“What do you need most in a smartphone?”
That is always my answer to anyone who asks me which smartphone they should buy. People assume that because I review smartphones for a living and have played with most of the new models, I have all the answers and automagically know which smartphone they should purchase at any given time, right off the top of my head.
I don’t. Everyone needs something different. Maybe you need something with a larger screen for watching movies, browsing the web, or gaming. I know my sister wants something smaller, since she has rather petite hands, and I know my mom wouldn’t mind something a little larger so she can blow up the text a little and it not fill the entire screen with just one word.
However, I’ve noticed a shift in the needs of the general consumer over the last few years. All the time, I hear people say “I just need a great camera.” Logically, it makes sense. Nowadays, specifications far exceed the needs of most consumers, save for maybe power users. Display technology is exceeding the limits of the human eye. With cloud and flash storage so cheap and freely available, onboard storage is less of a problem. And data speeds are just about as fast – if not faster – than most people’s home internet.
In other words, as long as the rest of the phone is at least average, a great camera experience will make plenty of people exceedingly happy. That’s exactly why the recently rumored Lumia 830 is so intriguing.
The smartphone market is changing, thanks to a few rebellious manufacturers, like Motorola, OnePlus, and even Nokia itself. Producing affordable smartphones without sacrificing user experience is becoming increasingly easy to do.
Take the Moto G, for example. It originally launched at just $179 sans contract. I reviewed it last year and said, if push came to shove, I would have no trouble carrying the Moto G for as long as I needed to. In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve considered picking one up as a backup phone. Is the Moto G mind-blowing? Hardly. But it is an impressive and capable smartphone that can be bought without breaking the bank.
Nokia’s Lumia 520 was even more impressive, considering its even lower price point. And ever since, we’ve seen the OnePlus One, Moto E, and a handful of other affordable smartphones that are actually worth buying – a far cry from the affordable smartphone of yore.
The bare minimum today is several times better and more efficient than the very best smartphones from two years ago. And that’s great news for both consumers and manufacturers.
As for the Lumia 830, no one knows exactly what it is yet. All we have to go on are the official photos from last week and the distinct camera housing on Microsoft’s IFA invitation. So, we’re pretty certain we’ll see it next week in Berlin, but at the moment, no one knows pricing, internals, or much of anything.
If we’re to believe rumors, however, the 830 will reside exactly halfway between the budget-friendly 520 and the massive, overpowered 1520. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume the 830 is exactly what we think it is – a Lumia 820 successor, destined for an unfortunately boring future.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Specifications don’t have to be anything terribly impressive to make this phone brilliant. It’s Windows Phone, which we’ve seen run well on bottom-of-the-bucket phones like the 520. It’s rumored to have a 4.5- or 4.7-inch display, varying by carrier-specific versions, with a resolution of 720p. And if I were to guess, I’d say it will have 2GB RAM, a Snapdragon 800 SoC, and respectable battery. Nothing more, nothing less.
The real area of interest is around back. The camera housing on the Lumia 830 looks a lot like the so-called “oreo” on the back to the 1020, albeit smaller and less pronounced. Rumors claim this rear image sensor is anywhere between 13- and 21-megapixels.
If its camera prowess is anything like the Icon’s, the 830 could fly off shelves – that is, if and only if Microsoft can get the pricing right. In a market where consumers can nab a high-end Android phone for anywhere from $300 to $450 or a mid-range phone for half that, what good is a mid-range Windows Phone for $500 or more? Specifically here in the States, where phones are typically sold with two-year agreements, pricing is everything.
Technically speaking, if the 830 is the successor to the 820, it shouldn’t be a budget-friendly phone, just a mid-ranger that would otherwise be lost and forgotten in a sea of hundreds of forgettable phones. But what if Microsoft pulls a fast one on us? What if Microsoft has actually paid attention and sees the ever-widening gap that has been created by those impressive, budget-friendly phones? What if Microsoft pulls a Google with the Lumia 830 and releases it for a price that’s virtually impossible to pass up?
Assuming it’s camera is anything like the Lumia Icon’s, if this thing were under, say, $350, it would fly off the shelves. Hell, for that price, I’d even want one to toss in my back pocket for outdoor trips or as a “throw around” phone with a great camera.
Currently, that – an affordable phone with a fantastic camera – doesn’t exist. And Microsoft is in a better position to make that happen than just about any other smartphone manufacturer. With Nokia in it’s pocket, it has an image sensing edge on effectively all its competition, and it needs to exploit that by offering an awesome camera in the one area it isn’t currently available – the budget market. The Lumia 830 is Microsoft’s golden ticket.
Make it happen, Microsoft.
What say you, folks? Will the 830 be exactly what the mid-range smartphone market needs? Can Microsoft get the pricing right? Or will the 830 be yet another phone to be forgotten in a matter of weeks, due to poor pricing and targeting the wrong demographic?