use
digital stabilization for their cameras, or they don't use stabilization at
all, and the difference, done right, is big. In Nokia's case, the 8MP camera
has the entire optical system stabilized so that it all floats within the
The Nokia 920's camera is
intended to be a major differentiating factor between the smartphone and the Apple
iOS and Google Android worlds. Whether it achieves this or not depends on two
factors: How the 920's camera works in the real world, and what Apple introduces
in the iPhone 5 on Sept. 12. Right now, there's no indication that the iPhone
will have such a sophisticated optical system, but as is always the case with
Apple, you just never know for sure.
The other major feature
Nokia introduced is location services.
Nokia built on its already
excellent products such as Nokia Drive and Nokia Map to include Nokia
Transport, and in the process build an integrated location system that provides
input to an augmented-reality system that in the demo seemed
to work very well. Unlike most competitors, Nokia includes off-line maps as
part of the software, which means that the Lumia 920 will avoid a major
Achilles heel for smartphone navigation-the need to be connected to a
cloud-based source of maps. The Nokia 920 will always have access to its maps
even if you're out of range of a cell signal.
Nokia Transport is
designed to work with public transportation systems, while Nokia Drive will
provide turn-by-turn navigation. Both work with information available on
transit-arrival times and traffic incidents to tell you what time you need to
leave for work, or how to find your way around a train station, even if you're
underground without a signal.
While these features don't
really have much of an effect on the Nokia 920's ability to function as a
phone, some of the other features, such as the 2,000mAh battery and the
cordless charging system mean that you can have the phone available when you
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.