Will Lumia 920 get Nokia off its burning platform?

Nokia has unveiled its first Windows Phone 8 devices, with a little help from Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer.

The Microsoft boss joined his former employee, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, to unveil two new Windows Phone 8 devices – the Lumia 920 and 820.

The Lumia 920 is the new flagship device, boasting Nokia’s PureView camera technology and wireless charging among its key features.

Those hoping that the first Nokia Windows Phone 8 device would include the incredible 41-megapixel sensor of the Nokia 808 will be disappointed: it’s a mere 8.7-megapixel sensor. However, the camera boasts the largest aperture of any smartphone (f2.0), according to Nokia, and the entire camera housing is spring loaded to create a “floating lens”. The combination of the two provides industry-leading image stabilisation and the ability to capture blur-free photos in low-light conditions, Nokia claims.

“It captures better video and photos than any rival smartphone,” Nokia’s executive vice president Jo Harlow boasted.

The Lumia 920 has other unique features. The device offers integrated wireless charging, and Nokia is teaming up with a host of third-party manufacturers to create wireless charging accessories. The company is also working with companies such as Virgin Airways and coffee chains to supply wireless chargers in their lounges and shops. A Nokia spokesman wouldn’t be drawn on whether wireless charging is as fast as a wired connection.

Lumia 920

The 4.5in touchscreen of the Lumia 920 can also be operated while wearing gloves, which Nokia’s senior vice president Kevin Shields demonstrated while donning a thick pair of ski mittens. The screen itself is 1,280 x 768 and has been specially enhanced to work in bright sunlight, Nokia claims.

The company claims none of these features will come at the expense of battery life, with the phone packing a 2,000mAh battery that has a quoted life of ten hours of 3G connectivity.

The devices comes with 32GB of storage, but no SD card slot.

Turning point?

Nokia CEO Elop claimed the Lumia 920 was the “most innovative smartphone on the market” and the culmination of 18 months of hard work on the company’s new strategy, when Elop famously told his staff they were standing on a “burning platform” whilst attached to the old Symbian operating system.

“We said Nokia would differentiate,” Elop said, adding the Lumia 920 would stand apart from the “faceless monoblocks” on the market.

“This is a very important milestone,” Ballmer added. “We’re starting to see the incredible partnership kick in at this stage.”

Ballmer added that this was “the year of Windows”, what with the launch of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 later this month. “In the next year, we should see close to 400 million devices running on these OSes,” Ballmer boasted. “That means Lumia, that means Surface, that means the [Windows 8] devices you saw launched in Berlin [at the IFA trade show] last week.”

Lumia 820

The other new device launched today – tagged on almost as an afterthough at the end of the keynote – was the Lumia 820. This is a slightly smaller 4.3in device, with a lower resolution 800 x 480 display and a smaller 1,600mAh battery.

It offers only 8GB of storage, but unlike its bigger brother, it does have a memory card slot under the removable back plate. Those back plates will come in six different colours, in a hark back to the old days of customisable cases that helped make Nokia the mobile powerhouse of the last decade.

Elop wasn’t prepared to talk about prices or precise launch dates of either handset, saying only that they would arrive in Q4. He was, however, prepared to take a sideswipe at Samsung, who last week beat Nokia to the punch with the announcement of the first handset based on Windows Phone 8. “I’m pleased to show you the first working Windows Phone 8 product,” he deadpanned.

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