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October 22, 2013

Nokia Finally Delivers on Tablets and Larger Lumia Smartphones

We had originally hoped that Nokia would bring its first tablet to market back in late 2010 when Microsoft first announced Windows Phone 7. We had thought - speculating at the time that Nokia and Microsoft really had no choice but to work closely together - that Steve Ballmer might pull a secret envelope out of somewhere and extract from it a Nokia tablet. Something that would be bold for both companies to pull off - at a time when expectations for both were not particularly high.

It did not come to pass then, and truth be told, Nokia took a long time to get to market with the right product mix. We wanted the Lumia 1020 back in 2012, not in 2013, and we have held out hope for a tablet every year since the formal relationship between Microsoft and Nokia was announced in 2011.

Who knew, or would have thought, that we would not get what we wanted until and after Nokia was acquired by Microsoft? Well, technically speaking Nokia is still Nokia since the deal hasn’t closed yet, so we suppose we are in a sense finally getting our pure Nokia wish fulfilled. We do find it rather curious that Nokia chose the relatively far-flung Abu Dhabi to make its announcements of new and broad ranging devices - although the Nokia World that is a part of it is Nokia's last fling with global independence, so perhaps it makes sense.

Nokia also announced several new accessories, as well as various new Nokia and third-party developer applications that Nokia hopes will add new energy to what it refers to as the "Nokia Experience." These accessories include a new portable wireless charging plate that makes charging easier and faster and lets users wirelessly charge a smartphone anytime, anywhere. Supporting the Qi wireless standard, the Nokia DC-50 is compatible with Nokia Lumia devices supporting wireless charging, such as the Lumia 1520, Lumia 1020, Lumia 925, and Lumia 920. The Nokia DC-50 is expected to be available globally in Q4 2013 at an estimated price of $99.

The announcements also included the release of three new Asha models - Nokia's low end, inexpensive, non-Windows Phone devices. One of the Asha models finally adds 3G capabilities, which is noteworthy - but we'll leave it at that as far as the new Asha devices are concerned.

What matters far more to us is the new Nokia Lumia 2520 - its first Windows tablet. Nokia also launched two large screen Lumia smartphones - the Lumia 1520 and 1320.

The Lumia 2520 Tablet

Nokia's first tablet is the 10.1-inch Lumia 2520, which faithfully runs on Microsoft's new Windows RT 8.1. Windows RT is an interesting choice - especially considering that mainstream vendors such as Dell and Samsung have stepped away from delivering tablets based on it. It also makes it a competitor for Microsoft's own recently announced Surface 2 RT - though they will perhaps cater to different markets and serve to complement each other rather than fight each other on sales.

As might be expected given its Lumia heritage, the 2520 offers several rich color choices as well as a fast-charging capability that will deliver an 80 percent charge in one hour. As for those snazzy colors, the Lumia 2520 comes in red and white in a glossy finish or in cyan and black in a matte finish.

The 2520 provides an HD display that is designed - again, as are its Lumia relatives - to provide excellent outdoor and indoor readability. Tablets are notorious devices for being essentially unreadable in bright daylight so it will certainly be interesting to see if this proves to be a real differentiator. Unlike the Surface 2 RT the 2520 offers both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connectivity. It delivers a 6.7 MP camera and of course adds to it Nokia's usual ZEISS optics. Tablets are curious devices perhaps for taking photos and images, but if the Lumia smartphones are any indication, we can anticipate that the 2520 is likely to offer excellent photo capabilities.

With the Lumia 2520 Nokia also introduces the Nokia Power Keyboard - which is an inevitable accessory. The keyboard - priced at a perhaps too hefty $149 - delivers up to five extra hours of battery life and also provides two very welcome built-in USB ports. Of course the keyboard also offers full wraparound cover capability and a fully functional keypad with a gesture track pad. The goal here is to deliver an experience similar to that of a laptop. As does Microsoft with the Surface 2 RT, Microsoft Office and Outlook are preinstalled - which is a rather excellent packaged deal relative to overall price in our opinion.

Expect to see the Lumia 2520 ship fairly quickly - officially Nokia says it will become available in Q4 2013 - though we need to note it is already Q4 2013. The company needs to get these out the door as soon as possible - it would be a real shame if it were to miss any of the holiday buying. The device will have an estimated base price of $499. The initial roll out, per Nokia, will see the 2520 launch in the United States, Britain and Finland, with additional countries to follow shortly after.

