Nokia’s Lumia 1020 is by far the most widely leaked smartphone in the recent past, with virtually everything about the phone, including the most important 41MP camera sensor leaked well before the official announcement. So, the expectation to get wowed was non-existent. All that changed when Stephen Elop took the stage and demoed the capabilities of Lumia 1020.

Let’s be clear about this. Lumia 1020 is still much like its predecessors – the 920, 928 and the 925 in most ways. It still boasts the good old candy bar design and the polycarbonate back. The display is still not Full HD and it’s not the slimmest or the lightest smartphones around. But it packs a punch with the mammoth 41 MegaPixel sensor at the back, the same as the one we saw in Nokia 808 PureView, but much smaller in physical size.

The Pluses

Nokia should be applauded for managing to bring down the size of the camera sensor. Nokia 808 got a lot of flak for the big hunch on the back, but on Lumia 1020, the hunch is barely visible, though it still feels odd to hold the phone at first. You tend to appreciate the engineering more when you realize how hard the engineers worked to save even a millimeter of thickness (more on that in another post). So, the industrial design, backed up with high quality build and great engineering validates Nokia’s reputation of bringing out droolworthy smartphones more often than not.

There is no dearth of innovation in Nokia. You should have a look at their new Pro Camera app for Lumia 1020. The amount of controls you get while taking an image is mind-blowing. ISO can go upto 4000, shutter speed can be as high as 4 seconds or as low as 1/16000, and manual focus option is provided too. And the innovation is not just in the camera. Their Clearblack display is second to none. Even a 720p display looks so much better, thanks to that.

The Problem

But the problem with Lumia 1020 is, it still runs on Windows Phone 8. The mobile OS from Microsoft is close to 3 years old now, and sadly, it’s not as matured as it’s supposed to be. Even the hardcore WP8 fans agree with me that the OS is strictly mediocre. The development is progressing at a snail’s pace, with a small update, named ‘Amber’ expected to be released later this month. In spite of concentrated efforts from Nokia (and to an extent from Microsoft), the quality and quantity of apps on the Windows Phone store are dismal. There are quite a few advantages with the OS, like butter-smooth performance, easy navigation etc, but the limitations are too big to ignore.

Lumia 1020 would have been an outright winner, had it been running Android Jelly Bean. Stephen Elop still thinks it was right for Nokia to go WP exclusive, rather than fight it out with countless others in the Android space. He stressed how it has become two-company-race in the smartphone market, rather than two-OS-race. But saying we’d prefer to be a strong third option is beginning to sound more stupid than ever. Truth is, there is no third option. Android is gobbling up the market share. The OS and the OEMs are innovating at a faster pace. Though Nokia matches and at times even beats the competitors, it’s being pulled back heavily by the choice it made 2 years back.

I’ve no doubt in my mind that Lumia 1020 would have matched or even better the sales of HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4 or the iPhone 5. It’s hard to pin point a major con with the hardware. The build quality is top-notch. Unlike Lumia 920, it’s not heavy. Unlike Galaxy S4, it’s not built of cheap plastic. It comes pretty close to HTC One and iPhone 5 in terms of industrial design. And for sure, it blows away every phone in the market in terms of the camera performance. But it might still fail to sell in millions, because it still runs a mediocre OS.

(The editor travelled to New York on the invitation of Nokia)

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Raju is the founder-editor of Technology Personalized. A proud geek and an Internet freak, who is also a social networking enthusiast. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. Mail Raju PP. Follow rajupp