The Lumia 820, the Lumia 920's stouter and less expensive cousin, has a replaceable shell casing in a half-dozen colors.

Nokia’s Lumia 920 smartphone featuring Windows Phone 8.

Windows Phone 8, featuring Metro-style colors and tiles, serves as a nice complement to the Lumia series of phones.

The curved 4.5-inch glass display "flows seamlessly" into 920's sculpted polycarbonate unibody.

The Lumia 920 comes in yellow, red, white, grey, and black.

The Lumia 920 touts inductive charging, meaning its backside can charge wirelessly on Nokia-enhanced charging stations without the need for an alternate shell casing or USB plug.

The Fatboy rechargeable pillow, a sort of bean bag for your smartphone, enables you to charge your Lumia 920 wirelessly.

The bumblebee black-and-yellow Lumia 920 with matching Monster headphones.

The bumblebee black-and-yellow Lumia 920 with matching Monster headphones.

Co.Design

Nokia's Newest Flagship Smartphone Is Candy Colored, Windows Powered

Nokia’s successor to the superbly designed Lumia 900 is meant to seamlessly integrate with Windows Phone 8.

Marko Ahtisaari, executive vice president of design at Nokia, is sliding his finger along the edges of the Lumia 920, the Finnish company’s newest flagship smartphone. A bumblebee yellow-and-black device of curved polycarbonate and glass, the latest addition to the well-reviewed Lumia series is a result of what Ahtisaari calls "hyper integration." He’s showing off how the smartphone’s glass appears to sink effortlessly into the device’s body, so it’s difficult to tell where the hardware ends and the software begins.

"You strip everything away that’s unnecessary--if we could get rid of it, we would get rid of it," he says. "It’s very much driven by the craft of how the product is assembled, so the part lines are almost invisible. All that you’re left with is just the essence of the thing."

Ahtisaari, a former professional musician and philosophy professor at Columbia, is delving into Nokia’s Bauhaus approach to design, but all I can think is: I want to eat this thing. The aesthetic of the Lumia 920 calls to mind stretched salt-water taffy or lemon Starburst or a juicy banana, and Ahtisaari, who refers to the devices as a "forbidden fruit," isn’t surprised by my reaction. Nokia hopes consumers will feel the same sense of appetite too: The company’s market cap and mobile market share have been pulverized in recent years as Apple, Google, and competing OEMs have destroyed Nokia’s industry dominance. But Nokia’s unique smartphone designs could represent a turning point. "The form language and aesthetic is almost post-industrial, and I don’t say so lightly," he says. "This product doesn’t look like it comes off of a product line. It looks more like it’s been grown on a tree."

Much of the Lumia 920 is about upgrades and refinement. At 10.7-mm thin, with a 4.5-inch display and sculpted backside, the device is the next evolution of the previous generation Lumia 900. Only the 920 is much smoother than its predecessor, not just in feel but in hardware integration. "We’ve gotten much better at making these polycarbonate unibodies that flow seamlessly into the Gorilla Glass," Ahtisaari says. In addition to yellow, the Lumia 920 will come in red, white, grey, and black, "blended colors that are inherent polymer, meaning the polymer is colored throughout," he adds. "It’s not just painted polycarbonate; if you scratch it, it ages gracefully because everything is colored through and through."

Coupled with Windows Phone 8, Microsoft’s new mobile operating system, the UI’s Metro-themed colors and tiles complement the Lumia 920. The idea, as one Microsoft designer told me once, is to make the hardware "a physical extension of Windows."

Simply put, the device’s hardware feels both solid and soft, a contradiction that designer Gadi Amit described of the Lumia 900 as "light yet solid as a rock…the satin finish feels great in the hand. It isn’t trying to be a jewel; it is a tool for modern, mobile living." The same can be said of the 920; as Ahtisaari puts it, "We’re not making something that’s fragile that needs to be covered with three accessory covers just to feel like you can take it outside."

A few of the other upgrades: The 920 features Qualcomm’s 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor; 1GB of RAM; and an 8.7MP camera that features optical-image stabilization and low-light functionality, meaning pictures are likely to come out better even when taken with shaky hands in the dark. Nokia also today unveiled the Lumia 820, the 920's stouter and more economic cousin, which doesn’t have all of the same whiz-bang features but will come at a lower cost. Nokia didn’t clue us into pricing and availability, but said the company will be rolling out that information in the coming weeks.

Outside the Lumia 920's surface shell and under-the-hood specs, there are a few bells and whistles that Nokia is likely to push to market its new flagship phone. The first is inductive charging. Rather than have to plug your phone into a USB port or wall socket, the Lumia 920 is able to wirelessly charge without needing an accessory battery or case. On the JBL PowerUp charging station or Fatboy rechargeable pillow, a sort of bean bag for your smartphone, just lay down the Lumia 920 for it to start regaining battery life. (To be clear, the inductive charging will only work on charging stations compatible with Nokia’s smartphones.)

Additionally, the Lumia 920 smartphone will come with NFC technology, but the company isn’t showing it off as a payments tool (though that is certainly one application). With the JBL PlayUp wireless speaker, just plop your Lumia 920 on top of the speaker for it to begin streaming playback of your music wirelessly. "There are shortcuts for the things that would normally take you 21 pokes or swipes," Ahtisaari says. "There’s no going back once you feel it--wires just feel antiquated."

