Nokia has unveiled three Lumia smartphones that use the new 8.1 version of Windows Phone. The handset maker, in the process of being acquired by Microsoft, also said that 8.1 will be rolled out across its entire Windows Phone 8 portfolio by this summer via over-the-air updates.
The new phones -- the Lumia 930, 635 and 630 -- were announced at the Microsoft Build 2014 developer conference, now taking place in San Francisco.
The Lumia 930 is considered the flagship of the three. It features a 1080p full HD screen, a 20-megapixel PureView rear camera bearing Zeiss optics and optical image stabilization, four microphones for high resolution audio recording, a 2.2-GHz Snapdragon quad-core processor, and it comes in a polycarbonate casing with metal accents. The 5-inch ClearBlack screen is designed for clear viewing even in daylight conditions, and is expected to be available worldwide in June at a list price of $599. The model is available in black, white, green or orange.
The 635 and 630
The 635 and the 630 are intended for first-time smartphone buyers. Both use a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon core processor and feature a 5-megapixel camera, a 4.5-inch ClearBlack screen and colorful, changeable shells. Models include the 630 with 3G single SIM or 3G Dual SIM, and the 635 with 4G/LTE. The 630 rolls out in May at $159 for the single SIM and $169 for the dual SIM, and the 635 will go for $189.
These three Windows Phone 8.1 models are first scheduled for release in Asia, then India, the Middle East, and some European countries.
Nokia has been refocusing on regaining its presence in emerging markets, a former stronghold where it's been overwhelmed by low-priced Android phones and soon, possibly, by even lower-priced phones running Firefox OS. Reports indicate that the 635 will not be offered in the U.S., although the other two models are expected to be released in the U.S. by July.
Cortana, the 8.1 Star
Nokia is promising to use Windows Phone 8.1 on all its Windows phones, according to ex-Nokia CEO Stephen Elop at the Build conference on Wednesday.
The 630 and 635 are scheduled to be the first handsets out of the factory with Windows Phone 8.1. They will be among the test cases for the acceptance of 8.1's most prominent new feature, Cortana, which is Microsoft's voice-assistant answer to Apple's Siri and Google Now. Demonstrated Wednesday in a beta version, Cortana can perform such functions as culling information from a user's contacts, calendar, and e-mail to know what your travel schedule and appointment calendar looks like, so she can catch conflicts when you ask her to book a trip or a lunch.
Other new features in 8.1 include the ability to type without lifting your finger between keys on the keyboard, an Action Center with app and battery notification, and automatic connection to available Wi-Fi hotspots. New business features include full certificate management, VPN and Wi-Fi provisioning, and app blacklisting/whitelisting.