Tag Archives: windows phone 8

Nokia Announces The Entry Level Lumia 620 Smartphone

Nokia recently unveiled the wallet-friendly Lumia 620 smartphone at LeWeb 2012 in Paris. This affordable smartphone runs on the Windows Phone 8 Operating System. The Nokia Lumia 620 packs some pretty decent specs including a 3.8 inch display, 512 MB RAM, 8 GB internal memory, 5 megapixel camera and much more. It is the company’s third Windows Phone 8 powered device.

Jo Harlow, executive vice president, Nokia Smart Devices, said,
“We continue to execute on our strategy to reach new audiences and new markets. With its innovative design, the latest Windows Phone 8 software and signature experiences from Nokia, like Nokia lenses, Nokia Maps and Nokia Music, the Nokia Lumia 620 is a highly competitive smartphone at this price point.”

Nokia Lumia 620 features a 3.8 inch WVGA display, sporting a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, 1 Ghz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, Windows Phone 8 OS, 5 megapixel rear camera with autofocus and LED flash, VGA front-facing camera for video calls, 512 MB RAM, 8 GB internal memory, 64 GB expandable memory and more.

It also comes with a 3.5mm headset jack, Office 365, Xbox Live, A-GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 3G Connectivity, IE9 with HTML 5 support, 7 GB Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage, USB 2.0, Bluetooth 3.0 + EDR, NFC (Near Field Communication), Nokia Drive, Nokia Maps, Bing Maps, up to 61 hours of music playback in offline mode, up to 9.9 hours of talk-time, up to 330 hours of stand-by time and a 1300 mAh battery.

The Nokia Lumia 620 uses a new dual-shot color technique, which adds a second layer of colored, transparent or translucent polycarbonate on top of a base layer to produce secondary color blends and depth effects. This handset will be available in lime green, orange, magenta, yellow, cyan, white and black colors. The Nokia Lumia 620 will go on sale from January 2013 for just $249 excluding taxes.

AT&T Lumia 920 And Lumia 820 Coming For $99 And $49 On November 9th

The Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 are important handsets for Microsoft and Nokia. With the Finnish giant suffering huge losses every quarter, the company has offered the best of everything it can with the Lumia 920 which includes an 8.7MP PureView Camera with optical image stabilization and Windows Phone 8.

While Nokia announced the Lumia 920 and 820 back in September, it has been mum on the final pricing and availability of the handset, especially in the United States. The Lumia 920 is already available for sale in certain regions of the world, including Russia where Nokia’s CEO, Elop, himself is at the store greeting customers.

Today, Nokia and AT&T announced the availability and pricing of the Lumia 920 and 820 in the United States on the carrier’s LTE network. The Lumia 920 will set users back by $99 on a two-year contract, while the Lumia 820 will cost them only $49.99. The pre-orders for both the handsets start on November 7th, with the phone hitting the retail stores on November 9th. For a limited time, AT&T will also be offering a wireless charging backplate with the Lumia 920.

The Lumia 920 is going to remain an AT&T exclusive for sometime, but the Lumia 820 will be available on Verizon’s network albeit with some slight radio changes and a different name – Lumia 822.

Via – The Verge

Xbox Music – a Great Service with Some Asterisks

I hate to focus on the missing aspects at the time of the launch of a great new service, but as a fan of Xbox Music (i.e., it its original name, Zune Music), I can’t help shake my head at the things that it does not do. I really like how Xbox Music looks and cannot wait to try it, but here’s hoping Microsoft works on quickly fixing these things.

First, a quick primer on what the newly announced service: Xbox Music is an all-you-can-eat music consumption service along with a music store all tied to a cloud-based sync service to enable your music and playlists to roam across devices. For now, these devices are Windows 8 PCs (including Windows RT devices), Windows Phone 8 phones and Xbox 360. The Xbox Music Pass, which enables free streaming of the entire catalog would cost $9.99 per month for phones and Xbox, and it would be free (ad-supported) for Windows 8 PCs and Windows RT devices. Additionally for using it on the Xbox you also need an Xbox LIVE Gold account, which comes with “tens of thousands” of music videos in addition to the streaming music. See my colleague Manan Kakkar’s take on Xbox Music here.

