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My two week #LumiaChallenge

Those who know me will be aware of the fact that I’m a big Nokia fan. The first phone I ever got was a second hand 5110 and I owned six or seven Nokia’s until I got an iPhone in 2007. While supporters had to suffer through the brand insisting on using Symbian for their operating system about two years back they ditched Symbian for Windows Phone and the Lumia range. Since then there’s been a lot of uproar about Windows Phone not having the same level of apps that iPhone and Android and while this is true, the reality is that living with a Lumia isn’t as crippling as one would think. As an experiment I decided to use a Nokia Lumia 925 and use it as my primary phone for two weeks. I’m not going to speak about the phone (despite it being great) but focus specifically on the operating system. Before I go into the phone I’ll quickly describe my general use case.

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What on earth is Nokia Here?

Nokia Here is a web mapping platform provided by Nokia, available for web browsers and as a mobile app for a variety of devices. Its features include map search, satellite maps, a versatile journey planner with support for public transport routes, 3D maps, real-time visualization of traffic congestion and pre-downloadable offline maps.

I’ve used it a few times myself on a loan Lumia 820 and 920 and it works pretty decently. Nokia sent me this infographic with some more info:

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It’s a battle of the ecosystem

I recently received a Nokia Lumia 820 for review (more on that soon) but what really interested me about the device is the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem. I’m a weird hybrid, I have a Windows 8 desktop (thus a Microsoft account) and a Macbook Pro (with an iPhone and iPad kept in sync via iCloud) and on top of that I use Gmail and Google Apps to manage all my mail. I have a foot in every major mobile providers ecosystem. I exclude RIM for obvious reasons. I put my Windows account details into the phone when I first turned it on and all the mail from my Gmail (which is associated with the account) synchronised. I had a fairly simple realisation:

The winner of the mobile operating system war isn’t going to be the company that necessarily provides the best hardware or even software (they are all fairly similar at the basics) but the company that provides the best cloud ecosystem features. Contacts, calendar and certain files have become the basics each company provides. Apple has iCloud, Google has Gmail and Microsoft has a Hotmail/Skydrive combination that can currently be a little confusing.

You see the important issue to consider here is that once you’ve hooked yourself into iCloud, Gmail or Hotmail it’s actually quite painful to get out of the system. You’re locked in with all your contacts in iCloud or a server somewhere at Google HQ.

This brings me back to my original point: Apple sells a hardware device currently. The same can be said for the likes of Samsung and Nokia who sell to their customers based on their hardware. They tout features such as multi-megapixel cameras, sixteen core chips and screens that only an Orangutang could comfortably hold.

If Apple, Microsoft or Google (and even RIM) were smart they’d all sell you on one feature: “We make it easy for you to port”. If I could go to a Microsoft website, plug in my iCloud address and have all my information essentially broken out of jail I’d be a happy customer. At the moment I stick with Apple for the simple reason that I know when I put it on I’ll have all my contacts and calendars on the phone the moment I put my password in. The same applies for Google and Microsoft. Currently I have a weird mess of contacts from Linkedin, Facebook, Google and more on the Lumia 820. This is an issue of ignorance on my part and not knowing how to use the syncing properly however it’s frustrating.

Break down the walls holding our data inside!

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Nokia Lumia 920 Metareview

Not yet released in South Africa the Nokia Lumia 920 is the current flagship Windows Phone 8 device with great specs, screen and the latest operating system from Microsoft. Windows Phone 7 and the previous Lumia 800 and 900 devices were widely loved by reviewers but the entire range only sold about 4 million devices worldwide. If you consider the Samsung Galaxy S3 has sold 30 million in the past six months that pales in comparison. Today we’re looking at some opinions from the best tech sites in the world and personally I think this is the device I would choose over the iPhone 5 purely for something different.

The Next Web:

Taking into account all of Nokia’s hardware features, it’s hard not to recommend the Lumia 920 – the PureMotion HD+ display is fantastic, the PureView technology excels at its purpose and there’s no chance that Apple will be accusing Nokia of copying its designs any time soon.

 

The Lumia 920 isn’t small, nor is it light, but it is a complete joy to use. You will have to ask yourself some questions before you buy it, but if you want a smartphone that stands out on merit, the Lumia 920 certainly does that.

