Nokia launches Lumia phones with focus on optics, wireless charging, augmented reality

Microsoft-Nokia could make a major impact on the market with new phones, analysts say (see video below)

Nokia today announced the Windows Phone 8 Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820 smartphones, focusing on the 920's superior camera and its map and driving features that use augmented reality, as well as the phone's built-in wireless charging.

The announcement in New York City included a brief appearance by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who called the launches "an important milestone" in Microsoft's 18-month partnership with Nokia.

"Windows Phone is unlike any other on the market," he said. "You really see it in the 820 and 920."

Lumia 920 smartphone
Nokia's Lumia 920 smartphone.

The innovations in the two smartphones were praised by analysts who also said their ultimate success will depend on other factors, such as marketing and partnerships with wireless carriers. Windows Phone still has less than 5% market share, even with relative success from its Lumia 900 released earlier in 2012.

The 920 has an 8.7 megapixel camera, and a 4.5-in. display with 1280 x 768 resolution, slightly larger than the 820's 4.3-in. display. The 920 phone is .42 in. x 2.8 in. x 4.06 in. in size and weighs 7.2 ounces. It will come in a choice of three colors; yellow, red, or gray, while the 820 will also come in purple.

Pricing was not announced. A Nokia spokeswoman said the two smartphones will be available globally "later in the year."

"This is the most innovative smartphone in the world," said Jo Harlow, executive vice president of Nokia smart devices in a Webcast of the event, as she held up the canary yellow smartphone. "This is Lumia, and it's time to switch."

Analysts said Nokia and Microsoft needed to announce unusual smartphones to compete against the highly popular iPhone and a variety of Android devices.

The phone will start shipping later in the year and pricing will be based on region.

"Both companies need to break out and prove that their phones and the Windows Phone 8 platform are viable competitors," said Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"The new [920] device demonstrates that, technically and in design, that they are [viable competitors], but the critical factors in proving this are operator partnerships and clear marketing. We have to wait and see if those happen."

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