If you’re in the market for a new handset to accompany you on campus this fall, your timing’s just right. You couldn’t ask for a better selection of choices, and plenty of the phones in the gallery below are downright budget-friendly. That said, if you can hold off for a bit, you might want to see what Apple and Samsung have in store — both companies are expected to announce new smartphones within the next month. Note that we’ve listed devices based on their unlocked and contract-free prices, though you’ll pay less up front if you sign up with a carrier. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the rest of our Back To School guide for more product picks.
A year later, and strangers still ask.
“Is that the Lumia with the crazy camera? How do you like it?”
And, after a year, I still offer up the same basic response.
“Great camera, solid phone.”
The camera, of course, is the first thing waiters and passers-by ask about. That 41-megapixel sensor is still impressive and I don’t hesitate to sing its praises. The Lumia 1020′s rear shooter is certainly the main reason I decided to return to the Windows Phone ecosystem.
There’s plenty I still love about this phone and, particularly, its camera. The xenon flash is properly powerful (and can trigger my external flashes if I wanted). Its low-light performance makes it the go-to shooter if I’m among friends in a dark restaurant or bar. Nokia’s camera software, with its suite of manual controls, is also a highlight, even if the UI can be a bit fiddly at times.
Meanwhile, the phone itself remains a solid performer, dutifully carrying out nearly all the tasks I need from a smartphone. While the still camera gets most of the attention, the 1020′s audio-recording chops are also astounding. Clips taken at live concerts have clear, full sound, whereas other smartphone mics seem easily overwhelmed. The recent 8.1 update also brings some great new features I’m still exploring.
You knew that was coming, right? As much I’ve enjoyed the past year, it hasn’t exactly been a trouble-free experience. That feature-packed camera software I love so much can take ages to load on the 1020′s Snapdragon S4 Plus-based hardware.
And by “ages,” I mean six to nine seconds from icon press to shutter snap, which is plenty of time for impromptu moments to come and go. For comparison, a colleague’s HTC One M7 can snap a pic within three seconds and my wife’s Nexus 4 manages similar times. Microsoft’s default camera app loads quicker, but I prefer the manual options in Nokia’s offering. Of course, camera specs and apps are different among phones, but the main takeaway is my 1020 can take impressively detailed images — if I’m willing to wait.
Beyond the sluggish responsiveness, I’m not even sure I need such a capable shooter on my phone anymore. Two years ago when the 808 PureView first piqued my interest, my main shooter was a bulky Nikon DSLR that weighed close to 1kg with a battery and lens. Having a crazy-good camera attached to my phone had a lot of appeal at that point in my life. These days, my Fuji X-E2 weighs a bit less and is much more discreet. In short, my phone’s picture-taking abilities aren’t quite as important now that my main camera isn’t such a chore to carry around.
And despite the ongoing ecosystem improvements and additions found in Windows Phone 8.1, there are still a few missing features and apps I would love to see for both work (HipChat) and play (Fujifilm’s WiFi image-transfer app, a whole list of games).
Overall, though, I’ve few regrets one year later. Having been an early adopter of WP7, I knew what I was getting myself into by picking up the Lumia 1020. I got a solid smartphone that’s capable of excellent image and audio capture, all wrapped in a can’t-miss-it shade of banana yellow polycarbonate. I’ll still be closely examining the upcoming range of smartphones to see if one of them makes more sense for me now, but these past 12 months have been time well spent.
You won’t have to wait long if you’re hoping for a new round of Windows Phones with powerful cameras. Microsoft has just sent out a save-the-date notice that asks the media if it’s ready for “more face time” at a Berlin event on September 4th, just ahead of the IFA technology show. There’s a Lumia 1020-style camera module not-so-subtly woven into the text, too. While there are no dead giveaways in the teaser, it’s not hard to figure out the references. Our hunch is that “face time” is an allusion to “Superman” (aka the Lumia 730), the selfie-oriented Windows Phone that leaked just a few days ago. The module is slightly more cryptic, but it might be hinting at the aluminum-clad, 13-megapixel “Tesla” (Lumia 830) that reportedly surfaced last month. We’re headed to IFA, so you should expect to hear much, much more about any new Lumias within a few weeks.
Like Samsung, Nokia’s smartphone strategy has always been focused around choice. Sometimes this results in products that are so very similar that it’s impossible to tell the difference. That’s not an issue with Nokia’s Lumia 520, the ultra-budget device that was totally swallowed in the shadow of the 620. Sharif Sakr swaddled the phone in derision, criticizing its poor performance, bad camera, unevenly-lit display and poor build quality. For many of you, we imagine you wound up getting this handset for price reasons alone, so the question that we have to ask is simple: what did you like, what did you hate, and what would you have changed? You can shoot the breeze in our forum, or why not write a review of the phone yourself?
Rumors have swirled of Microsoft making a new Windows Phone that’s all about selfies, and it now looks like that portrait-oriented device is about to become a reality. WPCentral has scored photos of a prototype for the mid-range “Superman” (rumored to be named the Lumia 730) that would reportedly pack a 5-megapixel camera up front. That’s on par with what you’ll find on some Android phones, but it’s a big step up from the modest 1.3MP cam on the Lumia 720 this will likely replace. There’s no definitive evidence of the sensor, though, and it’s tough to verify additional claims of a 4.7-inch screen — don’t be surprised if the specs are different if and when Superman shows up.
