Pics of Microsoft’s canceled ‘Northstar’ flagship smartphone appear online

microsoft
drserg/123rf

It wasn’t so long ago that Microsoft, like Apple, had a high-end smartphone series to call its own. It included the Lumia 950 and 950XL — two flagship handsets running Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile software — and the Lumia 930. The company eventually abandoned its budding business, but newly leaked pics suggest that Microsoft had planned to release at least one more phone before it threw in the towel.

Microsoft’s canned smartphone, the RM-1162, would have been the follow-up to the company’s 950 and 950XL. It was code-named “Northstar,” and it improved upon its predecessor’s materials in subtle, but appreciable ways.

The Northstar boasted a curved aluminum unibody, a 5.5-inch display with a Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) resolution, and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor. Other specs included 4GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and a whopping 20MP rear camera with “triple-LED flash,” as well as an 8MP front camera and dual front speakers.

microsoft northstar phone 1496234875 lumia 960 01

The Northstar wasn’t the only Microsoft phone to get the kibosh.

In December 2015, rumors emerged of a high-end Windows Phone device with gesture-sensing sensors — the Lumia McLaren. It also boasted such features as a 5-inch screen, 2GB of RAM, and a 50MP sensor with dual-LED flash. But the real highlight was its 3D Touch Suite, a Kinect-like offering intended to track user’s fingers as they hovered over the display. Hovering over UI elements would reveal hidden windows. For example, a wave of the hand would dismiss notifications and a finger slid along the phone’s screen edge would zoom in on photos.

In 2017, pics of the Lumia 750 “Gullin” leaked online. The midrange Windows Phone handset packed a removable polycarbonate back cover, a 2020mAh battery, and a microSD card slot.

Weak sales of Windows Mobile devices is at least partly to blame for the line’s demise.

In 2014, Microsoft was forced to lay off 18,000 employees when Nokia, the Finnish phone company it acquired for $9.5 billion, failed to turn a profit. Things deteriorated from there — in 2015, mounting development costs forced Microsoft to write down $7.6 billion and sell its handset business to HMD Global.

But rumblings of a Microsoft-made smartphone persist.

In May, Thurott reported that an in-development Microsoft phone runs a never-before-seen “separate branch” of Windows Mobile that will deliver “new experiences.” It’ll come in as many as three models — a consumer model, a business model, and an “enthusiast” model — and run Redstone 3, an upcoming version of Windows Phone with native support for Win32 apps like Google’s Chrome browser and Adobe Photoshop.

In an interview with Marketplace’s “Make Me Smart,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the company’s next phone might not look like a phone.

“We make phones today, we have (original equipment manufacturers) like HP making phones … and we picked a very specific area to focus on, which is management, security, and this one particular feature that we have called Continuum, which is a phone that can even be a desktop,” Nadella explained. “So when you say, ‘When will we make more phones,’ I’m sure we’ll make more phones. But they may not look like phones that are there today.”