In Pictures: First look - Nokia's new Windows Phone 8 smartphones

Improved screen, battery, CPU, camera/optics, display and sleek Windows Phone 8 UI heighten the alternative to Android and iOS

  • Nokia CEO Stephen Elop this week introduced the company's "next step" with Windows Phone -- the Lumia 820 and 920 smartphones, which run Version 8 of the Microsoft mobile software. Here's a closer look at the devices.

  • The new Nokia 820 (top of photo) and 920 smartphones stress improved photography, colorful polycarbonate body styling, a new wireless charging system, big screens and tight integration of Nokia Location services (including "augmented reality" browsing with the IE10 browser) with the Windows Phone 8 OS and apps. Nokia is doubling down on the distinctiveness of the Windows Phone user interface, which now offers highly customizable live tiles.

  • Nokia 920 is the high-end smartphone. It's 0.42 inches thick, 2.79 inches wide and 6.5 high, weighing a fairly hefty 6.5 ounces, in a polycarbonate unibody. It has a 4.5-inch diagonal WXGA screen, 768 x 1280 pixels. It's the first Windows Phone handset to use Nokia's high-resolution PureView camera system. It has Qualcomm's powerful Snapdragon S4 dual-core CPU at 1.5 GHz; 1GB of RAM, and 32GB memory. It supports NFC, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.1 and GSM/WCDMA and LTE. Video capture is at full 1080p, at 30 frames per second. It carries Nokia's biggest battery at 2000 miliamperes. 3G talk time up to 10 hours; standby, up to 400 hours; music playback, up to 67 hours.

  • Nokia 820 will be cheaper (though Nokia refused to talk about price or availability dates), slightly smaller and lighter (0.39 inches thick by 2.69 wide and 4.87 long). The screen is fractionally smaller at 4.3 inches diagonally, with a lower resolution at 480 x 800 pixels. It has a less expensive camera system but still offers 8-megapixel images. It features the same Qualcomm chip, at the same clockspeed, and 1GB RAM, but 8GB of storage. It has the same cluster of wireless links: NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth. The battery is smaller, at 1650 milliamperes, with up to eight hours of 3G talk time, 330 hours of standby and 55 hours of music playback.

  • The 920 features PureView, a high-resolution imaging system, which first appeared early in 2012 on a Symbian OS Nokia phone. It creates very crisp, detailed images that maintain high resolution even when enlarged. Now, Nokia has added a special stabilization system for the optics, resulting in long exposures for low-light shots and smooth-flowing video.

  • The new PureView creates startlingly detailed images in low light: Nokia says the system captures five to 10 times the light of rival smartphone cameras. Shown here is a comparison of the same night scene, shot without flash by, at left, an unnamed high-end rival smartphone, and at right, by the new Nokia 920.

  • Both phones support previously unannounced photo-editing features in Windows Phone 8. You can snap a picture, then with a tap or two select from a variety of "lens" applications (from Microsoft or third parties) that let you easily manipulate the photo by adding effects or creating a panorama, for example. All photos and video are uploaded for access to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service (the 920 comes with 7GB available for use).

  • Nokia offers wireless charging for both new models, with an array of charging accessories. You just set the phone on top of the charger. The company also announced the first of several partnership, with companies like Virgin Atlantic, which will add wireless charging units to waiting rooms, restaurant tables and the like. The chargers support the Qi charging standard created by the Wireless Power Consortium.

  • Both phones include NFC but Nokia is using the short-range wireless standard not for mobile commerce but to set up wireless connections with peripherals, such as headphones (shown) and speakers.

  • The Nokia Location Platform, a set of location services and APIs, has been integrated with Windows Phone 8. And those features, in turn, can be integrated in a range of Nokia, and third-party, apps, such as the new Nokia Offline Maps feature and, show here, Nokia City Lens. Through the view screen, you can see "augmented reality" names appear over restaurants, clubs and points of interest: tapping on one brings up contextualized information, such as a phone number, reviews, social media comments, etc. Tap the phone number and the 920 or 820 will dial the restaurant.

  • The Lumia 920 also features an enhanced display. It starts with a higher pixel density of 333 pixels per inch (slightly higher than the iPhone 4S Retina Display of 326 ppi). Nokia's PureMotion technology offers much faster liquid crystal response time, showing moving images crisply without blurring; increased luminance and low reflectance means the screen is much more visible in direct, bright sunlight; and a more sensitive touch interface supports a wider array of touches, including by fingernails and even gloves or mittens.

  • In a sense, the new Lumia phones are simply showcases for Windows Phone 8, which Microsoft previewed this summer and is expected to be formally unveiled in October. The new start screen, shown here, offers users a range of customization options to change the color, size and clustering of the distinctive Windows Phone "live tiles," so-called because they reveal information such as missed calls, and new emails or Facebook postings.

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