Nokia's newest Windows Phone: Will the best camera win?

Nokia's newest Windows Phone: Will the best camera win?

Summary: Nokia has launched its latest smartphone, the Lumia 1020, with souped-up, top-of-the-line camera technologies. Is that enticement enough to push Windows Phone share beyond three percent?


I don't take a lot of pictures on my Windows Phone -- other than lots of pictures of my craft beer pints (for my app). I don't take a lot of pictures with a regular point-and-shoot camera, either.


So when I got to see Nokia's newest Windows Phone, the Lumia 1020, during its unveiling in New York City today, I was interested but still not sure if it's for me.

The good news, on first "hold" (we didn't get loaner units to try out at the launch), is the 1020 is much nicer "in the hand" than the heavier/bulkier Lumias like the 920. Yes, I know some folks don't find the weight/size of the Lumias problematic, and some even prefer the heavier form factors. I am not in that group. The new camera doesn't protrude much, either, in spite of all the technology it packs inside.

Nokia is providing a new app on these phones that will help non-pro photographers like me figure out how to use all the new bells and whistles. And there will be a number of new third-party apps that are built using the Lumia 1020 software-development kit to take advantage of all the new optics and audio capabilities in the phone.

Nokia wisely didn't run through a bunch of speeds and feeds during today's unveiling, and instead focused on showing off all the new things the new PureView camera can do. For the full list of specs on the device, check out Nokia's official spec sheet. The short version: The 4.5-inch AMOLED device has a 41-megapixel camera, 7712 X5360 resolution, 2 GB of RAM; 32 GB of internal memory and 7 GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage.

Under the hood, the 1020 runs Microsoft's GDR2 update to Windows Phone 8, plus the "Amber" layer of customized Nokia firmware and fixes; plus additional camera-specific software.

As someone who cares less about snapping pics than I do about browsing the Web and checking email on my phone, would I pay $299.99 with a two year contract on AT&T for this device? Or $659.99 off contract?

(Unsurprisingly, given Nokia's relationship with AT&T, this phone -- which goes on sale on July 26 -- is an AT&T exclusive in the U.S. Microsoft is promising that the 1020 will be available later this quarter in China, select European countries and various other countries around the world.) I am a Verizon customer, which means if  anything comparable to the Lumia 1020 comes to Verizon, it won't likely happen for months.

I'm skeptical the new camera will win me over. But I'm reserving final judgment until I get a loaner device so I can try it out myself. What about you, photography-fanatics and not? 

Topics: Windows Phone, Microsoft, Nokia


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Great Phone - Marketing miss on the name

    I will be leaving Verizon and moving to ATT for this phone. Verizon's always 6 months to a year behind in phone technology be it iPhone, Andriod or Windows Phone.

    The camera is absolutely amazing. Don't believe me?

    This phone has the opportunity to change the marketplace. It's a cost saver for a lot of us. No more remembering to bring the camera with us to events. Quality photos any where at any time.

    With this in mind Nokia really missed on the marketing. The Nokia cPhone would emphasize the abilities of the phone and provide the differentiation Nokia needs to sell this higher margin product.
    • Umm...

      They already have established an excellent marketing brand with the Lumia name. Why on earth would they use such a ridiculously corny name like cPhone?
      • Differentiation

        Why? Differentiation. The Nokia LUMIA 1020 and the Nokia LUMIA 505 are different phones for different markets. Your average customer walking into ATT needs as much help as they can get. At least a Nokia Lumia C1 brand would have been better.
        • Dangerous

          Your argument makes sense, but you don't mention the danger in having too many brands. By having the Lumia line, any ad for a Lumia has a halo effect on the other Lumias. That halo effect on the Lumia is already there and by making it the Lumia with the highest number (and cost) they get sales from all people who don't have a clue and just want the best Lumia.
          With a new brand they would distance themselves from Lumia which would imply that it's not better, just dfferent - of course that would result in better sales of the 9xx range.
          • I didn't suggest having too many brands

            Nokia has two phones that have 41MP lenses. They are camera phones. I don't see the harm in identifying them as such. It's a hybrid device (phone/camera).
          • You missed Sacr's point

            Nokia 808 Pureview was named accordingly with Nokia's Symbian naming scheme. Similar to Samsung with the Galaxy line for Android and ATIV for Windows, Nokia has the Nokia (numbers) and the Nokia Lumia (numbers). They set it ahead of the rest with the 10 prefix over the 9.

            My guess is the 920 follow up will be in the 930-940 range. By the time that reaches 1000, Microsoft may have converged WP and W8 (2014) and we'll have a whole new ball game. Who knows what will come next...
          • Don't agree!

            The name "Lumia" has already begun to be recognized around the globe so changing name now is not a good strategy. Besides, your suggested "cPhone" name sounds lame.
  • This doesn't add up

    Nokia was supposed to struggling financially, yet they have managed to bring into the market three versions of their Lumia series in the last few weeks - 928,925 and 1020!
    • This doesn't add up

      You gotta remember, Microsoft is also paying Nokia to produce these products.
      • This doesn't add up

        According to published articles, some on this site, MS isn't paying Nokia to produce these products, instead Nokia is paying MS for the licensing, though they did supply funding early on to help Nokia develop around WP.

