Of all the hurdles facing new CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft's lack of standing in mobile is perhaps most imposing. Windows Phone remains a distant third in a phone operating system battle that's been a two-team race among Android and iOS.
There's a glimmer of hope. According to fourth-quarter figures reported by IDC, Windows Phone market share rose nearly 47% year over year, though that share remains mired in the low single digits. Most of the increase can be attributed to Nokia, which Microsoft is in the final stages of acquiring.
What happens to the Nokia brand under Microsoft's new leadership needs to play out. But the Finnish phone giant keeps delivering fine phones that deserve recognition.
Next in line is the Nokia Lumia Icon, also known as the Lumia 929. This latest flagship -- a Windows Phone exclusive to Verizon Wireless -- isn't the thinnest or lightest (at 5.86 ounces) phone around, but it belongs in the high-rent district. The aluminum ring rimming this polycarbonate rectangular slab helps give the phone a premium feel. It comes in black (like my test unit) or white. It arrives Thursday for $199 with a two-year agreement.
You can't help but be impressed with the sharp 5-inch, Gorilla Glass-protected Full HD OLED display, which can be made out in direct sunlight. You can turn on a setting that bolsters the screen's touch sensitivity. You can interact with it wearing gloves, an act of mercy, given all the snow here in the Northeast.
Icon measures up, specs-wise. Inside is a snappy Qualcomm quad-core processor, 2 gigabytes of RAM and 32 GB of sealed storage -- with an additional 7 GB of online storage provided gratis.
THE CAMERA CROWN
Most notably, Icon borrows camera features from its Nokia sibling the Lumia 1020, which set the bar high.
The new phone doesn't match the 41-megapixel sizzle of the 1020 -- Icon is at 20 megapixels -- but it does have Carl Zeiss optics and takes outstanding pictures and videos. After you snap a picture, Nokia condenses the image to a size that's easier to share, while also retaining a higher-resolution image. Incidentally, the 5-inch Icon display is larger than the 4.5-inch display on the 1020.
In the recent past, Nokia justifiably bragged about the photographic muscle built into its phones. This time, there seems to be a heavier emphasis on video. The device is meant to appeal to consumers who capture quick videos and post them to popular social-media outlets such as Vine. (continued...)
© 2014 USA TODAY syndicated under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.