The new Nokia Lumia 920 mobile phone is the best the company has ever made – its 4.5” screen curves round a pleasingly solid body that contains a camera that’s so clever it can even work out when people walked in front of your shot, or add some moving elements to still photographs. Its maps now seamlessly add content from the web to show the street you’re walking down in glorious ‘augmented reality’. Wireless charging means that even your bedside table or desk will look neater thanks to Nokia.
There is, of course, a ‘but’ – the operating system, Windows Phone, is struggling to attract users and Microsoft’s overall market share is still falling. Nokia couldn’t get its act together to release prices or release dates for its latest, lovely handset. That basic blunder is not one that Apple will make when it announces the iPhone 5 next week, or that Samsung makes when it launches important new products.
The Windows Phone 8 software remains excellent – its start screen has been upgraded to use space more effectively, live tiles continue to offer constant updates. Nokia itself has worked hard with partners to build apps that provide real enhancements for the camera, and the package comes together to make sure consumers feel that they’re always using one coherent device rather than a phone that is constantly having new apps bolted uncomfortably onto it.
Offline maps, too, work so well that the satnav is even more redundant than it was before, because they’re built in properly to the phone. In the short time I had hands-on with the phone, all the camera features worked effectively, and the wireless charging is a neat addition, but of course stil relies on users being near to a charger, albeit one that is now wireless in its connection to the phone.
The biggest challenge Nokia faces in the UK is not that there aren’t many users who will soon be buying their first smartphone and could be tempted by a Windows Phone. In an objective world, it would probably be the most tempting on the market. The real problem is that to attain the critical mass Windows Phone needs, it must, led by Nokia, steal users from Android and Apple. While that ought to be perfectly possible, it’s hard to see anybody managing, even with pockets as deep as Microsofts. The Windows maker can’t afford to fail, but it will need many more devices at least as good as the 920 to reach its goal