I recently flew down to Cape Town to experience the World Design Capital, which is a biannual, year long event showcasing the best of design in the host city. Why did I fly down to Cape Town for something seemingly unrelated to technology? Nokia invited me, as they are one of the sponsors of the WDC 2014. Nokia put together an action packed two day experience which (naturally), included an introduction to some of their phones.
Since I am all about tech and this is a tech website, I’ll focus on the tech with an emphasis on design. Each morning began with a briefing and on the first day Iain Pottie, a senior design manager at Nokia, introduced me to the Nokia Asha 503.
The 503 is the top of the range phone in Nokia’s Asha range and it’s party piece, aptly, is its design. It is made using a unique manufacturing process to produce a body with two different layers of polycarbonate (known as a dual-shot process). The under layer is a solid colour, while the top layer is clear.
The body of the 503 is very appealing. I spent several minutes marvelling at the way light passes through the clear layer around the edges of the body. Adding to my intrigue was the natural motion of the solid inner layer. The corners of the phone are square but the inner solid layer has been rounded, making the clear layer thicker in some places and thinner in others.
I know the dual-shot design is not to everybody’s liking, but it must be acknowledged that Nokia has pushed the edge of polycarbonate design in a new direction. The introduction of a dual-shot polycarbonate body into the Asha range, shows that Nokia is just as serious about its budget phones as they are about the more premium Lumia line.
The Asha 503 includes some other interesting additions for a budget phone. It features a Gorilla Glass screen, which is usually only included on much pricier smartphones. It also has a large camera sensor, which is 1/4 inch in size. The build quality on the 503 is excellent, emphasising Nokia’s reputation for making durable and solid phones. Click here for the Asha 503’s full specifications sheet.
Nokia had themed the days for their Nokia Design Experience. The first day being “Asha day” and the second being “Lumia day”. The Lumia of choice for the trip was the Lumia 1520. If you’re not familiar with the device, it is a massive six inch smartphone running Windows Phone 8. It was the first Windows Phone to feature a 1080p screen and a quad-core processor.
The 1520 sticks with a polycarbonate body, for which Nokia Lumias are known. As a Lumia 920 owner, I noticed the subtle changes Nokia has made to their design principles for the Lumia 1520. It doesn’t feature an sharp edges. The corners and sides of the phone have been smoothed off, providing for a more pleasant holding experience. The phone is also considerably thinner than its older sibling, the Lumia 920. The camera enclosure protrudes a millimetre or two from the back of the phone, necessitating the use of a cover to protect it.
Nokia has recently made a name for itself in the imaging department, with the Nokia N8, 808 PureView and more recently the Lumia 1020. The 1520 includes some of the technology first introduced in the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020. The most prominent feature is Nokia’s use of oversampling algorithms, which take the full resolution (16 MP) images from the 1520 and downscale them into a refined 5 mega-pixel image.
As you can guess the highlight of the 1520 for me is its 20 mega-pixel camera and Cape Town was the perfect place to experiment with it. I captured some beautiful scenery and interesting locally designed goods. The 1520 allowed the hipster in me to come out and get arty, which was (unsurprisingly) rather enjoyable.
Coming back to the hardware. The Lumia 1520 is an intriguing device in two respects. Firstly and most prominently, it is massive. At six inches in diameter, there’s no denying that it’s a “phablet”. With no active stylus, the purpose of its massive screen is more debatable. I believe there is no ‘right’ screen size for a smartphone. It simply comes down to personal preference.
The second point of interest is the inclusion of the 20 mega-pixel camera on the device. The technology usually reserved for the photographic enthusiast is filtering into more devices in Nokia’s Lumia range. The release of the Nokia Lumia Icon (Lumia 929) emphasises this point. It too features a 20 mega-pixel camera. Click here for the Lumia 1520’s full specifications sheet.
I am thrilled to have been granted the opportunity to experience the World Design Capital 2014, and to have been introduced to the Asha 503 and Lumia 1520. Tech Net Africa will be doing a review on both devices in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more information.Please note: The opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own.