Engadget:

Nokia arguably offered up the best hardware for the last iteration of Windows Phone. Does it repeat that success here? Yes, but it ties with the HTC 8X for that honor. The Lumia 920 feels substantially chunkier, despite having similar by-the-number dimensions, but it remains another glorious piece of hardware from Nokia. That large shell has afforded more space for the latest PureView camera, which delivers superb low-light performance and effective optical stabilization across stills and video. While these features worked as well as we’d hoped, well-lit shots lacked the clarity and detail we saw during earlier test sessions. Overall, results were a little too smoothed out (and many smartphones have a tendency to over-sharpen), and fell short of our expectations for Nokia’s latest PureView phone.

 

Meanwhile, alongside its imaging advances, Nokia has pushed forward on its screen hardware, besting the outdoor visibility of the Lumia 900 and adding color and contrast tweaks from a new ambient light sensor — this is all on a capacitive touchscreen you can now handle with gloves on. Nokia may crown it the most innovative smartphone, and alongside embedded wireless charging, there’s plenty here to demonstrate that. But, for all that Windows Phone 8 does right (superb maps, zippy browser, simplicity), those holes in the app selection remain something that needs to be plugged.

CNet:

When you’re touted as the flagship phone for a new mobile operating system, you’d better pull out all the stops. Nokia has done just that with the Lumia 920. It has a superior camera and camcorder (especially in low light), one of the sharpest and richest screens you’ll find on a smartphone and wireless charging capability that will make your life easier. More importantly, Nokia added some useful apps of its own, such as Nokia Music and Maps, that put it a notch above the HTC Windows Phone 8X. While it’s on the heavy side for a device with a 4.5-inch screen, the Lumia 920 is truly the flagship Windows Phone 8 device. As Microsoft’s app catalog continues to catch up with iOS and Android, the Lumia 920 is the best reason yet to switch to Windows Phone.

The Verge:

Many of the frustrations we used to have in Windows Phone are now gone with this latest version, and Nokia has given the OS a very good stage with the Lumia 920. The speed and multitasking improvements, connections to Xbox and SkyDrive, and Start Screen experience are all much better, but there’s still a critical lack of apps and they too often feel as though they’re not as good as what’s on other platforms.

 

It’s fitting that I’m reviewing the Nokia Lumia 920 while Microsoft’s Build conference is going on here in Redmond. Microsoft has resolved many of the developer complaints with Windows Phone and is aggressively courting them to bring more and better apps to the platform. The work to bring Windows Phone 8 up to par is happening all around me — and it needs to keep happening. With its new core, Windows Phone 8 is in many ways a completely new platform that should enable rapid innovation — and users will need to continue to wait for it to come into its own.

 

The Lumia 920’s hardware and design is top-notch, the screen is lovely, and the camera is a marvel in low light — but you can’t ignore just how big and bulky the phone is. The software and hardware tradeoffs inherent in the Lumia 920 could be worth it if you’ve bought into the Microsoft ecosystem, but for most people I don’t think it’s a sure bet.

So there you have it. The Nokia is better than it’s HTC counterpart the 8X and while Windows Phone has a way to go it’s a vastly improved effort by Microsoft and should put some fire in the Apple camp to really innovate not just evolve like they did with iOS6 and the iPhone 5.

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Dear Apple: Please buy Nokia

Ever since Stephen Elop went from running the Microsoft Office division to head up Nokia there have been rumours of Microsoft circling the rotting carcass that is the Nokia business. I still think Nokia makes the best looking phones, arguably better than the latest Apple designs, so Microsoft makes logical sense for Nokia, especially since they use the Microsoft mobile operating system. However, what if Apple were to buy Nokia with their patents, mapping services and great hardware design skills? It’s not as crazy as it sounds:

Patents:

This past July, Envision IP took a look at that portfolio and found that, in the US alone, Nokia had almost 16,000 patents around telecommunication in the US alone (and another 20,000 patents outside of the US). With an average 13 years left on those patents, they include some of the building blocks for the next generation of mobile telecommunication services: building blocks technologies like GSM (which was mostly developed by Nokia), 3G, and now LTE are all part of Nokia’s patent portfolio. A 2011 survey showed that Nokia was the largest patent holder for essential technologies relating to LTE.

