updated 05:44 am EST, Tue February 26, 2013
Lumia range additions, phones for developing markets
Yesterday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Nokia announced the Lumia 720 and Lumia 520 smartphones, alongside the Nokia 105 and Nokia 301 mobiles aimed towards customers in developing countries. Electronista braced against the crowds to try out the new devices destined for mid-range and budget-based markets, and came away from the Nokia booth pleasantly surprised.
The Lumia 720 and Lumia 520 both feel relatively similar in the hands, namely light and a bit slippery on the fingers. While the Lumia 520 opts for a more normal Lumia styling, the more-expensive Lumia 720 has it's case bevelled out before reaching the screen. Both displays used on the phones were more than bright enough to defeat the interior lighting at the Fira Gran Via center, with the icons on the Lumia 720's 4.3-inch screen beating the 4-inch Lumia 520.
Since the same 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage is employed by both devices, there is little difference between the two in terms of performance, both being relatively quick to process commands. Cameras were quick to use and gave decent results, though the Lumia 720 has the edge with its 6.7MP sensor over the 5MP alternative.
Of the applications mentioned in the press reveal, the Cinemagraph was the most interesting. A multiple-shot image was taken, with the app then giving options on areas it believes could be made into an animation while the rest of the image is kept static. While it did a good job in detecting suitable targets, it was shown to be easy to alter what is animated by masking out areas to enable. Images can then be sent through various social means for viewing on other systems.
The Nokia 105 and 301 were a surprising pair of devices to try out. At first glance, the 105 seems to be too light, though it does feel sturdy enough to survive in developing markets. The
pillowed keys, designed to help it be splash-proof and dust-proof, could take some getting used to before button positions are committed to memory for fast messaging. The battery life of 35 days mentioned relates to standby time as opposed to talk time, which itself is just over 12 hours. The torch on the end is bright, but the screen itself is not, though considering it will cost $20, it is likely that a dim and fairly small phone display is the least of the target customer's concerns.
The 301 also suffers from the same light-weight issue as the 105, and though the $85 price tag forces it to miss out on the processing and features of the average smartphone, Nokia manages to make do. While it lacks the processing speed of the Lumia phones on display, the 301 falls back onto S40 as its operating system, and is able to download apps from Nokia's own app store. The keys, if a bit plasticky, hark back to earlier Nokia devices, while the menu system on the low-resolution display does have some modern design influences. While the 301 does not have a front-facing camera, Nokia has still allowed the phone to take self portraits with the rear camera, by giving audible instructions to help line up the camera with your own face before automatically taking the shot.
Even though the 105 and 301 will be headed to emerging markets, it's not hard to envisage them being used in more developed areas as a secondary, spare phone or as an intermediary device between a feature phone and a smartphone.