As you can see, everything is great about the service if you live within the Microsoft ecosystem, and if you are planning to buy one of the new devices (PCs, tablets, phones) launching this Fall. iOS and Android support is “coming soon”. So is the social piece, where you can share what you are listening to (and presumably, more) with your friends. Both of the these missing pieces are big for similar reasons: adoption and viral marketing.

First of all, let me clarify that there is no single service that provides what Xbox Music provides. While Pandora provides music discovery and streaming, it does not allow on-demand play nor does it have a music store. Rdio and Spotify provide on-demand streaming and a little bit of music discovery (via social and “radio”) but they don’t have their own stores. iTunes has perhaps the world’s largest store but it does not have a subscription plan. Xbox Music has all of the combined features, so you can actually ditch multiple services and use just Xbox Music.

However, one of the reason Rdio and Spotify are so popular is the social aspect. Friends share what they are listening to, making it easier to discover new music and also share the same with others. The other major factor of their success is that they are available on pretty much all major platforms in some shape or form, which in turn helps the social features even more – I don’t need to have all my friends on Windows 8, for example, in order to share my playlists with them.

iOS and Android being the fastest growing platforms today, are almost a requirement for any service which has ambitions of getting millions of users. Not having social is not as bad, but it helps in more than one way, so it is also quite a big missing piece. There is hope that this “new Microsoft” with its rapid pace of updating their products and services, is able to get these holes filled sooner than later.

Another glaring ommision is the concept of an Xbox Music Family Pass. In order to use the service optimally, you would want to use your own Microsoft account so that it can cater the selections to your taste. However, unlike the Xbox LIVE Gold accounts, there is no Family Pass for Xbox Music Service. This is a bummer because in a household, there is very likely going to be 2, 3 or 4 individuals who may want to use the service and having to pay $40 per month is not really a trivial decision. I was really hopeful that the lack of a Family Pass for Zune Music Pass would be remediated by an Xbox Music Family Pass. Looks like it was not to be. At least, not yet.

Setting those things aside, I think bundling Xbox Music for free on Windows PCs is a huge benefit, especially for Windows RT. For those not enthused by Windows 8/RT, who end up asking “why buy a Windows RT tablet instead of iPad or Android”, this becomes yet another feature in favor of Windows RT. With Xbox Music included for (ad-supported) free and Office Home and Student RT which comes bundled on Windows RT tablets, you have the world’s most popular productivity suite and on paper, the world’s only music service of its kind, included with a Windows RT tablet. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Android tablets should be part of this discussion at all given that the two successful devices so far have been 7″ (Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire), which don’t really compete with iPad or Windows RT.

So, in hindsight, the iOS/Android presence may actually be deliberately delayed, so that the case for buying a Windows RT tablet this holiday season is clearer. I like that pitch quite a lot because even if the Windows RT tablets are priced the same as an iPad, they will end up offering way more than an iPad can offer, and that, without adding the complexity of having a “full-blown PC”.

Xbox Music is a good move by Microsoft to showcase their execution of “devices and services” strategy, which previously would have been referred to as three screens and a cloud. Beautiful-looking services being delivered on well-made hardware, with roaming features so you can enjoy them the same way regardless of where you enjoy them? Now, that may actually be magical.

Why I Won’t Stand In A Line For The Lumia 920

The anticipation for Apple’s first few iPhones created a new phenomenon in phone buying–the long wait lines outside stores a night before. While this is a good litmus test to gauge buyer enthusiasm, it’s kinda silly since the phone can be pre-ordered. Anyhow, companies have been trying to replicate Apple’s success. While the iPhone 5 has its charm, I will stick to Windows Phone and end up buying the Nokia Lumia 920. But I won’t be the first customer in Syracuse. I won’t buy it the day it is available or line up a night before–not because the demand in Syracuse is so high but because the $199 price will fall within a week. Why you ask? Let’s go down memory lane…

When the Samsung Focus launched, I got it the same morning it launched, for $199. A few weeks later, the price went down to $0.1. I felt like an idiot but I guess I was too excited about the phone. The same happened during the Windows Phone 7.5 device launch. The holiday season is very tricky for retailers–they want to get as many devices out as possible. For Nokia and Microsoft their failure to compete with Apple’s launch date is an added indicator of price. The company will want whoever they can get, and in such a scenario, dropping the price is one of the oldest trick in the book.

