Windows Phone wish list for Nokia

Nokia will announce its first Windows Phone smartphone or smartphones at the Nokia World event in about two hours, at 09:00 in London (about 11:00 in Finland). Pictures of some presentation material of two Nokia Lumia 710 (aka ”Sabre”) and 800 (aka ”Sea Ray”) phones leaked already yesterday, published for example by Engadget and WinRumours.

Some sites also claim there could be a third model coming with code name ”Ace” which would supposedly have a larger 4,3-inch screen.

At the moment all the Windows Phone smartphones look and feel almost alike. How could Nokia and other vendors differentiate from their competitors? Below is my humble wish list:

  • Better cameras. All the Windows Phone devices I’ve tried so far have very crappy cameras without Xenon flash or at least decent LED light.
  • Higher quality materials. I don’t want cheap looking plastic in a smartphone that costs 500 euros or more. Aluminium (like Nokia N8) or polycarbonate (like Nokia N9) casings could be great.
  • Do they all really have to be black or grey? I want more vibrant colours, such as cyan, magenta, blue or even pink.
  • Good offline maps and navigation with a life-time license.
  • More physical QWERTY keyboards. So far I’ve noticed just two models from Dell and HTC.

A couple of days ago I interviewed research company IDC’s Francisco Jeronimo (for my news article in Finnish). He said it could take until 2013 or even 2014 before Nokia can really get to mass market volumes with their Windows Phone devices. Nokia is stuck with Symbian smartphones for a long time, even though their market share is decreasing fast especially in Western Europe.

IDC expects Windows Phone to gain some 12 percent market share in Western Europe and about 8 percent globally by the end of 2012, of which IDC expects Nokia to represent the majority part. This means Microsoft will need to do a lot if they really want to put a spurt on Apple and Google.

According to IDC, Nokia has an important role in helping Microsoft to get Windows Phone distributed around the world and spread to lower price points. IDC’s Jeronimo said we could see Windows Phone smartphones from Nokia for less than 200 euros by the end of 2012, if their products are well received by consumers and operators.

Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer also praised co-operation with Nokia when he made a quick appearance at the BUILD 2011 event in Anaheim in September. Ballmer also said Nokia will take Windows Phones to the masses.

Jeronimo said Nokia’s biggest strengths compared to other Windows Phone vendors are hardware design, effective world-wide logistics and services, such as maps, music and videos.

It’s interesting to hear what Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop and other Nokia executives will tell today about their own services and software on the Windows Phone platform, and can they differentiate from HTC and Samsung here too.

On vacation: Google Maps vs. Nokia Maps

I have been quite busy lately, thus no updates for a long time. In the beginning of October I spent a week on vacation in Lisbon, Portugal. It was a nice trip in a city with a lot to see, and I enjoyed some very good restaurants pretty much thanks to mobile maps and travel guides.

As my hotel was some 5 km from the main centres of Lisbon, everything was a bit far away. Nokia Maps and Google Maps became very valuable when trying to find where were or and far away our target was.

Google Maps 4.1.1 on Symbian Anna turned out to be the quickest tool for me to check distances to museums, famous sights and restaurants in Lisbon, Portugal. I also used Nokia Maps to take advantage of offline maps and compass, and the guides of Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor reviews.
Google Maps 4.1.1 on Symbian Anna turned out to be the quickest tool for me to check distances to museums, famous sights and restaurants in Lisbon, Portugal. I also used Nokia Maps to take advantage of offline maps and compass, and the guides of Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor reviews.

We also had a few printed paper maps with us, but they were almost useless. The streets were quite badly marked, and often there was no sign of the street or road anywhere close enough to be seen, even close to main streets.

I had pre-loaded the maps of Portugal to Nokia Maps (previously called Ovi Maps) which was about a 180 MB download if I remember correctly. It took less than five minutes to download and install them via my WLAN and cable broadband at home. Nowadays it’s possible to download even global maps of almost 200 countries. They’re just some 7 GB or so.

We didn’t want to go far away for the restaurant every night, so the restaurant search of Nokia Maps and the Lonely Planet guide were a very nice tool. I also used Google Maps to check some reviews, as there was a free wireless access in our hotel for customers in our hotel Turim Iberia.

Google Maps would be even better if Google enabled pre-loaded maps. However, they have improved their application so that when using the regular 2D street maps, the amount of data transferred is not big as it used to be. Now it can be occasionally used when roaming abroad too.

I noticed, hower, Nokia Maps wanted to download some more data all the time too. I wonder why it didn’t download the PoI data and guides as of that time? Fortunately it uses vector based maps and seems to very data efficient otherwise too, so all of my Nokia Maps extra downloads combined were less than 5 MB during the whole week.

In my experience TripAdvisor had the best and most restaurant reviews in Lisbon, but this feature didn’t seem to be location aware with Nokia Maps. So it would list all the restaurants in Lisbon, and I couldn’t sort them by distance from my location.

To my surprise, I ended up using Google Maps quite often, because it has a very fast and simple enough UI compared to more complicated, and in my experience also a bit slower Nokia Maps 3.08 (beta). For example, when I wanted to find a certain museum, restaurant of one of Lisbon’s famous sights, it was very quick to search for routes just by typing the target as the destination.

However, Nokia Maps has some benefits over the Symbian version of Google Maps 4.1.1. One of them is the compass. It becomes very handy when you’re really lost and don’t know which way you’re going. It’s a shame Google doesn’t seem to update Symbian version anymore.

I also had LG’s Windows Phone Mango device with me, but as I didn’t still have offline maps and navigation for that, it was not very useful. This convinced me Nokia can get a very big benefit of their free offline and online maps and navigation for pedestrians and cars. However, Navigation already announced mobile maps and navigation for Mango, about 90 EUR for Europe and 45 EUR for USA. Update: Navigon has a limited time offer for 63 and 27 EUR at the moment.