New Smartphones from Nokia and Motorola Face Off With iPhone 5

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Both Motorola and Nokia announced new smartphones today in an attempt to get ahead of Apple’s iPhone 5 announcement presumably to be on September 12th.  Both of these new phones are magnificent examples of what competition can bring.  The public has some really great alternatives these days. 

Or does it really matter?  Will iPhone5 get all the new business anyway?  I can say that for the first time, I am seriously considering an iPhone alternative for my next purchase.

Nokia’s new phone is the Lumia 920.  It is a greatly upgraded version of their Lumia 900 introduced last year.  This new version runs the latest Microsoft Phone 8 OS with its cool-looking tiled user interface.  The browser is Internet Explorer 10.  Press photos show five color choices, the usual black along with a grey, a white, as well as brilliant red and yellow.  Yes, yellow.

The screen is called PureMotion HD+ and is 4.5 inches diagonally.  It has a WXGA format with 1280 x 768 LCD pixels.  Touch, of course.  Overall dimensions are 130 x 70.8 mm and 10.7 mm thick.

As for technical specs, the Lumia 920 is a GSM/WCDMA/HSPA/LTE phone on multiple bands.  Other built in wireless capability includes 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.1, NFC, and GPS.  The phone can also serve as a Wi-Fi hot spot.  The GPS is Assisted GPS and GLONASS capable.

The processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual core running at 1.5 GHz.  The memory is 1 GB RAM and 32 GB flash.  Sensors include an accelerometer, proximity, compass, ambient light and gyroscope.  The battery is a 2000 mAh unit with a talk time from 10 to 17 hours depending on which wireless link you are using.  Charging is by AC as usual but the phone comes with integrated Qi wireless charging.  However, you will need to buy the available charging pad accessory.

Cameras and navigation are probably the Lumia 920’s key features.  The main camera is an 8.7 Mpixel unit with 1/3-inch f/2.0 lens and a high power LED flash.  The optics is Carl Zeiss and includes an optical image stabilization feature that ensures blur-free photos and videos even if your hand is a bit shaky.  The optics are also optimized for low light conditions and supposedly is 5x to 10x more light sensitive than other smartphone cameras.  The front-facing camera is 1.2 Mpixels with a f/2.4 lens.

The Nokia Drive navigation software is based on Nokia’s maps and includes full voice-guided turn-by-turn directions.

Nokia also introduced the smaller less expensive Lumia 820, an updated version of their previously hot Lumia 710.  It is actually not a whole lot different from the 920.  The main difference is the screen which is a smaller 4.3 inch OLED unit with a WVGA resolution of 800 x 480 pixels.  Dimensions are a bit smaller as is the battery capacity.

Both phones are expected to be available later in the year.

Nokia was expected to be the first to offer a Microsoft Phone 8 OS handset but Samsung beat them to it with their ATIV S phone introduced last week.  Looks like Samsung will continue to be hyper aggressive to maintain its number one position in smartphone sales.  Looks like Microsoft Phone 8 is a great fall back for them after Apple sued their pants off last month.

Motorola Mobility, now a part of Google, announced three new phones in their popular RAZR series today.  The Droid RAZR HD is the main product with a new higher resolution AMOLED 4.7 inch screen.  It is a 4G LTE phone that runs on the Verizon network.  They claim downloads are potentially in the 5 to 12 Mb/s range. The HD also runs the Google Android “ice cream sandwich” operating system, but the “jelly bean” version, which everyone wants, will be available later in the year.  The new phones come with the Google Chrome browser which makes browsing much faster.  Google Maps turn-by-turn navigation and YouTube are standard features.

Other features are an 8 Mpixel camera with LED flash and a front-facing camera. Video recording is 1080p.  All the usual wireless features are here too including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.  The phone can serve as a Wi-Fi hot spot for eight others.  There was no mention of NFC which is surprising given Google’s Wallet initiative.

The phone has a dual core 1.5 GHz processor but Motorola would not say who made it.  The phone has 1 GB of RAM.

The best feature of the new RAZR phones is larger batteries.  The HD has a 2500 mAh battery which has to be the largest in the industry.  Talk time of 21 hours is expected.  This means that a person can make it through the day without having to recharge.  A special version of the HD called the Droid MAXX HD has similar features but an even larger battery with an estimated 32 hours of talk time.

A smaller version called the RAZR M was also introduced.  It has a similar high resolution screen but only 4.3 inches diagonal.  Everything else is about the same.  The battery is a 2000 mAh unit.  All the press attending today’s press conference actually got a RAZR M.  Not bad for the hour or so spent.  The M will be available for $99.

Motorola and Verizon mentioned that all versions of the new RAZR line would be ready for the holiday buying season.

Do Nokia and Motorola have a chance against Apple?  The market will tell eventually, of course.  I say there is hope for both.  It gets harder with each iteration of smartphones to distinguish one from the other.  They all essentially look, feel and work the same.  It all comes down to aesthetics, word of mouth and popular opinion which phone you should have to be cool.  All I can say at this point, is keep an open mind about your alternatives.  Try something new.  After all you can always change in two years when your data plan contract is up and the market has dozens of even newer and better phones to choose from.

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Blogs on topics such as wired and wireless networking.

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Lou Frenzel

Lou Frenzel is the Communications Technology Editor for Electronic Design Magazine where he writes articles, columns, blogs, technology reports, and online material on the wireless, communications...
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