I expect Lumia 920 to go through similar price cycles as previous Windows Phone devices have. $199 on launch and drop during the holiday season. I’d suggest potential buyers hold out a few more weeks after launch. This will be Nokia’s first Windows Phone launch during the lucrative holiday season and I expect them to follow the herd in dropping prices.

I won’t be the first, but I’d rather save the money to get some Nokia accessories.

Nokia Entices Yahoo! Employees With Free Accessories

Nokia and Yahoo as companies have quite a few things in common. Both have been facing tough times in the market, brought unsusptected and charismatic leaders, and are in midst of making a come back by reevaluating their priorities. Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer realized a fundamental flaw in the company–the engineers were forced to use decade old technology while develop products for the next decade. Stuck with BlackBerry all this while, Marissa Mayer decided it was time for Yahoo to dump the clunky phones and move on. A widely reported decision by the Mayer is Yahoo’s handing out of smart phones to all employees.

Yahoo will distribute handsets and even pay for their employee’s data+voice plans (not an unheard of perk). The options that will be offered are:

  • iPhone 5
  • A bunch of new Android phones
  • Lumia 920

The mention of Lumia 920 can be seen in two different ways:

  1. Mayer sees Windows Phone 8 as the 3rd mobile ecosystem instead of the declining BlackBerry
  2. Mayer sees Microsoft as a critical partner and including Lumia 920 was a political move

In either case, it is a win for Nokia. The Lumia 920 is the flagship Windows Phone 8 handset and as I wrote before, it has captured buyer-attention. Not missing this opportunity, Nokia’s Media Relationship manager Douglas Dawson took to Twitter and asked Yahoo employees to wait for the Lumia 920. Unlike the iPhone 5, no Windows Phone 8 device is available for pre-order or expected to be in user’s hands before November. Dawson says Nokia has an exclusive offer for Yahoo employees who’ll wait for Lumia 920:

A really smart move on Nokia’s part for what it’s worth. But it still doesn’t beat Apple’s ability to take buyer money today and get the devices in hand by month-end.

How Nokia Beat Apple In Mind Games

When Nokia introduced the Lumia 920 the general consensus was, it’s a good phone but Apple’s iPhone 5 will be the best phone. There will be pigs flying over Mascone when it is revealed. Of course that didn’t happen. The iPhone 5 was underwhelming. The real show stealer yesterday was the new iPod Touch. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the iPhone isn’t innovative; what we saw yesterday was design innovation, not innovation same as iPhone 1. iOS6 isn’t bringing anything new either. As a result, the overall consensus yesterday was that the iPhone 5 is good looking powerful device, it will sell millions but isn’t revolutionary. As Mat Honan puts it, “It is amazing and utterly boring.”

Compare this to Nokia, the company announced a new camera setup, wireless charging and NFC capabilities. The introduction of wireless charging and NFC have generated excitement, while you can rubbish them as gimmicks, wireless charging makes a lot of sense to me. I come home and place the phone next to my PC, and guess what?! The phone isn’t connected to a wire!  The charger is connected to a power source, but my phone isn’t. The phone charging cable just vanished as far as I am concerned.

Nokia made an impression.

The other key announcement Nokia made was around NFC. TO understand this, we need to look at Nokia’s NFC accessories, so far just personal audio equipment. Nokia believes NFC helps you get rid of the cumbersome setup of Bluetooth pairing or WiFi sharing. And guess what?! You don’t have to buy a dock adapter for your phone!

Not new, ergo not innovative, but then Nokia has a concept of wireless charging. Put these together and you have innovation that the end consumer can feel while using the technology in a way where technology is seamless.

Nokia again makes an impression.

The third is specs. Now many say specs don’t matter and that the phone’s experience is what matters. Well, guess what?! So far the general consensus is that the Windows Phone experience is very good! Couple this with no hardware advantage that Apple has with the iPhone 5 & features shown in Windows Phone 8, Nokia has made an impression.

Let’s talk about the now infamous Lumia 920 camera. In the tech circles, Nokia is being mocked for fudging PureView photographs but to the end user  PureView as a brand makes an impression. And while we are on the topic of innovation and winter is coming, being able to use a touch screen phone with gloves on–getting that right, is innovation. On those living in the colder regions, like Central New York, Nokia made an impression.