        The camera engineering, etc. are all Nokia
        William Farrel
      • No they're not

        Where did you get that information? Microsoft even started charging them for licenses recently.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • Prototypes

      They don't need to rake in Apple-like profits to produce more models, they only need to break even.

      You'll notice that the hardware components between the phones are very very similar, which cuts down development and support costs significantly.

      It seems as if they just release most of their prototyped form factors (anything where they can expect 1+ mio sales), waiting for a big hit. Nothing wrong with that
  • Disappointed...

    Not in the phone itself, mind you, it's absolutely spectacular in features. I'm also glad it weighs less and has a slimmer profile.

    No, I'm disappointed in the fact that AT&T was allowed to screw the pooch on Nokia in terms of pricing. The 920 already has a terrific camera, so why would most consumers choose 1020 over the 920 given the pricing difference? I'm not really sure. Especially after investing in wireless charging devices so now the high price PLUS a cover to enable wireless charging. Ouch.

    Now granted, if I want the best of the best... absolutely! I'd pick one up in a heartbeat. But then again, I picked up the 920 on contract, so I'm not up for that pricing yet, and in the fall, I'd expect a 920 successor with GDR3 to make an appearance.

    So for me, I'll be waiting and seeing what happens with fall releasing and the pricing.

    But it's a pity... this is such an amazing device, and AT&T really ruined what should have been awesome.
    • Son, Who's the Customer?

      AT&T passes, the phone is DOA.

      Not only that, they do not need a new phone to have and keep customers. A new Nokia exclusive may draw some new contracts, but there's a history that they may refer to. As to maintaining current Nokia fans whose 2011 contracts are up, just what percent of their user base does that describe, and what portion of their standard churn is really at play?

      In addition, the pricing is based on what part of AT&T's cost amortizes over 24 months. Sure AT&T could price it lower, but that means more of its payment to Nokia consists of cash taken from current cash, to be paid back over the contracts. It is an accounting fundamental that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar spent tomorrow.

      What are the projected additional revenues per month for using that phone versus another AT&T phone, i.e., how does getting a customer to pick that specific phone enhance the bottom line? A lower subsidy might be it.

      Whatever priorities AT&T has, boosting Nokia and WP8 share isn't particularly high. I think AT&T is saying that building demand for this phone is someone else's problem, and if Nokia gets the innate demand for a smartphone with better camera correct, Nokia wins, and for the few months of exclusivity, AT&T sees some benefit. With regards to awesome Nokia hardware combined with a new Windows os, and the degree its pricing helps their business, this is not AT&T 's first rodeo.
      • Don't forget markets outside the US!

        AT&T may have a monopoly in the US, but do remember that Nkia's largest markets have traditionally been outside the US, mainly in Europe and Asia. Many of their markets do NOT have carrier subsidies on the handsets, so they will not be handicapped by carrier control.

        Of course, they will have to do a terrific marketing job to sell these babies at full price for the unlocked devices...
  • to the average person,

    the typical 8MP cameras are just wonderful. I don't think this will help nokia significantly. Its just another spec that someone can have a bigger number on, now that #of cores and display size and resolution wars seem to have plateaued.
    • DrWong

      You really need to phone to understand. 8MP cameras are not wonderful, if you sitting in the back of the room for your child's concert. You have no zoom with your 8mp camera and you and a very clear image of the idiot in front of you taking pictures with the iPad. That's the whole point of this phone. Take 41MP pictures of video and then zoom after. This allows you to crop to the 8MP selection of your choice, making it like you were in the front row for your child's concert. It's not about MPs. It's about being able to zoom in and out after the moment with 8MP quality.
      • Zoom

        Actually, zooming in and out afterwards, on a video, would mean to record at ~38 MP. That would fill the available storage space very quickly. Best just zoom during the filming and record at 5 MP. The image stabilization should help tremendeously when filming at 3x zoom.
      • Re: Take 41MP pictures of video and then zoom after

        It is apparent you are new to photography.

        If you want compact camera, with good quality pictures, by all means get one of the super-zoom compacts. It will cost less than this smartphone and will produce far, far better images. Of course, the images won't be 41 megapixel but for all practical purposes will always be better.

        If you are really interested to shoot sports or concerts, get an DSLR or at least a mirrorless interchangeable camera with big sensor. That camera will always make images much better than the super-zoom compact.

        There is no such thing as free lunch.
        • So if I want a camera I can buy one?

          While I am new to photography your apparently a stranger to business.

          If I want a camera, I can buy one? Thanks. And it takes better pictures? You don't say. If I want an eReader can I buy a kindle? Will that read books better than the Nokia?

          You're missing the whole point. Unless you are a photographer, you're not carrying a camera with you everywhere you go. That's the rest of us 99%. People want to take great pictures, but they don't want to have to bring their DSLR camera with them. That's the whole point of the phone. It gives you low DLSR quality and is with you everywhere.

          No one is saying it is free. It's a hybrid. Camera/Phone