However, the leak at least suggests that new software is coming down the pike. The hardware you see here is apparently running Debian Red, the codename for what may be a Lumia-specific take on the recently announced Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. Just what that upgrade entails isn’t certain, but it’s safe to presume that it involves more than what Cyan offers. The real question may be when this selfie phone shows up, rather than what’s inside. While a leaked memo from Microsoft’s Jo Harlow claimed that high-end devices would show up “very soon,” it’s not clear what that means. Given that Debian Red hasn’t even been announced yet, it could be a long while before you’re holding this superheroic gadget in your hands.
Via: The Verge
If your firm, like Microsoft, was preparing huge layoffs, you’d expect a sweet incentive to leave, like a fat check, or the right to rob the stationery cupboard guilt-free. For workers at a former Nokia factory in China, however, the reward on offer’s a little less than spectacular. MarketWatch is reporting that Microsoft is offering workers in a former Nokia factory a free Lumia 630 if they apply for the company’s voluntary resignation scheme. The handsets are being handed out on a first come, first served basis, with the first 300 employees to leave each day bagging one of the phones. Of course, given that the low-end handset retails for the equivalent of $130, it’s hardly the gold watch and golf club membership you’d expect to leave your job with.
Windows Phone 8.1 may have only just reached the general public, but it’s already in line for a surprisingly large update. Microsoft has posted developer documents (sign-in required) for Windows Phone 8.1 GDR1, a tweak that fills in a few key hardware and software gaps. Aside from previously revealed folder support, the upgrade will allow for smart cases akin to HTC’s Dot View or LG’s QuickCircle. Phone makers will get to run special apps when the cover is closed, and specify what happens when it’s open. This seemingly simple addition could be important, since The Verge claims that HTC is preparing a Windows Phone version of the new One — such a device would need smart cover features to perform the same tricks as its Android counterpart.
The revision should also enable more of the tablet-sized phones that are all the rage in some corners of the globe. It’ll support a 1,280 x 768 resolution on screens as large as 7 inches, and there’s a new 1,280 x 800 option useful for larger devices that use software navigation buttons. Other upgrades are smaller, but should be important in the long run — the update should bring high-quality voice over LTE, higher-quality Bluetooth music (through aptX) and manufacturer-defined custom lock screens. There’s no confirmed schedule for when GDR1 would arrive, but Microsoft is clearly getting close. It won’t be surprising if the next big wave of Windows Phones ships with the new features built in.
With Nokia’s range of Android-powered smartphones all but dead, Microsoft is pushing its newly-acquired Lumia line harder than ever. Today, it’s introduced the lowest-priced Windows Phone to date, the Lumia 530, delivering middle-of-the-road specs for €85 ($114). For that, you’ll get a 4-inch FWVGA (854 x 480) display, quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal memory (with support for 128GB microSD storage). There’s also a 5-megapixel camera on the rear (no selfie camera here folks), which is controlled by Microsoft’s latest Windows Phone 8.1 software. That, of course, offers access to Cortana (if you’re in the US), the new WordFlow swipe keyboard and a multitude of other custom Microsoft- and Nokia-crafted apps. Like its older siblings, the Lumia 530 will also come in both single and dual SIM (3G) variants and offer interchangeable back covers, which will be available in the traditional orange, green, white and dark grey colors. Microsoft’s latest Lumia will go on a global tour in the near future, starting with an initial rollout in “select markets” from next month.
Via: Conversations Blog
Deep-pocketed power users may buy new smartphones once a year or even every few months to take advantage of improved displays, better cameras and faster processors, but the majority of owners are more likely to tire of their device’s appearance long before its outdated specs. A few manufacturers have taken a new approach when designing their handsets, opting to include not only replaceable batteries, but also swappable backs, that let you change the look of your phone for only a few bucks. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and LG’s G3 are two recent flagships that you can change up after purchase, but there are a few other options to consider, too. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you could even replace the backplate on, say, an iPhone 5s, but such an undertaking requires precise work, pricier parts and a voided warranty. Click through for our customizable picks that keep things simple (and cheap).
The restructuring plans from Microsoft caused a ripple effect throughout the company, with its recently acquired Nokia Devices and Services business being the most affected one. Now, as part of this, The Guardian reports that Nokia’s MixRadio music-streaming app is expected to spin out and live as a standalone service. Essentially, this means MixRadio will no longer be limited to Microsoft’s platform, though it’s still going to come pre-loaded on Windows Phone handsets made by Nokia. Not that the world needs another streaming service for tunes, but the eventual spin-off would give the MixRadio app the chance its curation features to other platforms such as iOS and Android. At the moment, however, there are still things to work out: “I’ve been meeting with potential investors around the world in the last few weeks. We have very strong interest from investors in the US, Europe and Asia, and we remain open for further discussions,” Nokia’s Jyrki Rosenberg, VP of Entertainment, told the British publication.
Source: The Guardian