There are as well software goodies to be had. The Lumia 2520 will launch with a number of "Nokia Experiences" that are supposedly exclusive to the Lumia family. These include the following:

  • The "Dragons Adventure" interactive game developed in partnership with DreamWorks Animation;
  • Nokia Storyteller, a Nokia developed application that introduces a new way to curate and relive images and videos as a story on a map;
  • Nokia Video Director, which offers the ability to edit and get with videos shot on the Lumia 2520 - as well as content from Lumia smartphones;
  • Integrated HERE Maps - the Lumia 2520 is the only tablet with true offline maps for a fast and reliable maps experience;
  • An exclusive version of Nokia Music with Mix Radio preinstalled.

Stephen Elop, Executive Vice President, Devices & Services at Nokia (actually that will be Elop's Microsoft title when the M&A deal is completed) notes that "Now more than ever, mobile devices are at the center of consumers' lives as they look to capture, curate and share experiences on the go. Today we're inviting people around the world to switch to Nokia. With our latest range of Lumia and Asha products, we're delivering industry leading design and imaging innovation to bigger devices at more accessible prices. The quality and value that Nokia products deliver continues to grow as we partner with developers to introduce app experiences that are unique to Lumia and Windows Phone. And clearly, with Lumia and Asha smartphones enjoying quarter-on-quarter volume growth in Q3 2013, that quality and value is resonating with consumers around the world."

That is a noble statement. But as noted above, the entire thing hinges on Nokia actually delivering the new devices early enough in Q4 2013 to capture the holiday buying cycle.

Bigger and Bigger Lumia Smartphones

The recently announced 41 MP Lumia 1020 is an extraordinary smartphone. Though similar in size to the other Lumia high end devices in Nokia's lineup, the camera does bulge out a bit in width to accommodate the amazing optics and photo capabilities it delivers on. The new smartphones introduced today, on the other hand, are instead truly larger screen devices.

The Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1320 both offer a gigantic six inch screen and are, of course, true Windows Phone 8 devices. As we noted in our earlier analysis of the new version of Windows Phone 8, there is enhanced support for larger screen devices, and the new Lumia smartphones deliver on this. A new third column of tiles on the home screen, for example, means that users can see and do more. The 1520 offers full 1080p HD; the lesser 1320 offers 720p capability.

The Lumia 1520 offers great imaging technology - a 20 MP PureView camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) enabling sharp images even in the dark as well as oversampling and zooming technology similar to the Lumia 1020 is quite welcome. In addition to the new Nokia Camera and Nokia Storyteller applications, the Lumia 1520 offers a 6-inch screen and a 1080p full HD display for solid outdoor readability. Users can bring their videos to life with Nokia Rich Recording, an audio capture using four built-in microphones. With Microsoft Office built in, documents can be edited and easily shared.

The Lumia 1520 will be available in yellow, white, black and glossy red. It will start shipping in Q4 2013, with an estimated unsubsidized price of $749. Initial markets will include the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, the U.K., France, Germany, Finland and other European markets..

The Lumia 1320, while the same size as the high end Lumia 1520, features fewer high end capabilities and the lesser 720p display - but the price point will be substantially lower and far more affordable. The Lumia 1320 comes with Nokia Music for free streaming of ad-free music and HERE maps and location services. The Lumia 1320 will be available in orange, yellow, white, and black but won't ship until Q1 2014 - so it will entirely miss the holiday season. In this case it won't matter - the unsubsidized price of $339 makes it truly affordable though folks in most established markets won't see it - the 1320 will only ship in China and Vietnam, followed by other Asian markets, India and Europe.

New Applications

The Lumia software portfolio will include the following:

  • Nokia Video Director - create, edit and share customized videos direct from the Lumia 2520;
  • Nokia Beamer - share experiences and ideas easily and instantly with friends or colleagues by projecting your phone screen to any HTML5 enabled screen; this includes documents, maps, location details, or even the camera viewfinder;
  • Nokia Storyteller - automatically integrates your pictures from your phone with HERE location information and collates a chronological picture journey on a map;
  • DreamWorks Animation's Dragons Adventure - an exclusive experience for the Lumia 2520 which keeps the whole family entertained;
  • Instagram - the photo and video sharing community;
  • Papyrus and InNote - handwriting note-taking apps;
  • Vine - a popular video service.

All in all, that is a nice lineup of new "Nokia Experiences."

Stay tuned. We've taken a closer look at the new Lumia devices' specifications and software offerings underseparate cover.

In any case, the new Lumia devices strike us as handsome mobile devices that may in fact find themselves solid market share.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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