Maps:

Maps? Yes, maps. Over the last few years, Nokia has made a number of bets on location and mapping, with the 2007 U$8 billion acquisition of Navteq. This acquisition made Nokia the largest provider of mapping services in the world. In fact, the company provides mapping services to Google, UPS, Fedex, and many of the largest players in the automotive industry. When looked at in contrast to the recent release of Apple maps, it seems that this investment is one that would greatly benefit Apple and allow it to quickly catch up and surpass Google.

Competitive Advantage:

Of course, an acquisition of Nokia would have quite an impact on Microsoft as it tries to make its way back into the mobile space. With Nokia as its most important partner, Microsoft’s hope to become a likely contender for consumers’ hearts might be dealt something pretty close to a deathblow. The company would remain a strong players in the areas it has power in but its attempt at getting a strong footing in the mobile space would be the setback that kills its ambitions there.

Meanwhile, the increase in the size of the patent portfolio Apple would control would probably have a large impact on the company’s lawsuits against Android manufacturers.

If you consider that Nokia is only worth $10 Billion and Apple has $100 Billion in the bank they could buy Nokia without skipping a beat. You destroy Windows Phone, kick Android in the patent cajones and solve the mapping issue in one convenient payment.

Source (Business Insider)

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The Nokia-Soft empire strikes back

Microsoft and their favourite Windows Phone developers have struck back to the Samsung and Apple camps (even though we have no idea what the iPhone 5 will be like) with the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820, the spiritual successor to the widely well reviewed but moderately unpopular Lumia 800 and 900 devices. Nokia only sold 7 million of their first generation Lumia range, a decent sum however if you consider that Samsung sold over 10 million Galaxy S3’s alone it’s not that impressive.

According to Engadget:

As one of the first Windows Phone 8 devices to be officially announced, this device augments Espoo’s line with a larger, curved 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ display, dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU, 2,000mAh battery, NFC, integrated wireless charging and an 8-megapixel rear PureView camera capable of 1080p video.

In terms of specs it pretty much blazes past the competition and Windows Phone 8 (which the Nokia runs) is looking pretty sweet. It’s still going to be a matter of apps but from a hardware perspective it looks to eclipse what we assume is going to be the iPhone 5. Best part:

The company just formally unveiled the charging accessory — a soap-dish-shaped device based on the popular Qi wireless standard. (Of course, the Lumia 920’s built-in Qi tech means that you can use all manner of third-party charging pads; they don’t have to be made by Nokia.) Additionally, the company briefly teased a Fatboy-branded pillow also designed for recharging.

Wireless charging, high res screen, great camera and a beautiful design: sign me up!

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The death of Nokia

Hopefully not the death, I still think they make the best hardware but things are looking pretty grim at Nokia. Instead of talking about how the company has been downgraded to junk bond (their assets are worth less than their market cap) status lets take a step back at some highlights of Nokia:

Not so long ago, the 13-note ringtone of a Nokia handset was the de facto soundtrack of the mobile revolution. The world’s largest cell phone maker for more than a decade, the company was a leading innovator in both design and technology that helped bring wireless life to American high schoolers and rural Africans alike.

You can also mention how Nokia basically set the standard for mobile networks:

At the time, Europe was dominated by a balkanized mess of analog mobile networks that varied country to country. This setup presented a logistical nightmare for companies in the business of making phones, which would have to build different models to meet the specifications of each individual market. As far back as 1982, engineers had been trying unsuccessfully to unify the continent under a single system. Nokia and its partners managed to get the network up and running in Finland by 1991. That year, the country’s prime minister used a Nokia phone to place the first ever call on a commercial GSM Network.

Nokia also made the best looking devices:

Nokia’s success was aesthetic, too. A 1999 New York Times profile of its design chief, Frank Nuovo, credited him with the idea of “turning cell phones into fashion statements.” It’s otherwise plain 5100 and 6100 series phones came with easy to swap face plates that owners could change to “match a shade of nail polish.” It’s sleek 8860, designed to look like a chrome cigarette lighter, retailed for $799, and was given out as a favor to guests at the Emmys.

 

If Nokia does go (and sincerely hope they don’t) they’ll leave a legacy of defining my first mobile experience and fueling the cellular market as we know it. Were it not for Nokia, we’d all still be using a Motorola Startac and that’s reason enough to still hold a place for Nokia.

Source (The Atlantic)