Nokia is making a big gamble by choosing Microsoft Windows 8 Mobile as the OS for their line of smart phones. The fate of this once dominant player in the mobile space is tied closely to the success or failure of the Windows OS. By most accounts, adoption of Windows 8 has been less than stellar but Microsoft and Nokia marches on. Whether you like it or not, Windows 8 is here to stay and Windows 8 Mobile is a serious contender. It’s not the juggernaut that is iOS or Android but there may be a niche for a third mobile OS.
Nokia managed to implement Windows 8 Mobile into a sleek, modern handset that’s comfortable to hold and use. The use of tiles makes one handed use of the phone easy and efficient. Over the years, Android has become bloated with so many apps that it may be daunting to some users. The limited apps on the front page of the Lumia 810/820 is a welcome change from the plethora of icons on both iOS and Android.
The Lumia 820 from AT&T is smaller and thinner than the 810 from T-Mobile but the 810 is lighter even though it has a larger capacity battery (1,800 mAh vs the 810’s 1,650 mAh). The huge difference is in the front facing camera. T-Mobile opted for a higher resolution 1.2 megapixel front facing camera compared to the AT&T Lumia 820 at .3 megapixel. This is an important distinction for those who do video chat or record video using the front camera. It’s the difference between 1280×720 (720p HD) and 640×480 (VGA) video capture and the results are clearly visible in test with Skype video calls. The lower resolution Lumia 820 renders blotchy pixelated images while the Lumia 810 renders acceptable video images. The rear camera is nearly identical except the 810 has a slightly wider lens at 26mm compared to the 28mm lens on the 820. Both phones come with the carrier’s own flavor of bloatware with the T-Mobile 810 pre-installing more common apps. By the time you get your phone, you will have to update those apps anyway so it makes no difference.
What’s great about the Nokia Lumia 810/820
There’s a dedicated shutter button for the camera in addition to the touch screen to take pictures. Those on screen shutters always feel unstable to me. The shutter button even supports half press to focus. Preinstalled camera functions include Bing Vision (QR code scanner, OCR scanner, bar code scanner), Panorama, Cinemagraph (a type of animated photo), & Smart Shoot (best shot based on multiple exposures). For some odd reason, Nokia did not enable the volume buttons as zoom buttons. Two finger expand/compress gestures activate 4X digital zoom . The panorama feature is not nearly as good as that found on the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 but it’s perfectly usable.
Bing Vision is a camera feature that does text, QR code, and bar code scanning. It can take a picture of text which can then be translated to another language or searched. This can be an invaluable tool for foreign travelers.
Photobeamer is a slideshow sharing app that allows the Lumia phone to share images with another browser enabled device. Photobeamer is initiated from the phone with the sending photo. The receiving end works by going to www.photobeamer.com where a unique QR code is displayed to be scanned with the source phone. In testing, it worked great between mobile phones including the Lumia 810/820 and Samsung Note but trying to receive the photo on a laptop running Chrome just displayed a black screen. It eventually timeed out and redisplayed the QR code. On Firefox and IE, the images were corrupted. This may possibly be due to bandwidth or browser issues but Scalado touts their solution as non technical, requiring little bandwidth with zero configuration. On phone connected to slower 2G connections, www.photobeamer.com failed to display the unique QR code altogether or only did so after an agonizing 5 minute wait. Nokia acquired Scalado (creator of Photobeamer) in 3rd quarter of 2012 so while the app is available for Nokia running Windows 8, it may not be available for other Windows 8 phones. There was an iOS app but it no longer shows up in the Apple App store.
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