Let's face it, Nokia has seen better days. The Finnish company, which was once head, shoulders and knees above the competition in the mobile arena, has seen its market share dissipate over the last decade or so, and its once all-conquering mobile business is now firmly within the clutches of tech superpower Microsoft.
However, I'll bet most of you didn't know that Nokia is actually far older than most of the giants that have swarmed all over its old territory. The company was around long before anyone had even dreamt up the concept of the mobile phone. The present day firm's origins can be traced all the way back to the 1800s -- seriously.
Since taking control of Nokia's Devices & Services business in April, Microsoft has introduced a couple of important new Windows Phones. We have the replacement of the popular entry-level Lumia 520, called Lumia 530, and the much-awaited successor of two year-old mid-ranger Lumia 820, dubbed Lumia 830, as well as two in-between offerings, Lumia 730 and Lumia 735.
Under Microsoft's leadership, there appears to be something fresh for everyone looking to be part of the Windows Phone world, except up-to-date versions of Lumia 1320 and Lumia 1520 phablets. And, next week, we will see the software giant unveiling yet another Lumia Windows Phone, this time, perhaps, even featuring its own branding, instead of Nokia's.
A lot of wearable devices have accompanying smartphones. The Apple Watch has the iPhone 6, Galaxy Gear ties in with a number of Samsung Galaxy handsets, while the Motorola Moto 360 marries happily to just about any Android phone. Falling into the same works-with-anything camp is the recently announced Microsoft Band.
With a newly launched wearable, you'd think Microsoft would be keen to push it as much as possible. So when the company decided to bundle a wrist-worn device with the new Lumia 830, which do you think it opted for. Yeah... the Fitbit Flex...
Microsoft officially announced today that the Nokia branding will not be used in conjunction with its future Windows Phones. The software giant will sell its upcoming smartphones as Microsoft Lumias. However, it will continue to make use of Nokia's name for dumb phones.
The tech media may act surprised, but, in fact, we have known that this was bound to happen for more than a year. In early-September 2013, when the sale of Nokia's Devices & Services to Microsoft was announced, the terms revealed that the software giant would eventually have to drop the Nokia branding.
HERE's upcoming availability for Samsung Galaxy smartphones was announced in late-August, and, at first, it appeared to be an exclusive launch. But, shortly after, Nokia's arm revealed that the app would actually be made available for every compatible Android smartphone "later this year".
HERE launched in beta for Samsung Galaxy smartphones only two weeks ago. For a first public release, the amount of features available is rather impressive, even for someone like me who is used to the fully-featured HERE suite on Windows Phone. And, now, everyone with an Android smartphone running any of the three Jelly Bean iterations or newer can also test what HERE has to offer (as long as the device has 1 GB of RAM or more), as the app's availability is extending beyond Galaxy smartphones.
Today, Nokia officially brings HERE to Samsung Galaxy smartphones, expanding the reach of its powerful mapping software outside of Windows Phones and handsets that bear the Nokia branding. For the time being, the app is exclusively available in the South Korean maker's app store for Galaxy devices, but, later, it will make its way to other Android smartphones as well.
The HERE app may currently be labeled as a beta, but it does not skimp on features. It arrives with pretty much all the major features that Windows Phone users are enjoying from the HERE suite, which says a lot about Nokia's plans post-Lumia. Let's take a look.
While traveling, my smartphone's always running out of juice sooner than it normally does. This leads to some frustrating moments, like being unable to make calls, open a map or send texts, not to mention having to watch the percentage indicator. Not knowing where someone is, for instance, is never great news in such situations. I know I could use an external battery charger, but I tend to avoid them, and for good reasons.
They generally tend to be bulky, ugly, and almost fragile. Getting the impression that what can only be regarded as a tool is flimsy is not confidence-inspiring -- if it breaks, it's going to be a problem. Microsoft's new Portable Power appears to be different, however. And why wouldn't it be, when it has some Nokia DNA in it?
Nokia Lumia 830 is meant to act as a gap-filler in Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1 line, slotting in-between the Lumia 930 flagship and the Lumia 735 budget-friendly offering. It's a mid-ranger, in both hardware features and price. It is also the successor to the two year-old Lumia 820, as its name implies.
Microsoft has high hopes for Lumia 830, calling it "the first affordable flagship" and marketing it as cheaper alternative to the likes of Apple iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5. It's a strategy which could pay off in emerging markets, where consumers want premium devices but cannot afford the cost premiums. We will have to see how the market reacts to Lumia 830, which goes on sale starting this week.