In a mind game of making an impression, Nokia just beat Apple.

PS: Google Now on Android is far more useful than Siri.

Samsung Unveils The Windows Phone 8 Powered Ativ S Smartphone

Apart from the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy Camera, Samsung has also unveiled the world’s first smartphone powered by the latest Windows Phone 8 OS, the Samsung Ativ S. The screen size as well as the rear and front-facing camera of this device is similar to that of the Galaxy S III smartphone. This handset will be available in both 16 GB and 32 GB variants. Additionally, you can expand the storage, thanks to the microSD card slot.

Samsung Ativ S features a 4.8 inch HD Super AMOLED display, sporting a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels, 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, Windows Phone 8 Operating System, 8 megapixel rear camera with auto-focus and LED flash, full HD (1080p) video recording and playback, 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera and so on.

It also pack 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB/ 32GB internal memory, microSD (SDXC support), A-GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, 3G Connectivity, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC (Near Field Communication), 3.5 mm headset jack, Samsung ChatOn, Samsung Hub, Windows Phone Store and a 2300 mAh battery. This handset measures 137.2 x 70.5 x 8.7 mm and weighs 135 grams.

Apart from the specs, Samsung has not provided any additional details of this device. Even the launch date and price are still unknown. We will update you as soon as the complete details are available with us.

Nokia Working on Carrier Partnerships in Europe for Windows Phone 8

Nokia is apparently planning to enter partnerships with multiple European carriers and share revenue with them for sales of its upcoming Windows Phone 8 handsets to create dedicated support channels for its phones. It plans to enter those markets by partnering with top carriers like Apple does with AT&T and Verizon in the U.S., instead of just selling phones which work with all carriers.

By offering revenue shares to carriers, Nokia could get them to back its devices by giving them a stake in the success of its Windows Phone 8 phones, which going by the rather lackluster showing of its Windows Phone 7 devices, would probably hardly rack up many sales.

One of the main reasons why Windows Phone has failed to gain much traction yet is because iPhones sell themselves while most carriers and store salesmen back Android devices due to their affordability and familiarity. By giving them a lucrative stake in the success of its Windows Phone devices, Nokia could turn over some carriers to its side, and gain some much needed traction to get to the tipping point, after which Windows Phone 8 devices would start selling themselves.

Nokia has already tried this in the U.S. with AT&T and the Lumia 900, and has seen some success with it. It wouldn’t be much of a leap for it to do in Europe as well.

Nokia could be the first device maker to launch a Windows Phone 8 smartphone, which could give it a slight lead over other competitors and an initial boost in sales. It lost nearly a billion dollars last quarter, and we expect it to continue to bleed cash in the coming quarters until it eventually gets back in the game, it at all it does.

via Reuters

Windows Phone Finally Becomes Enterprise-Ready

 

Windows Phone 8

At today’s Windows Phone Summit, Microsoft gave a sneak peek at the next version of their phone operating system, Windows Phone 8 (WP8). Microsoft officials made it clear that this event was a platform preview more than a rundown of all new features (especially consumer-facing features) of WP8. The biggest reveal of the event was that the WP8 OS shares the core with its big brother, Windows 8. In this way, a lot of the lower level features and capabilities of Windows 8 are automatically translated over to WP8.

What I was most interested in seeing was how WP8 would improve its enterprise feature set. I have written before how some basic features required by corporate IT are missing from Windows Phone 7.5. I am happy to report that most of the issues I had, are going to be addressed in WP8. Here’s a high-level list of business-related features being added to Windows Phone:

  • Device encryption: Perhaps the single-most important feature required by IT is that the device data is encrypted. Windows Phone 7.5 has isolated storage and sandboxed apps but it is not the same or as secure as full device encryption. WP8 adds Bitlocker encryption to secure the entire device, including operating system and data files. Not only that, this will extend to removable microSD cards as well.
  • Secure boot: WP8 will support UEFI-based secure boot and add better app sandboxing, thereby protecting the device from increasing mobile malware threats.
  • Remote administration: Corporate IT will now be able to manage Windows Phones (including apps) just like they manage Windows PCs. Again, this could happen easily because of the shared core between WP8 and Windows 8.
  • Company hub: Windows Phone 7.5 offers no way to side load apps, and all apps have to go through the Marketplace to be deployed on devices. With WP8, Microsoft makes it possible for IT to be able to deploy apps via a Company Hub. The Company Hub can of course be used to disseminate other info, since it acts like just another app on the phone. Microsoft will provide templates and development guidance so IT departments can build such a hub for their employees.

