It’s a day of mixed feelings for Nokia. On one hand the company announced poor outlook for 2012, on the other, they’re all set to be the first Windows Phone OEM to introduce NFC in their handsets.
Nokia is the first OEM to have LTE based 4G Windows Phones as well. (The current HSPA+ implementation by AT&T and T-Mobile is NOT technically 4G, so they’re HSPA+ phones don’t count.) And in a second, Nokia is the first to implement NFC in their Windows Phone handsets. Passed by the FCC and announced by Nokia, meet the Nokia Lumia 610. The phone’s numbering is absurd. Nokia has a Lumia 710 and 610 which has NFC, in other terms a newer phone with more features has backward numbering. (The company went from Lumia 800 to 900 and not 700.) I’m sure Nokia has a plausible reasoning for the numbers but that explanation would only make sense to the people within Nokia. Not to the buyer, unless explained. Anyway, back to the Lumia 610, here’s what we know:
Phone is being targeted as an “affordable phone,” no frills feature rich phone
Certified for contactless payments with MasterCard
Compatible with Nokia’s other NFC accessories
In the blog post on Conversations by Nokia, Heidi Lemmetyinen mentions Nokia’s NFC bluetooth headset and not the Nokia Play 360—their NFC capable speakers, which are far more cooler and part of Nokia’s super-expensive Lumia 800 bundle in the US. That aside, Nokia said they have sold 2 Million Windows Phone devices that is a decent number for starters. The Lumia 610 looks a lot like the 710:
Recently, after a blog post on the Windows Phone Developer Blog, there was concern among the Windows Phone developer community about the impact of 256MB phones on the general app quality. The basic assumption made was that apps will now have to be catered for the lowest common denominator. Per these concerns, today’s phones with 512MB memory, and tomorrow’s super phones with possibly more, will be under-utilized, and app developers may not be able to push the limits on the resource usage within their apps.
Justin Angel, the newly hired Principal Engineer at Nokia, has been doing the rounds of popular Windows Phone podcasts to clear the air on this topic. I listened to WPCentral and WPDevPodcast episodes recently, and wanted to highlight the main points Angel made. So, here you go:
As mentioned in the original blog post, there are less than 5% of the total apps which are affected by the restrictions imposed on the maximum memory an app can use.
These affected apps, which use more than 90MB of memory, should have actually been declined certification in the first place.
Microsoft had two choices on handling these apps – pull them off the Marketplace, or what they did, which is mark them as incompatible with the low-end devices, and notify each developer with an email. This email explains what the developer can do to update the app so it passes certification the next time they submit it.
The updated developer tools ship with a second emulator to help understand how an app would perform under both 256MB and 512MB devices. The best practice suggested is to always test the app in the 256MB emulator. Angel also suggested that developers should use the memory profiler that comes with the tools, which will help them in understanding where their app ends up using more memory.
Microsoft has made some clever technological updates in the “Windows Phone 7.5 Refresh”, aka Tango, which enable even the 256MB devices to support up to 90MB of memory per app. This trickery is completely transparent to the developer (and naturally, to the customer).
Since the trickery only applies to the 256MB devices, current Windows Phone customers need not worry about it at all. Developers also need not worry about how their apps will perform before and after Tango on the first-generation devices, since on those devices there is going to be no impact at all.
As for loss of functionality or APIs, the generic background agents will not work in the 256MB devices. These are two new types of agents introduced in Windows Phone Mango, which allow arbitrary code to run in the background based on app developer’s discretion. The apps which use such agents are listed under the new settings section so the customer can go and de-select to turn them off. Angel mentioned that because of this ability provided to the phone owner, these generic background agents should not have been made a core part of any app anyway. Remember, push notification services are still available, so toast notifications, live tile updates, alerts, etc. should still work if you use the Push Notification Service (and related APIs).
So there you go, developers. There is virtually nothing to worry about with Tango. In fact, there is a LOT to be excited about. With the addition of 23 new markets including China, and the push by Nokia and others into these markets with low-cost devices, there is a very good chance that the lower end devices will actually outsell the top end devices. If your app works on these low-end devices, you will now have access to about 60% more customers!
If you are one of the 5% affected developers, please let me know if you have a reason to exceed the 90MB memory limit. I’d like to know why it is so.
Nokia has just announced the new, entry-level Lumia 610. Priced at the low cost of 189 Euros before taxes and subsidies (approximately $255 US), it is now Nokia’s cheapest Windows Phone.
This low price point has been made possible thanks to the (now official), formerly rumored lowered Windows Phone specifications; as we reported earlier this month, a leak of Windows Phone Tango features revealed that Microsoft will be lowering certain hardware requirements to accommodate cheaper phones.
The minimum required amount of memory has been diminished to 256MB from 512MB, OEMs are now required to include a camera of at least 3MP (this is a good thing, they previously didn’t need to add a camera at all), and a lower-performance processor (the minimum here is currently unknown, though the Lumia 610’s is 800MHz, perhaps this is the new minimum). As some apps may not work on these lower-speced phones — and as there are some software differences as well — many, including myself and fellow Microsoft writer Manan are concerned that this will be the beginning of Windows Phone fragmentation.
The Lumia 610 will hit the shelves sometime in Q2 of 2012, and it will be available in Cyan, White, Black, and Magneta. The Verge have managed to get a hands-on with the device, so for a video and some additional photos, their post is worth looking at.