Microsoft has announced that Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 is now rolling out for Nokia Lumia 930, just shy of two months after it introduced the latest version of the tiled operating system. The flagship is the first Nokia-branded handset to be officially updated to Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, and among the few that officially run this installment.
Even though, on Nokia's support forums, the software update is described as being "minor", it actually offers quite a few notable improvements over the previous firmware release. Contrary to expectations, it does not bring the Lumia Denim enhancements along with it.
Windows Phone is a very polarizing operating system to say the least. Many consumers refuse to give it a chance, and the ones that do, either hate it or love it. Despite the shortcomings of Microsoft's phone-focused OS, I find it to be a very rewarding experience. Of course, the biggest complaint is a lack of apps, and while there has been much improvement in that area, it is still a valid argument when compared against the iPhone or Android.
Apps aside, it is an intuitive experience that enhances one's life rather than take it over. Android and iPhone users are often in a zombie-like state while using the device, as if it is the sole-focus of their existence. Windows Phone is designed more to be glance-and-go. Unfortunately, while Nokia Lumia handsets have been wonderful, brand-diversity and selection has been severely lacking. Luckily, Microsoft majorly scored by getting HTC to produce a version of its One (M8) that runs Windows Phone. Can the sexy HTC handset outdo the sexiness of the popular Lumia line?
You should always shoot RAW, if given the option. As opposed to JPG, it's a lossless format. What the sensor sees is exactly what you get in your files. You also get lots more breathing room when editing photos without an apparent drop in quality. Shot in black and white and want to go back to color? No problem, RAW gives you that option. Want to recover shadow details without messing up the look of the image? Again, it's possible, as long as you shoot RAW. Want to recover details from blown highlights? Well, I am sure you get the gist by now.
If you are the lucky user of a Nokia Lumia 1020, Lumia 1520, Lumia Icon or Lumia 930 you can also take advantage of RAW capture. But, after you'll enable the feature, you will soon run into a problem -- what app to use to edit those unusually large files (with a DNG extension), right on your Windows Phone? Well, you can use Rawer.
I remember it like it was yesterday: when Lumia 1020 was unveiled, Microsoft and Nokia were very happy to announce that Flipboard would "soon" be coming to Windows Phone. That was in mid-July 2013. Fast forward to today and the app is still not available. "Soon" has a certain urgency to it, which, for some strange reason, always seems to be missing in its association with Windows Phone.
Microsoft and Nokia could have jumped the gun more than a year ago by touting that the app would arrive shortly after Lumia 1020's announcement, and Flipboard could have inadvertently delayed the launch since. No matter, "soon" sure ain't soon. Regardless, Flipboard is still on its way as its public listing on Windows Phone Store implies. This is one of the major missing titles; the sooner it is available the better for the platform.
When Microsoft announced Lumia 830 earlier this month, it made no specific mention of the so-called "first affordable flagship" arriving in US stores. The price was also listed in Euros (€330, before taxes and subsidies) from the get-go, reinforcing the idea that, like many other Nokia-branded devices before it, Lumia 830 was destined for other markets.
However, that does not appear to be the case, as US mobile operator AT&T has revealed that it will offer Lumia 830. But it remains to be seen whether the new Windows Phone will also make its way to Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint.
Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 are the oldest Nokia-branded Windows Phone 8 devices, being announced two years ago. The former was the Finnish company's flagship, until Lumia 925 came along, while the latter was introduced as a mid-ranger, succeeded only now by Lumia 830. The good news is that, despite their age, they continue to receive software updates, a reassuring sign, no doubt, for platform enthusiasts.
Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 have already started to receive a software update to Windows Phone 8.1 in many markets across the globe, but the much-awaited version of the tiled operating system is only now making its way to the AT&T-branded models.
HERE may be commonly associated with Windows Phone, but that is not stopping Nokia from also offering its powerful software on Samsung's Galaxy smartphones as well as the new Gear S smartwatch. Microsoft should be worried, as one of the main differentiating features of its Windows Phone -- the exclusive availability of the HERE suite, among top mobile platforms -- just vanished into thin air.
HERE is making its way to Galaxy smartphones with virtually all of its core features intact. That means turn-by-turn navigation in nearly 100 countries, detailed offline maps for up to 200 countries, live traffic information in more than 40 countries, and directions when using public transportation in more than 750 cities from more than 40 countries. It's pretty much the whole shebang.