Nokia at MWC 2012: 808 PureView with a 41MP camera, the Lumia 610, and Skype

Nokia is happy with its progress. That’s the message CEO Stephen Elop kept coming back to at Mobile World Congress today. He may have good reason to be proud, too. For the first time in a long time, Nokia seems like an exciting company to keep an eye on. One year ago, it seemed a lost cause, with a floundering smartphone business and virtually no presence in the North American market. Today, things are looking up, thanks to Nokia’s bold switch to Windows Phone and focused line-up of new ‘Lumia’ smartphones and targeted ‘Asha’ Symbian feature phones. To celebrate, the Lumia 610 was unveiled and as well as a crazy new Symbian phone with a 41MP camera — yep, 41. Our rundown of new announcements is below.

808 PureView: Though it’s running Symbian, this phone is supposedly capable of taking 41MP pictures and recording/playing high fidelity Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The 5.1 audio is piped through the HDMI port on the phone (not through the stereo headphone jack). Nokia also spent time talking about the software behind the PureView technology. We still need to get some hands-on and have quite a few questions, but the pictures taken by the PureView are indeed impressive. Hopefully we will be able to learn more on how Nokia is able to accomplish this feat in the coming days. Seeing as the Nokia 808 is a Symbian device, and not WP7, we are assuming it will not be available in the US, but it is expected to be released in May for those of you who are addicted to the aging operating system. Elop made a point to say that the technology in the PureView will “live on” in future Nokia devices. We can’t wait. 

Lumia 610: The Windows Phone news was less impressive, but still noteworthy. Microsoft finally announced its long-rumored ‘Tango’ update, which lowers the minimum specs for WP7 devices to 256MB of RAM as well as some slower processors. The new version will go live with the release of the Lumia 610 around April, and will serve as a new low-end to the Lumia series, which is currently comprised of the Lumia 710, Lumia 800, and Lumia 900. In our experience, the phone was fairly snappy, though it appears that some graphically intensive apps and games will not be available for these slower handsets. 

Asha 202, Asha 203, Asha 302: Three new Symbian Asha phones were announced as well. These devices likely won’t hit American shelves, but they represent an important market for Nokia: budget phones. All three devices are priced at $130 or less (and that’s without any two-year wireless contract) and appear to be a few years old to our smartphone-hungry eyes. The 202 and 203 are variants on the same model, now with touchscreen and multi-sim support. The 302 is loaded with a full QWERTY and is built with social networking and browsing in mind. It’s a bit more high-end than the 200 series. 

New Nokia apps: Touting the success of its Windows Phones, Nokia today revealed that 65,000 apps are available on the Windows Phone Marketplace and some new exclusive apps will be coming to its handsets. Nokia Transport is a public transit navigation app for buses, subways, and the like, which supports more than 500 cities in 46 countries. Nokia Reader is a book store and reading app, and Nokia Newstream is a news aggregation app, which appears to lightly restyle content like Flipboard. A beta for Skype is also now available on the Marketplace, even for non-Nokia devices.

China and Canada: Thanks to firmware updates that will allow its Windows Phones devices to run on more spectrum bands and some strategic partnerships, Nokia will soon be breaking into both China and Canada with the Lumia brand. Specifically, Canadians can expect the flagship Lumia 900 to appear on Rogers soon, at 4G LTE speeds.

In the coming days, we’ll bring you hands-on pictures and impressions of both the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 610.