A flock of major smartphone and tablet announcements are expected over the next week from Nokia and Microsoft, Motorola, Amazon and Apple that will give us a glimpse of how vendors see the future of mobile computing.
SLIDESHOW: The iPhone's evolution
Nokia will unveil its newest Windows Phone handsets Wednesday, with Motorola later in the day unveiling its latest Google Android smartphone. Amazon is expected to announce one or more tablets by week’s end. And Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 5 on Sept. 12.
Nokia is expected to announce at least two new smartphone models, among the very first to make use of Microsoft's next big mobile OS upgrade, Windows Phone 8. The Internet rumor mill says to expect two new Lumia phones.
The Lumia 920 is expected to have a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, a 4.5-inch display and resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels, and an 8-megapixel camera, perhaps based on its high-res PureView camera technology unveiled earlier this year but only on a Symbian OS phone. The Lumia 820 is expected to have a 4.3-inch screen, but the same resolution.
The announcements will be important for both Microsoft and Nokia, which is staking its smartphone future on Windows Phone. "It is very important to see a wider choice of smartphones based on Windows Phone at a lower price point,” says Francisco Jeronimo, research manager at IDC. “Nokia has started growing the portfolio and lowering the price with the Lumia 610 and 710, but much more is needed. Android only started to grow when a wider choice became available."
The main features in Windows 8 have been known for weeks, based on Microsoft’s preview earlier this summer. The mobile OS is replacing its kernel with the Windows NT kernel used in Windows for desktops, laptops and tablets. It has a more customizable start screen, and adds support for HD screens, multi-core processors, NFC and microSD card slots. In addition, there are a range of enterprise-related changes, to improve OS and device security and management.
Samsung has already unveiled one Windows Phone 8 handset, the ATIV S smartphone, with a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display, integrated, NFC, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and support for HSPA+ at 42 Mbps.
From Google’s perspective, a week crammed with mobility news ahead of the probable launch of the iPhone 5 later in the month is likely to be viewed as a welcome chance to grab some positive headlines. While last week’s court loss for Samsung may not be as big a disaster as it’s painted – and indeed, there are early indications that the case isn’t over yet – it was undeniably a dark day for the Android ecosystem, prompting Google to roll up its sleeves and join the legal fray directly, in an attempt to reassure skittish hardware partners.
The possibility that Motorola will announce a unique new bezel-free design tomorrow, per reports from Bloomberg Businessweek, would be particularly helpful in counteracting the perception created by the Apple vs. Samsung verdict that Android is merely aping its chief rival. If the device can generate enough buzz, it could even put a dent – albeit a minor one – in the iPhone 5’s extreme amount of hype.
The rumored launch of the Kindle Fire 2 on Thursday by Amazon would have more complicated implications from a Google standpoint – such a product would likely compete directly with Google’s well-regarded Nexus 7 tablet – but more Android-related headlines that don’t reference the recent court defeat are probably a good thing for both companies.
Apple’s new iPhone will run a new version of the iOS firmware, iOS 6, and may carry a dual-core processor on a smaller chip size (saving power while maintaining performance), a taller but not wider screen, and an overall look and feel rather close to that of the existing iPhone 4S.
Whatever the final features, the similarities and differences between very different mobile platforms will be vividly on display.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for “Network World.”
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