At the beginning of the week rumors started to creep out that Nokia was interested in buying Alcatel-Lucent. The story started with a report on Bloomberg and -- rather surprisingly for such rumors -- Nokia decided to not only comment on the rumor, but confirm that it is true.
Details are still rather thin on the ground and there's no hint at a possible timescale for a buyout of the French telecoms firm. What the statement does do, however, is open up the interesting possibility that Nokia could be on the verge of re-entering the smartphone market after offloading the handset side of its business to Microsoft.
When I first pondered leaving Windows Phone behind, I imagined it would be for an Android flagship. It made sense. Android is, after all, much more permissive, has way more apps, and is available in a larger variety of smartphone flavors. And Google is committed to improving the operating system, launching at least one major update a year. Also, I use a Google Nexus 7 as my every day tablet; an Android smartphone would be a perfect fit. But things change.
Apple finally came up with bigger iPhones last year, and the prospect of ditching Windows Phone for a new iPhone suddenly became irresistible. It didn't hurt that iOS 8 dropped some of the annoying restrictions of its predecessors. Ultimately, I ended up with an iPhone 6 Plus. And, after two years of Windows Phones, using Apple's phablet as my daily driver can only be described as liberating.
If you want to get your hands on a new Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone without spending too much money or signing up for a two-year contract then Amazon might have just the thing for you.
Amazon is now offering Nokia Lumia 635, which is basically a low-end Windows Phone, as its Gold Box Deal of the Day, for just $29.99, which is $70 less than the usual $99.99 asking price.
When Nokia announced the availability of HERE on Google Play, it also announced that an iOS version will follow in early 2015. And today's the day when HERE is finally available on Apple's App Store.
Apple's iOS becomes the last of the major mobile platforms to get HERE, following Microsoft's Windows Phone and Google's Android. I've been waiting for this moment since I switched to iPhone 6 Plus from Windows Phone. Sure, there's always Google Maps, but its inability to work as well as HERE without an Internet connection is a major downside for me.
I can attest firsthand to the rising health-care costs everyone talks about. My mom went to hospital on January 30th for outpatient surgery. Still woozy from anesthesia, she left her Nokia Lumia Icon Windows Phone in the bed's blankets. The hospital ships the linens to Canada for cleaning, and, well—cue the violins—that handset is gone to cellphone heaven or into someone's greedy, grubby hands. Wouldn't you know, Medicare won't cover the cost of replacing the phone.
Neither will Asurion pay up. The nerve. When reporting the phone lost, Verizon suggested adding insurance to the phone line and later filing a claim. The Lumia could be replaced for $99 deductible. I must admit to a little apprehension, but, hey, cost was just 10 bucks. Damn, three attempts to file a claim all failed, with Asurion insisting that the phone was lost before insurance was applied. Either these insurers are smartypants, or this is a popular scam. Whichever, mom's hospital visit was an unexpected, health-care cost.
In less than a week, HERE has seen two major updates. The first brought more accurate maps to Android and Windows Phone users, making way for turn-by-turn navigation in more countries. And the second brings a slew of improvements to HERE for Android as the app finally drops the beta label.
Having used HERE on Android right from the start, I have to say that there is little that I miss compared to what the app suite has to offer on Windows Phone. Still, this hasn't stopped Nokia from making some tweaks here and there. Here's what the latest update brings to the table.
HERE Maps users on Android and Windows Phone are being treated to a major map update today, which expands the list of regions where turn-by-turn navigation is available, improves map quality in a number of regions, and increases the accuracy of public transit information in more cities, among other things.
In fact, Nokia claims that there are too many changes in this update to list individually, but says that they impact users all over the globe. Let's take a look at the biggest changes.
Nokia Lumia Icon is among the last Windows Phones to receive a software update to Windows Phone 8.1, despite its flagship credentials. But this shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, Lumia Icon features Verizon's logo. And we all know that big red is not exactly quick with updates.
