For the longest time, Nokia was - to some extent still is - synonymous with affordable, durable phones. For most part, it did work out well for them, till it didn't, and they were losing market share before you could say "Apple". It was only about two years ago when Nokia decided to get its act together and launched a couple of new lines of smartphones - the Asha and the Lumia, which between themselves offer smartphone choices across an impressively wide price range.

Last week, Nokia launched its latest flagship device in the Lumia series, the Nokia Lumia 1020 and on the company's invite Smartbuy had the chance to get a bit of hands-on time with the device on the day of the launch.

The First thing that struck me about the new Nokia Lumia 1020 was how it looked a lot like the Lumia 920, but better. The new smartphone is slimmer and comes in matte colours - yellow,black and white. The screen spans about 4.5 inches which might seem like the sweet spot between a can-hardly-see-anything and this-screen-is-bigger-than-my-pocket size. However, it's not the screen but what's at the rear that matters in the Lumia 1020. The phone comes with a 41-megapixel camera (like the one that was integrated with the Nokia 808 PureView). The camera owing to its mega-sensor works a bit differently from all other smartphone cameras currently in the market, and has a special app designed called Pro Camera to make the best of the hardware.

Every time I clicked a picture, the Pro Camera app saved two versions of the same image. Say, I zoomed in and snapped a yellow cab on the road, the camera will give me the photo I clicked as well as another over-scaled version where it would have captured the surroundings of the cab as well. While you might not always need this function, over-sampling also enables the camera to capture the pixels better, thus making sure even cropped versions of the original image are of very good quality.

During the demos at the launch, we were encouraged to try and put the zoom to test. So, there was a miniature globe of a park where you can see some super tiny figurines sleeping on the grass, rowing a boat and so on. We took the picture of the entire globe-sized setup and when later zoomed in we could see engravings on the side of a miniature boat which was probably no bigger than a single link on a wrist watch.

The user interface on the camera app too is quite interesting, a swipe left pulls out concentric semi-circles running from the bottom to top of the screen, indicating various parameters such as ISO, shutter speed and a bunch of similar settings. You can toggle these up and down to see in real-time how these factors affect the picture you are about to snap. Then, you can adjust the settings accordingly to take the perfect snap.

In an attempt to strengthen and augment its experiential apps, Nokia has also revamped its mapping experience. With the Lumia 1020, you can have the new LiveSight which combines GPS-assisted mapping with augmented reality. Say, you open the app, search for Coffee and point it in one direction, the app will show you small icons indicating cafes nearby arranged from nearest to farthest. But that's not where it stops. Once you scan your surrounding from left to right to see what's nearby, you can pause the scene and actually track back to see in case you missed something in the other direction earlier. Company officials from Nokia also said that the map experience will also be boosted by venue maps which they are introducing with LiveSight. Basically, venue maps can show you directions, shops, conference rooms and other floor details at any venue you might be visiting in the city.

(This article was published on July 15, 2013)
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