Nokia’s Lumia 1020: A super camera with Windows Phone as an afterthought

As expected, Nokia(s nok) unveiled its Lumia 1020 smartphone on Thursday morning at a New York City press event. The Lumia 1020 launches exclusively on AT&T(s t) on July 26 for $299 with a two-year contract. The phone runs Windows Phone 8 but if you didn’t already know that, you wouldn’t have learned it until late in the event. The unveiling was 35 minutes long and Microsoft’s(s msft) operating system wasn’t even mentioned or shown until the 28th minute.
Clearly, the Lumia 1020 and its impressive camera were the star of this show. So much so that it sounded like Nokia was offering just a camera, not even a phone. And the camera is indeed impressive. It uses a 41 megapixel backside illuminated sensor and Xenon flash. You can zoom in many times over on stills or even when taking video without losing any image quality.
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I had some hands-on time with the device and among cameraphones currently available, I have no doubt that the Lumia 1020 will offer the best pictures. An optional $80 accessory snaps on as a camera grip with additional small integrated battery, making it look even more like a camera.

Lumia 1020 grip

Will people like what it comes with, however: Namely, the Windows Phone experience?
Don’t misunderstand me: Windows Phone offers a solid experience. I like the refreshing design and how it unifies the overall Windows experience. However, the numbers don’t lie and so far, data suggests that Windows Phone isn’t making a huge dent in the iOS – Android duopoly. Research firm Gartner says Windows Phone had a 2.9 percent worldwide share in the first quarter of this year: A solid step up from a year ago, but there’s a long road still ahead.
Additionally, there are now four different camera apps on the 1020, which I think some will find confusing. I wish Nokia had ridden the new Lumia of Microsoft’s basic native camera app in favor of the new Nokia software. Unfortunately, developers would have to use Nokia’s, and not Microsoft’s, SDK for the camera in order for that to happen.
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Yes, people are taking more photos than ever before. We treasure those photos, we share them and we like capturing those moments. For $299 with a 2-year contract and with Windows Phone, will people make the switch? I’m not so sure. Those who value their phone’s camera above all else will surely consider it. Will anyone else?
Nokia says the Lumia 1020 will be available later in Europe and other regions. Perhaps that’s where it will see more success.
With another exclusive deal in the U.S., Nokia is limiting the 1020 availability in a country where it’s had a hard time gaining customers: First with Symbian and now with Windows Phone.