In fact, despite being a Verizon exclusive, Lumia Icon is long gone from the carrier's portfolio. Talk about support there! The only Windows Phones Verizon sells now are HTC One (M8) for Windows and Samsung ATIV SE. Still, Lumia Icon will at least get Lumia Denim, which is based on Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, quite possibly before any other high-end Windows Phone in US.
Nokia’s best decision might have been selling its mobile division to Microsoft for £5 billion, removing the sinking division and giving the Finnish company enough capital to re-invest in networking and mapping technologies.
The results are already noticeable; Nokia reported £2.84 billion in revenue and £331 million net profit in the fourth quarter, compared to £2.60 billion in revenue and £17 million in net loss last year.
Microsoft has released its earnings report for Q2 FY2015 (that's Q4 CY2014 for everyone else), revealing figures that closely match analyst expectations. The software giant achieved $26.5 billion in revenue, with operating income coming in at $7.8 billion. Gross margin and diluted earnings per share were $16.3 billion and $0.71, respectively. However, in after-hours trading, Microsoft's shares dropped by $2, or 4.28 percent, to $45 per share.
Microsoft has delivered some good news through its earnings report concerning its Devices and Consumer part of the business. Surface revenue reached $1.1 billion at the end of the quarter, which translates to a healthy increase of 24 percent over Q2 FY2014. Lumia sales topped 10.5 million, which, again, is better than the same quarter from a year prior as well as the previous quarter, Q1 FY2015. And the list goes on.
Smartphones may be more affordable than ever, but, for quite a few people, they are still too expensive. And they offer short battery life, pretty much across the board. It is not a winning combination, especially for those living in developing markets, looking to be connected to the Internet while on the go.
Enter Nokia 215, a dirt-cheap Internet-ready phone, which Microsoft announced earlier today. It packs some of the most-important features people want in a smartphone, but without any of the major drawbacks. The software giant calls it its "most affordable Internet-ready entry-level phone yet", costing just $29.
At the end of 2014, the Windows Phone landscape is dominated by low-end smartphones. Of the ten most popular devices that the platform has to offer, just two are high-end handsets -- however, neither is a current-day flagship. If it is not clear enough by now, Windows Phone is nothing more than a low-end affair, after more than four years down the road. Is that a bad thing?
Nokia Lumia 520 is the most-successful Windows Phone around, accounting for a whopping 25.4 percent of Windows Phones in use. Put differently, it is as popular as the following nine most popular Windows Phones put together. Altogether, the top ten makes up 67.2 percent share in this market, according to information revealed by AdDuplex.
Microsoft is keeping its promise of delivering Lumia Denim in the last quarter of 2014, as the firmware update is rolling out now. However, most devices which are slated to get it will only receive it starting early next year.
"The Lumia Denim update has started rolling out to a limited number of devices in selected markets, and will continue arriving in waves by device", says Microsoft's Adam Frasier. "A wider rollout of Lumia Denim to all Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to begin in early January, following partner testing and approvals". I wouldn't be surprised if the roll-out ends very late in Q1 2015.
Nokia’s HERE suite of driving and navigation apps first made its appearance on Windows Phone, and although it’s now being developed for other platforms, for many it remains best associated with Microsoft’s mobile operating system.
However, now that Nokia is no longer tied to Windows Phone, the Finnish company’s interest in developing for that platform is waning, and it will in future be focusing on Android and iOS -- which have a much larger user base.
With Windows Phone still struggling to gain considerable traction, Microsoft is trying to boost its operating system's market share by focusing on the low-end of the market, which has real potential of attracting consumers, especially those in emerging markets. And, so far this year, Microsoft has introduced quite a few affordable Windows Phones, with the latest of the bunch being the still-Nokia-branded Lumia 638.
Lumia 638 is a new Windows Phone 8.1 handset that is designed for India. It is touted to be one of the most affordable smartphones with 4G connectivity available in this Asian market, which is sure to attract the attention of price-conscious local buyers. What else does it have to offer?