 

WP8 Company Hub

Company Hub in Windows Phone 8

There are probably more features that relate to business use of Windows Phones which were not discussed today, like VPN support. However, the features discussed are big enough to give corporate IT and idea of how compliant WP8 will be with their stringent requirements.

Do you think these are good enough for your company’s IT department to start planning full support for Windows Phones? Let me know!

What I Wish Today’s Microsoft Announcement Will Be

Windows Logo

On Thursday June 14, late in the afternoon, Microsoft sent out invites to media for a special event in Los Angeles, CA which promised to be a major announcement not to be missed. Since it was so cryptic, it created a flurry of rumors, leaks and conjecture. Several pundits have written about what it could be, connected the dots and come to a conclusion and in fact this morning, one of those guesses was even shot down.

Instead of trying to think of what it could be, I am going to write about what I hope it will be. Based on the fact that this event is in Los Angeles, I am hoping it has everything to do with entertainment tie-ups. At E3 earlier this month, Microsoft took the wraps off their new entertainment brand (Xbox-everything) and showed some bits of their new (improved?) Xbox Companion app, Smart Glass. Also, Microsoft gave a glimpse of Xbox Music, their successor to the Zune Music service. However, neither Smart Glass nor Xbox Music were looked at in detail. What we do know is they said that the Xbox Music service will have a catalog of 30 million tracks (compared to Zune Music today, which is around 20 million).

So, here’s my list of what I hope may come today:

  • Details of Xbox Music service: Additional deals to get the catalog from today’s 20 million tracks to the promised 30 million. Also, most importantly, access for the service from other platforms besides Windows (8, RT and Phone) – so, iOS apps and Android apps.
  • Unveiling of Xbox Video service: While it was made clear that Xbox is the center of Microsoft’s entertainment strategy, not much was discussed about Xbox Video. I hope that Microsoft is able to cut some deals with Hollywood to get exclusive content built into Xbox Video. Hollywood has got to be scared of Apple (and Netflix), so a good tie up with Microsoft would of course make sense for them.
  • Merge Zune Music Pass and Xbox LIVE Gold: The most ridiculous thing about Xbox as an entertainment device is that to access almost any entertainment service on the Xbox, you need an Xbox LIVE Gold account, listed at $60/year. Although there are a lot of promotions for the Gold account (Amazon routinely sells these for $45 or so), it is still an unnecessary cost for normal (read: non-gaming) customers to access services they already pay for. On the other hand, Zune Music Pass is an awesome subscription service which can be accessed over the Xbox in addition to the PC and Windows Phone. It is time for Microsoft to merge the two and call it the Xbox Pass which enables access to the video services on the Xbox platform, as well as unlimited music.
  • Xbox Lite: The Xbox today is still seen as a gaming device which can also do entertainment, never mind the stats which show that Xbox users now consume more content on the device than play games. Also, a lot of households have multiple TV sets and getting a $200 Xbox for each TV may not be worth it just for say, Netflix and Hulu. What if Microsoft made a Xbox Lite which like Apple TV would have close to no storage and would not be used for gaming. This would work great for the non-gaming customers who want to consume the unlimited music catalog and also get access to the tons of video services now available on the Xbox. If it is priced at $79, it would be a super hit, I’d imagine.
  • Announce global availability of all of the above: Most of the Zune/Xbox LIVE services are poorly represented around the world. It would be fantastic if Microsoft is able to get availability parity across the globe.

Note, I am staying away from tablets, phones and cellular stuff. I do hope that it is not about a Microsoft tablet or a Nokia phone. On the cellular front though, some random rumor about a Verizon event have some tie in to this Microsoft announcement intrigues me – Verizon is a huge hold out when it comes to Windows Phones and any partnership they have with Microsoft, I see it as a positive step.

What do you think? Too much to hope for?