When I saw the tweet with the URL invite to Nokia’s NYC Chelsea event, I honestly didn’t know what I was signing up for. Essentially I was to join them for a “treat” at 6 PM. After getting approval for the trip from my employer and my better-half, I booked a roundtrip Amtrak ticket from Washington DC.
On the train, I used my Lumia 900 + LTE to stay appraised of the Lumia 820 and 920 announcements; OK, I now knew the devices I was heading up to see, and perhaps some of the accessories.
After arriving in NYC and having my obligatory New York pizza, I headed over to the event in Chelsea, and chatted it up with a bunch of other dedicated Windows Phone fans. And the opinions on how to market and improve the OS and devices were everywhere; some attendees thought the new Nokia hardware spoke for itself and would naturally be victorious this fall. I suggested that Nokia and Microsoft had to get their products in front of the mainstream “Panera Bread” family crowd; I noticed a lot of the attendees were hip single 20-somethings, so I thought that idea should get in somewhere. I also threw in that the Halo games should be ported over to Windows Phone in some shape or form; adults got to have their FPSs too In the meantime, none of us had any idea what the event would look like.
Finally, around 6 pm, we were led into the building, boarding a giant freight-like elevator, and were lifted into the event. And it was a styling party. Nicely stocked bars, large video screens highlighting the new Windows Phone 8 UI, stations with various demos setup, and sinful Hors d’ourves. Perhaps because I was in the first group of attendees, I was handed a set of Nokia Monster Purity ear buds (retails for $99.99). OK, more than half the cost of my trip was just reimbursed There were raffles for other prizes, but having won something already, I decided to bow out of further drawings.
First I talked to a very enthusiastic Nokia lady who showed off the new Lumia 920. We went through the mapping capabilities, the Window 8 start screen, and perhaps the first killer feature I saw, the fact that the Lumia 920 screen works even if the user has gloves on. This is a big deal if one is waiting for a bus in the cold; I’m not sure California based smartphone makers can truly relate to that like Nokia can. She also showed off the PureView camera stability features, such as how video shot with the camera has automatic jitter reduction. Supposedly the lens “floats”. Neat.
She then ushered me to another demo station modeling after a kitchen, and a different demoer showed off Nokia’s charging and speaker accessories. There’s theÂ fatboycharge pillow, which is just that, a pillow you can plop the Lumia 820 or 920 on, and it will charge them without wires. Very cute and neat There was also a JBL speaker system that could play music off the Lumias simply by placing the phone on the speaker; the NFC handles the rest. The demo was a little glitchy, but I’ll write that off to the hazards of demoing pre-production products. The colors of the accessories were bright and appealing; really, Nokia needs to figure out how to partner with Ikea, as the design preferences of the two companies jive with each other. Why not have colorful Nokia products on Ikea kitchen islands in Ikea stores? I tried to bring up that idea, but really, the demoers were more intent on demoing the hardware, and not on collecting marketing ideas. Fair enough.
I then had the pleasure of talking to a Microsoft representative who works with their developer marketing efforts, and got an in-depth tour of Nokia Music, Nokia’s new music streaming app. A key new feature here is once you assemble a playlist, you can actually download 30 minutes of music to listen to offline. Very nice for gym rats. And itâ€™s free. Another attendee and I asked about Windows Phone 7.8; no info. We asked about what US carriers would have the Lumia 820 and 920; no info. We asked about a specific release date: no info. We asked when the Window Phone 8 SDK would be released; no info. Then something strange happened. I thanked the rep for the great party, and asked him what Nokia and Microsoft wanted me (and the other attendees) to do to spread the word about these phones, and to further the platform. I didn’t get an answer; he really didn’t have one. This was kind of weird; Nokia and Microsoft went to the expense to throw this great party, they’ve shown us a great time, and have impressed us with their new hardware. But they don’t know what to do with us next. We’re their biggest fans, and at least at this point, they don’t seem interested in using us proactively to win converts. Maybe that’s not their strategy.
The next demo was perhaps the most impressive, involving the Lumia 920 PureView capabilities. A flower vase was placed in a dark cubby, and attendees were invited to shoot flash-less pictures of it, followed by a demonstrator using the Lumia 920 camera to do the same. All of our pictures were awful, and the Lumia 920′s picture was almost flawless. Clearly the Lumia 920 is going to rock for indoor low-light photography, as well a nighttime outdoor photography. Barring any unexpected announcements from Apple and the others, Nokia’s camera tech is going to be in a class of its own this Fall. Hopefully US consumers will care.
The last demo I saw was of the Lumia 820; it’s a nice phone, albeit its lacking the PureView camera capabilities, the 920′s RAM (although the 820 takes SD cards), and HD resolution. It does have a removable and customizable rear cover though, allowing easy access to the battery. Not a bad phone at all, although the 920 is clearly the superior model.
I wonâ€™t go into detail about the delicious food and drink I had during the event (not really worthy of your time), but I’ll tell you that Nokia took care of us. The beanbags on the rooftop for resting up were also a nice touch, and the views of NYC were stunning.
The woman I spoke to first found me again, and asked me what I thought of the new phones. I told her I was very impressed, and again, what would they like me to do, now that they’ve shown me a good time. She said to simply be a fan. I don’t quite know what that means, but I hope this write-up is a good start.
Best of luck to Nokia and Microsoft; you have a great OS and top-notch colorful hardware. Now you just have to get the mainstream non-techie “Panera Bread loving” crowd to care. Seriously, get your wares on display at Ikea…
An album of the event can be found here: