What makes Nokia Windows Phone devices unique?

When Nokia and Microsoft announced their future Windows Phone strategy less than 10 months ago, there was the promise of some unique features in Nokia's devices. We saw a couple of these unique features last week at Nokia World.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I had the chance to attend the first day of Nokia World last week where they announced the Lumia 710 and 800 devices. James mentioned that he did not see much from the Nokia partnership. Nokia did mention three pieces in the keynote, but didn't explain many of the details so I spent some time talking with some folks on the show floor and found out more to share with you.

Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive

One of the main services mentioned in February when Nokia and Microsoft announced their partnership was the integration of Nokia Maps into Windows Phone. The two companies said that Nokia Maps would not be exclusive to Nokia devices and that was confirmed at Nokia World. People with HTC, Samsung, LG, and other Windows Phone devices should see Nokia Maps appearing in the Windows Phone Marketplace within the next couple of weeks as a free software application. This version of Nokia Maps will NOT support offline maps or voice guided navigation, but does have the following features:

  • Local POI details (provides you location, phone number, reviews, and photos of up to 25 locations in your vicinity)
  • Deep link support (you can pin destinations to the Start screen)
  • Detailed maps in satellite, 2D, and 3D views

The differentiation between Nokia and other manufacturers will be offline maps and Nokia Drive, which is the program powering voice navigation. The voice navigation experience is much like what you see with Nokia Maps on the Symbian and MeeGo platforms. You can find voice guided navigation on Windows Phone in programs like Navigon, but when you get a Nokia Windows Phone you will get this support for free.

Nokia Music

The Windows Phone experience is best in the United States where you get full access to all the services of the Microsoft ecosystem. Outside the U.S. there is a matrix of unsupported services that gives Windows Phone users an inconsistent experience. Nokia is working to improve the out-of-box experience by providing Nokia Music for FREE on all Nokia Windows Phone devices. Nokia Music is similar to Spotify, Slacker, Rdio and other $10/month subscription services where you get unlimited streaming music support and offline music to enjoy when you have no connection.

As you can see in my video walk through with a Nokia representative below, there are several features in Nokia Music that make it a pretty compelling experience for new Windows Phone users.

Nokia Music does provide a one tap link to the Zune music on your device when you tap the My Music words in the main Nokia Music interface. There is radio stations customized for different regions that you can tap and download for offline listening. You get 50 songs per channel and up to four channels to download for something like 10-12 hours of music that should cover most any flight. There are also personalization options where you can search for your favorite artist and enjoy music from that artist.

The ability to get up and running with music right out of the box on Nokia Windows Phones is pretty compelling, especially when you know that other Windows Phone devices require you to first connect to a PC or Mac to get any music. With this free service and the trend of people to stream music, Microsoft may find fewer people subscribing to the Zune service with Nokia Windows Phones.

ESPN Sports Hub

The third app/service announced at Nokia World was an ESPN hub. I didn't find this on the show floor to discuss more details and there was not much covered during the keynote. Based on what was shown, I really did not see any differences between this ESPN app and the ESPN ScoreCenter app for all Windows Phone devices. The ESPN Sports Hub was not on any of the devices in the hands-on area of the show and Nokia did not reveal when this would be coming to these devices.

Is this enough to offer a compelling Nokia WP experience?

I think the two main services, Maps and Music, are compelling offerings and if these services are important to you then it may be a no brainer to purchase a Nokia Windows Phone. It is important to put what we see here into perspective and understand that it was just earlier this February when Nokia and Microsoft announced this Windows Phone strategy and we already see a couple of unique Windows Phone services and two solid Windows Phone smartphones. I imagine there will be a LOT more coming from both Nokia and Microsoft in the future and in my opinion this partnership will be valuable for both companies.

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