After several leaks, Nokia officially took the wraps off the Lumia 1020 camera-smartphone on Thursday. A day later, the tech media were still buzzing about the handset maker's latest Windows Phone device. Is this a new beginning for the company?
The phone's major competitive differentiator is its 41-megapixel camera with high-quality Carl Zeiss optics that use six physical lenses and feature a 3x optical zoom. That, combined with Nokia's PureView technology, which provides optical image stabilization even in low light, promise some of the sharpest images on any digital camera.
The Lumia 1020 also promises blur-free videos with stereo sound even in loud settings, via Nokia Rich Recording, which reportedly handles sound pressure levels six times louder than conventional smartphone microphones.
Nokia's Secret Sauce
Nokia's secret sauce is hardware technology combined with an app called Pro Camera that helps even novices take professional quality images. Here's how it works: Either before a picture is taken or after it has been shot, the zoom capability lets users frame the shot. The user interface visually demonstrates how settings will affect the final images.
The Lumia 1020 also features what Nokia calls "dual capture." The smartphone simultaneously takes a high resolution 38-megapixel image that sets the stage for plenty of editing options, then also creates a 5-megapixel picture that users can share on social networks.
Nokia is seeking to push its lead in smartphone cameras by offering an imaging software development kit (SDK) that makes image editing features easily available to app developers. The company hopes to get developers on board to add more capabilities through additional Windows Phone apps.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 is exclusively available through AT&T for $299 with a two-year contract, and features a 4.5-inch 1020p HD AMOLED display protected with the latest Gorilla Glass 3.
A Nokia Revival?
Jeff Kagan, a telecom analyst in Atlanta, said the Lumia 1020 is a winner, but the bigger question is how it will ultimately affect Nokia's rebound and Windows Phone 8's uptake.
"For Nokia to really win, they need two things," Kagan told us. "One is an advantage in the marketplace with their technology. This type of camera and operating system could be successful in that way. Two, they need to reinvent and rebuild their brand image. They have not done this at all."
As Kagan sees it, Nokia led the feature-phone handset side of the business and BlackBerry led the smartphone side. Today, both companies are struggling against the new wave of smartphone competitors like Apple's iPhone and Google's Android .
"To rebuild they need new technology that the marketplace considers hot," Kagan said, "and they need to refresh, rebuild and reinvent their brand. Without focusing on the brand, they will not build as a company."