Still, as impressive as the design and technology of the new Lumias are, Nokia still has a long way to go before it regains the prominence it once had before Apple and Google came along to the mobile market. For one, Nokia is betting big on an unproven platform, Windows Phone 8, which has a low market share and faces issues of consumer awareness and an underdeveloped app ecosystem. And however well-received the 920 is among critics, it still has to be a hit among consumers to succeed. (Critics gushed Lumia 900, for example, but it failed to move the needle.)

Nokia, however, says that right now, it’s all about patience. "I think we’ve had healthy expectations that we’re not going to go from zero to an enormous market share overnight," says Jo Harlow, executive VP of Nokia’s of smart devices. "But we’ve got to keep growing,"

The Lumia 920, seemingly sprouted from a tree as Ahtisaari describes, is a good start.

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16 Comments

  • Mickcreates

    I absolutely love the look of this, so refreshing!

    Even more impressive after the recent Apple snore-fest. Nice work Nokia and Microsoft!

  • Robertjan Kuijten

    No thanks, to a company that fakes their product videos. Do they think customers are fake too? Well, i'm real about this: NO.
    Oh, and a touchscreen OS (Windows 8) that isn't made for pens: really? Nokia seems to still be on the same band wagon (same mindset) as Asus, Samsung and HP, who have keyboard covers for their touchSCREEN tablets with touchPADs incorporated. Again: really? :Android – too many cake flavours to choose from, but never one that's just great and pleasant out-of-the-box. It's always a big question if it comes with what you expect. Always remains to be seen if it lives up to its expectations. When one cake bakery can't find a way to get hold on the profits in the market, they just copy the cake of the biggest competitor bakery. Oh, and did you know there are new recipes too (you really ought to tell your bakery, they're far behind)?iOS – a joy to have and very pleasant out-of-the-box, you always know what to expect, you always know it lives up to the expectations (unless you want a dolphin to climb a mountain), you know what to use it for. Oh, and you always have the latest recipes. Because your bakery manages the recipes as well.

    That's the more realistic version of your comparison... :-)

  • Jordaan Mylonas

    You know Apple fakes things in the iPhone advertisements right? They digitally shrink hands to make the device look less cumbersome than it is, they use prerecorded video of games rather than the game being played live, etc

    Guess they must "think customers are fake" too, whatever that means.

  • Filipe Dias

    You're right, it's a realistic version, that of YOUR opinion. Expectations are deeply personal, why would you think that your expectations are the same for everyone. By the way, iOS is not made for pens either, so I don't understand your point in that.
    Indeed, with iOS you always know what to expect, which is a good thing and a bad thing. Because it's designed for just a few hardware models it is very consistent, but that means that if you can't have more than what is given to you, you have no choice. Android is everywhere, which means that it can suck a bit on some (old phones only) and be wonderful on others (all others). The interest in it, at least to me, is that you can always expect next week for your product to be better even if today is already awesome, you can make it the way you want it to work, basically, you have choice. About never being great out-of the-box, yeah right, tell that to millions of customers who are very happy with their equipment. Oh, with Android you can actually make a dolphin climb up a mountain.
    About copying, I remember a well know line from the founder of the company that makes your precious iOS, I'm sure you know it too.
    I can't wait to see what they come up with with Windows 8, might suck, might be wonderful, but for sure it is different, and differences are what makes us go forward.

  • mlmlm

    Why are two different phones shown in the gallery? Which one is the actual phone?

  • Evan Jacobs

    They're both part of the Lumia line, but the 920 is considered the "flagship".

  • clubsandwich

    Nokia is doing a great job lately. If my Iphone dies, for sure I'll go for a Lumia

  • ChickenFriedSteak

    See - this is innovation. Not wanting to ape Apple's style has lead to something that is truly an alternative to the iPhone. If I wasn't such a Mac fanboy I would get one. Assuming it ever comes to Australia.

  • Jensen_G

    Nice that they're differentiating, but their success is mostly dependent on how much people like/buy Windows Phone 8. I have yet to see a Windows Phone 7 device in use outside of a cell phone store.

  • Filipe Dias

    To Cameron
    You want Android to go away? Any reason to back that up?
    Let me put it in a cake example.
    iPhone - overpriced cake with only one flavour.
    Android - fair price for a cake. Vast selection of cake flavours. Also provides supplies and recipes for you to make your own cake, just the way you like it.
    Why should Android go away? That's an OS that actually empowers people and we all benefit from its existence.

    I'm very curious about Windows 8. They had big balls providing something different and seems to be very user-friendly. Would love to have that approach on an Android framework, best of both worlds.

  • Cameron

    I have several friends that have seen my Lumia 900 and have got one themselves, both fellow designers and an engineer at a military UAV contractor.

    Hopefully Windows Phone will explode and become a nice alternative to Apple, and Android will go away.

  • zmarket

    Unlikely for so many reasons. But also, now look at this compared to Samsung. The exterior and the icons are different.

  • Michael Aldridge

    Feeling pretty jealous, I want one! Microsoft really seem to be pulling off some magic lately with there new style and approach.