Nokia must have really been between the rock and the hard place when it announced it will adopt Windows Phone as its primary mobile platform. One of the justifications for the eye-popping decision back in February was pointed out as Android not offering ways for Nokia to differentiate its handsets among the sea of phones powered by the green robot.
Well, it's not that easy to differentiate in the Windows Phone ecosystem either - the chassis specs are predefined by Microsoft, and Redmond keeps a tight grip over the uniformity of the interface. Still, the Finns managed to pull ahead with some exclusive features that will be available only on Nokia Windows Phones.
The most potent addition is Nokia Drive, which is a full-fledged offline navigational system with free voice guidance, satellite and night views, similar to what the Symbian handsets offer. Apparently it works identically, but with Metro-ified interface. This has the potential to be huge for Nokia's Windows Phone handsets, since it offers detailed maps of almost every country around the globe, and voice-guided navigation in more than 100 of them, which you can use without being connected to the Internet.
You can download the maps country by country or region by region for offline usage, and using them won't cost you a dime, both in software expenditures, and in data charges, since the app only uses the GPS receiver of the phone to navigate - it doesn't need Internet connection like Google Maps, for example. Couple that with live traffic in selected countries, millions of POIs with reviews, and detailed 3D maps in certain cities, and it suddenly becomes the unique feature on a Windows Phone, since it amounts to a lot of savings compared to paid apps, even if you are just cruising around one region.
Nokia has plans to enhance on the navigation front, and bring closer the real and virtual world with the Live View augmented reality app, which uses the rear camera for overlaying information about objects in front of your lens. You also get the Public Transportation app, where Nokia has embedded instant schedules for buses and trains in more than 450 cities around the world, which sounds pretty cool. Watch our own impression of Nokia Drive in New York city in the video below:
Next stop of the Windows Phone exclusivity train is Nokia Music, and, specifically, the Mix Radio feature. We can't agree more that it's a hassle to download and sync music, regardless if it's the iTunes or Zune software. Nokia takes the logging and syncing out of the equation, and Mix Radio works globally by streaming full-length tracks mixes to your handset, with hundreds of channels which are "locally relevant". Later in the year Nokia will issue an update, which will allow you to create personalized channels from a catalog containing millions of tracks. Furthermore, you can tap and hold on any mix and download it for offline playback. This sounds huge, and we have no idea how Nokia has managed to negotiate it with the labels, especially if you are able to download your own individual mixed tapes.
Another feature in the Nokia Music app is the Gigfinder, which lists live performances in your vicinity. Again with a software update by year-end, you will be receiving the ability to share and comment on the gigs you spot on the social networks, and to buy tickets directly from the handset.
Sounds hip and trendy, but a third pillar of Nokia's Windows Phone differentiation is also important for us damaged sports nuts that are often looking over the shoulder of an annoyed date to the big screen in the bar when the scores are on.
Nothing hip about that, so Nokia has teamed up for the ESPN Sports Hub to provide you stats, news, schedules and live scores from sporting events, plus you can even pin your favorites (team or league) on the Start screen Live Tile for a quick informative glance. This feature will certainly be appreciated here in the US, as it saves avoiding a bunch of apps to follow sports. Watch our hands-on of these exclusive features in the video below:
So, what do you think about Nokia Drive, Live View, Public Transportation, MixRadio, Gigfinder and ESPN Sports Hub - are these features enough to make Nokia Windows Phones stand out?
free TbT (sometimes 3d) directions. now THAT is a step in the right direction. WP7, trying to find the middle ground between the best of what both iOS and Android offer and that is definitely a stab at one of android's strongest differentiators... its maps. The rest of it is ok, sounds like a glorified Pandora app, and im sure sports fans will enjoy the ESPN app, especially if they use the tiles to update with live pictures from the games as well as the scores.
A step in the right direction for Nokia. I only wish they did not kill the other OS products, Meego and symbian. They were really promising and now some of who dont like the tile arrangement of the windows phones may end up with the android group. But then some like the Nokia hardware designs, like tje N8 (which i currently use) and the all but abandoned N9.
Like the HTC Hub in the HTC Windows Phones, it is a start. Like remixfa pointed out, it is kinda tough to say on one hand we want a unified, easy to secure and maintain ecosystem that we can update quickly as needed, but on the other hand also say let's allow manufacturers room to be themselves. The live tiles are the strength of WP, but they are also kinda limiting in the way a device looks. Most people can tell a Samsung from a HTC Android just from the UI. That isn't much of an option with WP. So content and the way the live tiles interact will be the launching point for Nokia, HTC, Samsung, ZTE, LG and all the other companies. Microsoft needs to support this effort. It will encourage imagination and excitement for the OS. Hope it is a thought in their minds as they prepare to go all in on Windows Phone 8.