By Stephen Schenck | June 26, 2013 11:02 AM
We’re on the cusp of a what promises to be a very interesting period in the story of Windows Phone. In just over two weeks, on July 11, Nokia will almost certainly announce its first 41-megapixel PureView Windows Phone handset. Based on the interest that rumors and leaks of this hardware – first referred to by codename EOS, and now likely to arrive as the Lumia 1020 – has been generating, Nokia could be sitting on the most popular Windows Phone model to date.
At least, I’m sure hoping that the 1020′s arrival makes one of the biggest splashes Microsoft’s platform has witnessed, because if it doesn’t, Windows Phone is in serious trouble.
Drawing Them In
I know I’m not alone in my feelings about Windows Phone: it’s a fine platform, with a great look to it, but I just don’t see any compelling reasons to adopt it. That’s not saying that Android does everything perfectly, but I’ve yet to come across an issue that had me thinking “if only I were using Windows Phone, I could have avoided this headache.” Factor in the platform’s serious failings when it comes to app availability, and it would take something seriously attractive for a user like me to give Windows Phone a second thought. A camera as good as the PureView 808′s is a big enough deal to maybe do just that.
Back when the 808 first launched in early 2012, Symbian was already a shaky platform, and the writing was on the wall that Nokia would be putting it out to pasture. For a lot of smartphone users, that choice of OS was an instant deal-breaker.
Now, Windows Phone may not be all that popular either (though there are plenty of suggestions that it’s on the upswing), but much more so than with Symbian, I could learn to live with it. For more casual users, or those already looped-in to Microsoft’s ecosystems through their home PCs or the Xbox 360, that decision’s probably a lot easier. What the Lumia 1020 has the potential to offer these consumers is the first big “hook” that will have them thinking about a Windows Phone handset on the same level as an iPhone or a Galaxy model.
After all, camera quality seems like it’s one of this year’s big selling points when it comes to smartphones, and OEMs involved with the creation of devices for a number of platforms have been introducing new hardware and pushing the limits of what’s possible, to the point where we have performance that rivals stand-alone digital cameras.
While UltraPixels may be difficult to appreciate, the optical zoom on the GS4 Zoom far too bulky, or the low-light benefits of optical stabilization tricky to adequately demonstrate in-store, the big high-res, zoomable images the PureView sensor captures should make it immediately clear to any shopper investigating the 1020 that it’s got the best camera around.
Making The Sale
Now, here’s where I start getting a little pessimistic.
I don’t doubt that the Lumia 1020 will be a stunning device, but will Microsoft and Nokia be able to leverage that quality into the sales they need?
So far, a lot of these smartphones bragging about their advanced camera hardware have still been high-profile devices on their own – even without any UltraPixel business, the HTC One would still be a hit, as it’s got plenty else going for it. But this 1020, as near as I can tell, is sort of a one-trick pony. That one trick may be a hugely impressive one, but unless the phone has some other big feature we’ve yet to get to the bottom of, it’s going to be just another 920, 925, or 928, but with this camera upgrade.
I will credit Nokia and Microsoft that they’ve been getting their brands out there (Windows Phone has some of the best TV show product placement I’ve seen), and sales have been up, but I’m less than convinced that they can sufficiently promote even a fabulously attractive smartphone, like this one’s fixing to be. I mean, I fully expect 1020 sales to be strong, but “strong” isn’t the sort of runaway success the phone needs to be.
Why is so much reliant on this one model? I mentioned earlier how the phone’s camera is a killer hook – and one we’ve been looking forward to for over a year now. The problem is, looking out into what we know about the future of Windows Phone, I don’t see anything remotely as interesting as the 41-megapixel PureView sensor. I’m not holding my breath in anticipation of any of the features we’ve heard rumored for future software releases, and the only other major hardware changes coming up are likely to be 1080p screens and quad-core SoCs – and being a year late with those isn’t going to get anyone’s attention.
So, unless there’s some fantastic secret project brewing up for Windows Phone, of which we’ve yet to hear even a peep, the Lumia 1020 is going to be the most interesting smartphone to hit the platform for a while to come. If it can’t bring Windows Phone a win, I seriously don’t know what will.