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


6 thoughts on “Nokia Lumia 1020 Preview: a Phone which Deserves a Better OS

  1. I own a WP8 and I disagree that the OS is mediocre. It is great! I have used iPhones and many Android devices, but I enjoy my Lumia 920 more than all of them. I have used quad-core Android phones that lag a lot more than my Windows Phone. Does the OS need more apps? Sure. However, the actual OS is much more comfortable to me than either Android or iOS.

  2. I still like the choice of Windows OS for Nokia. Yes, apps are not coming nearly as fast as they are coming and there are some I wish I really had. Choosing Windows sets Nokia apart from the rest though. Choosing Jelly Bean would have crippled them when it comes to Android updates and would have forced Nokia to compete directly with Samsung and HTC. They are now enjoying dominance with Windows Phone and the OS itself is great and will only get better.
    Anyone trying to muscle in on iPhone and Android’s dominance in market share to become the 3rd ecosystem will have a huge uphill battle. Look at what’s happening with Blackberry. I get a strong feeling that Microsoft is succeeding here and is a solid 3rd place contender. It’s happening slowly but it’s happening. iPhone and Android developers are notorious Microsoft haters but these developers should consider adding Windows Phone apps fast or they will risk being irrelevant in the future.

    • Not just the apps, the basic OS development is slow. If you have read yesterday’s announcement, a major rejig is coming, which includes stuff like notification center, but that’s only in 2014. That’s what is wrong with WP8.

  3. You failed to note that Android carries an extremely ugly and non-intuitive UI. Yes, apps count to a certain extent but the fact is we do not really need that many as we think. Moving on to WP from iOS helped me realise this and also opened my eyes to the all the unnecessary fluff that exists. WP is snappy, functional and anyone looking deeper into its construction will conclude its quite the brilliant thing. Give yourself a fair go if you can afford the money and time. I love my Lumia 1020, and even after a month, have grown to like WP A LOT.

  4. I think Lumia 1020 (that takes 10mb shots in 2 sec on WP) would be too sluggisg on any android device, Just look at the Galaxy to see what I mean.
    iOS may give it the speed it needs because their A7 chip is blazing fast.
    But then again, I don’t like iOS that much, I prefer it to be on Windows that I get the ultimate high tech experience.

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