Microsoft's new Denim update for Lumia phones coming in Q4

Microsoft's new Denim update for Lumia phones promises a faster shooting camera and "Hey Cortana" activation.

Microsoft has announced Lumia Denim for a number of Lumia devices, differentiating them from other phones that got Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1.

At the IFA tech fair in Berlin today, Microsoft announced Denim, its new firmware update and successor to Cyan , exclusive to Lumia handsets that should start rolling out in the fourth quarter.

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Denim brings a host of new imaging features to Lumia devices, as well as "Hey Cortana" voice activation, bringing it up to par with Siri and Google Now. This feature leans on Nokia's SensorCore, its hub for controlling a smartphone's numerous sensors. As the name suggests, users will be able to say "Hey Cortana" to activate the personal assistant while the phone is idle. 

Building on Nokia's legacy of imaging focus in smartphones , Denim brings more improvements to the camera and a rebranding of related apps away from the Nokia name.

Denim will carry the Lumia Camera app, instead of the former Nokia Camera-branded equivalent. Microsoft says the Lumia Camera will be faster and more intuitive, while tweaked image processing algorithms will improve low light photography. Similar improvements to low light photography landed for the Lumia 1520 with Cyan. By faster, the company means faster burst shots, which it claims will be at a rate of one every 42 milliseconds — which is about three times faster than human eye blinks.  

Denim will also include 4K-quality video recording at 24 FPS, with individual frames taken at 8.3 megapixels, in addition Auto HDR and Dynamic Flash. 

The catch, as Microsoft expands its Windows Phone partners, is that these improvements are exclusive to Lumia and, given that they're also hardware dependent, some features are not available to popular lower-end Lumia phones.

The new Lumia Camera for example is only available for the Lumia 930, Lumia Icon, and Lumia 1520 — and will come to these first as an over the air update, while the camera will arrive for the Lumia 830 in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile the Denim update will ship with the Lumia 830, Lumia 730, and Lumia 735 , while the update for existing Windows Phone 8 Lumia devices need go through the usual partner testing phase before being rolled out.

The update builds on Windows Phone 8.1 features such as Live folders, letting users create a new folder on the home screen. They can also be renamed.

Others included an "apps corner" to cordon off specific apps or games, which Microsoft says could be useful for workplace issued phones, as well as VPN for consumer phones, expanding Cyan's VPN only for the enterprise, speedier mobile site performance in IE, and the ability to set custom snooze times in the Alarm app.

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