Nokia unveils Lumia 920 and 820, its first Windows Phone 8 smartphones

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Jo Harlow, Nokia's executive vice presinde ot smart devices, introduces the Lumia 920. Click here for complete coverage of the event.

NEW YORK--Nokia (NYSE:NOK) unveiled its first two smartphones running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8 software, its latest effort to kick start its smartphone business.

As expected, Nokia announced two new smartphones, the high-end Lumia 920 and the mid-range Lumia 820, which it will try to use to bolster momentum both for the platform and for the company in North America and other key markets.

The phones, from Microsoft's biggest Windows Phone partner, are part of a wave of Windows Phone 8 smartphones this fall that Microsoft's hardware partners will unleash in a bid to get consumers to buy into the operating system. So far, despite praise from analysts, Windows Phone has yet to catch on with consumers. According to research firm Gartner, Microsoft captured just 2.7 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter. 

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said that Nokia has a clear strategy to deliver innovative smartphones but acknowledged that the company still has a great deal of work to do.

The Lumia 920 and 820 will go up against Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) new iPhone, which the company is expected to announce next week, as well as new phones running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform. Indeed, Google's Motorola Mobility unit is expected to announce a new smartphone with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) later today.

Nokia's Lumia 920 and 820 will be available in pentaband LTE and HSPA+ variants and are expected to start shipping in select markets later this year. Nokia said it will announce pricing and specific roll-out dates country by country when sales are due to begin.

The Lumia 920 is the high-end variant that's a larger sibling of Nokia's previous flagship, the Lumia 900. The 920 sports LTE, a dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon S4 processor, and a 4.5-inch Pure Motion HD+ display, which Nokia says is its best screen. The gadget has 32 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM. The 920 also has an 8.7-megapixel camera with Nokia's "PureView" camera technology and the unibody design of the 900. The PureView technology, which Nokia introduced at the Mobile World Congress trade show in February, captures between five and 10 times more light and clearer images than other phone cameras, Nokia said, and then can be used to either zoom in on all of those pixels or increase image quality through interpolation.

The 820 has a 4.3-inch display, a dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 8 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM and an 8-megapixel camera.

Both phones include wireless inductive charging using the Qi wireless charging standard. The company is introducing charging stands, plates and a charging pad from a company called FatBoy as well as a JBL speaker that also has wireless charging and Near Field Communications. 

Jo Harlow, Nokia's executive vice president of smart devices, highlighted the location services on Nokia devices. She said Nokia's Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices will support offline mapping technology for its Nokia Maps app. Nokia is also introducing an augmented reality app called City Lens for its Lumia phones. The Maps application will also get augmented reality features to see points of interest along a route.

The introduction of the new Lumia phones comes at a precarious time for Nokia. The Finnish giant, which ceded the title of world's largest handset maker to Samsung Electronics earlier this year, said in June it would cut an additional 10,000 jobs by the end of 2013. Nokia's fortunes have been declining due to slowing sales of its feature phones and Symbian smartphones. Sales of Nokia's Lumia Windows Phone smartphones, which Nokia began selling in November, haven't compensated.

Nokia sold four million Lumia phone in the second quarter, double what it sold in the first quarter. Yet the company's momentum in North America has been stuck in neutral. The company sold 600,000 phones in North America in the second quarter, likely almost all of them Lumias, but that was the same as Nokia sold in the first quarter.

Nokia's Stephen Elop and Microsoft's Steve Ballmer show off Nokia's new phones. Click here for complete coverage

Microsoft has loaded Windows Phone 8 with new features to keep it on par with the latest versions of iOS and Android. These include changes to the start screen, which will allow users to customize the size and quantity of the live titles that appear on devices' home screens; support for multi-core chipsets from Qualcomm to bolster smartphone performance and optimize battery life; integration of VoIP and video chat into the platform; microSD support for removable storage; and NFC for mobile wallet and data transfer applications, among others.

At the event, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone, ran through the main features of Windows Phone and also introduced some new features. The platform will also support screenshots, which users can take by pressing the power and home buttons. There is also a new "lenses" button in the camera application that will allow users to take actions at the moment they take a photo, including adding effects or making it a panoramic picture. Third-party developers can also create their own lens apps. 

According to The Verge, Microsoft will launch a new "Rooms" feature that will allow users to create virtual spaces for chatting and sharing content with family and friends. Microsoft is also expected to announce a Data Sense option that tracks smartphone data usage in real time.

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Special Report: Nokia's Sept. 5 Windows Phone event: Complete coverage

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