Nokia Lumia 920 & Lumia 820 Preview

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Nokia Lumia 820 In HandThe Nokia Lumia 820

The Lumia 820 compares to the 920 very much in the same way that the Lumia 800 compared to the 900: it slightly smaller and sleeker, but also lighter on features

Its 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics does not have OIS like that of the Lumia 920, and the Lumia 820′s smaller 4.3-inch screen has a lower resolution of 800 x 480. Marginally thinner than its big brother, the Lumia 820 is 9.9 millimeters thick and weighs in at 160 grams. As such, it felt more comfortable in my small hands than the Lumia 920, and was noticeably lighter, to boot. But like the Lumia 920, it also had a slick, glossy casing instead of a matte finish.

Button and port placement is the same as the Lumia 920, with the volume rocker, camera button, and power switch all located on the right side, the headphone jack on the top edge, and the micro USB charging port on the bottom. Unlike the 920, however, the SIM card slot is not on the outside; it is located under the rear plating of the device.

The first thing that really stood out to us about its build, though, is that it doesn’t have the same rounded edge/pointed corner combination that’s found on the Lumia 920, 900, and 800. This phone takes on a more traditional build, with rounded corners to complement its rounded edges.

Nokia Lumia 820 BackOne of the main draws of the Lumia 820 is its swappable casing. It ships with a regular (colored) plastic shell, but that can be swapped out for more specialized types of shells for different colors, protective casings, and even one that allows for wireless charging. It’s nothing complicated, either; we found that the casing popped off about easily as the backing on any other phone.

The only issue was that we asked how much specialized cases like the wireless charging one would cost, but Nokia is not currently disclosing that information. That’s a shame, because it would be nice to know how much Lumia 820 users will have to shell out if they want to add the wireless charging feature to their phones.

Another major benefit of the Lumia 820 is that it has expandable memory (via microSD, up to 64 GB), whereas the Lumia 920 does not. While the Lumia 820 does have less onboard memory (8 GB) than the 920, it’s nice to have the flexibility to up that storage capacity if you need to. Admittedly, though, it’s not as convenient to get to the microSD card slot as it is on some other phones; rather than having a covered port on the edge of the phone, users will need to pop off the casing to get access to the slot, which is located in the rear guts near the battery.

Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 Side By SideWindows Phone 8

For those familiar with Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8 will not be too drastic of a change, as far as the UI goes. Yes, it’s the same polarizing Metro UI, with a home screen featuring “live tiles,” which can be swiped off to the left to pull up a list of apps. Rather, the changes that Microsoft has made to their mobile OS appear to be relatively subtle, at least judging from what we saw.

Unfortunately, Nokia was only able to show off a handful of the new features of Windows Phone 8, which is why we weren’t allowed to handle the units much, lest we snoop around too much and discover some unannounced features of the OS. What we did get to see in action, however, included the updated live tiles aspect of the Metro UI, which now include a third size to increase customization and more personalized layouts on the home screen.

Tiles can now be small, medium, or large, the last of which creates a rectangular tile that takes up the entire width of the home screen. Medium tiles, in turn, are squares, as are small tiles. To give you an idea of the proportions, four small tiles (arranged in a square) are the same size as a medium tile. Tiles are moved in the same fashion as tiles in Windows Phone 7; the user taps and holds the tile for a second, after which they can drag it anywhere on the home screen, and the rest of the tiles will move out of the way to make room for it to be placed. The only difference now is that after selecting a tile to move it, there is also a button on its lower right-hand to resize it.

Nokia Lumia 820 Wireless ChargingWith the new customizable tile sizes comes the addition of different contextual displays on the tiles. For instance, the medium-sized email tile will only show you how many unread messages are in your inbox, while the large-sized email tile will show also show you the sender and subject of the most recent email. Developers are not obligated to include these kinds of contextual features; in fact, they don’t even need to make tiles for their apps available in all sizes, in the event that they find it isn’t necessary. The Internet Explorer tile, for example, can only be sized to small or medium, as there’s no need to have it span the entire width of the home screen column, since there’s no additional information to display.

Another aspect of Windows Phone 8 that Nokia was previewing was the Wallet feature, which is a built-in aspect of the WP8 platform. Both the Lumia 920 and 820 have NFC, allowing them to support the tap-to-pay feature. Much like Google Wallet, the Windows Phone 8 Wallet allows users to store credit cards and debit cards, as well as gift cards and even coupons. Those coupons and cards can be pinned to the home screen, and third party apps for certain retailers can even integrate with the Wallet and insert coupons or deals directly into the Wallet for you.

Nokia Lumia 920 In HandAnd finally, Nokia also offered a quick glimpse of Internet Explorer 10, which basically looks identical to the desktop and tablet versions, as it shares the same kernel. This of course means that it shares the same features, like support for HTML 5 — to demonstrate its power, we were shown a demo in which a series of app logos spilled out of the center of the screen at a buttery-smooth 60 FPS – and browsing security. We even got to see how the new browser brings up a red flag page to warn the user when they’re attempting to access a site that has been flagged for questionable or malicious content. It may be a different sized screen, but the handheld browsing experience on the Windows Phone 8 Internet Explorer mirrors that of tablets and desktops.

Accessories

Also on display were the accessories that Nokia unveiled at the same time as the Lumia 920 and 820 announcements earlier today, though they were generally unimpressive compared to the actual handsets. All of them incorporated the wireless charging feature behind the Lumia 920 (or 820 with the right casing), including the JBL PowerUP, a Bluetooth speaker that allows users to simply drop their phone onto the top of the unit to engage in wireless charging.

There was also the Fatboy Recharge Pillow, which was more a novelty item than anything else; it was nothing more than a wireless charging station in a larger, more obtrusive form factor (shaped like a pillow, naturally).

Nokia Tap & Share Wireless Charging BaseFinally, there was the Nokia Tap & Share Base, which had an intriguing twist to it, even if its usefulness was not immediately apparent to us: users can tap their phone against the base, at which point a menu will be pulled up and users can then select which app (e.g. the music player) they want to launch whenever the phone is tapped against the base. And, of course, the base doubles as a charging station that holds the phone in an upright position while charging wirelessly.

Conclusion

What Nokia showed off today was not even everything that the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 have to offer, as the full feature set of Windows Phone 8 cannot be shown off yet. And yet, the two handsets still managed to impress.

Admittedly, as it stands now, it looks like the changes to the OS probably won’t be enough to create hordes of converts; people who hated Windows Phone 7 (especially for its UI) likely will not be swayed, but it doesn’t change the fact that these are objectively good quality smartphones.

Also there are still some important pieces of information that have yet to be revealed, including the pricing, availability, and carrier support of the two smartphones. But regardless — and despite the fact that we may have only scratched the surface of the OS — the Lumia 920 and 820 could still potentially spell out a bright future for Windows Phone.



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