standard Editorial: Microsoft’s Next Windows Phone Flagship- What it Needs

Nokia Oyj's Hungarian Manufacturing Plant As Closure Announced By Microsoft Corp.Yes, Microsoft launched the Lumia 830 as its “affordable flagship”, but for die-hard power hungry spec loving “I need the best” users that felt mildly insulting, and most certainly underwhelming. Microsoft however did state that a flagship device won’t arrive until Windows 10 is ready, which isn’t going to be anytime soon (not in this half of the year), so essentially users are left without a real flagship until what’s likely going to be September (7 months from now). The least Microsoft can do is to get it right, and to do that a couple things are MUST HAVE.

  1. Windows 10- Obviously Microsoft have already gone on record saying that the flagship won’t launch until Windows 10 is ready, but Windows 10 better be perfect by then if we’re going to have to wait.
  2. Snapdragon 810 processor (at least)- With Microsoft’s release of the Lumia 640 and 640 XL earlier this week they already missed out on the newer generation of chips, using the older Snapdragon 400 rather than the newer Snapdragon 410. They can be forgiven of course since neither of those phones is a flagship device, plus the 410 is a relatively new chip (released in December 2014); however if we’re going to be waiting another 6 or 7 months, the internals better not be dated.
  3. 5″ to 6″ display- Depending on what comes first, a successor to the Lumia 1520, or to the 930 then we’re probably either looking at a “normal” sized flagship device, or a phablet (or possibly both; as we might see a Lumia 940 and a Lumia 940 XL), either way the 5″ and 6″ screen sizes are currently the trending sweet spot for phones, preferably with as little bezel as possible.
  4. More Pureview technology along with 20+ MP camera- As much as we’d all love to see it, it’s unlikely that Microsoft’s first true Windows 10 flagship will be another camera-centric device, as amazing as the Lumia 1020 is a camera bump that size has no place in the impossibly slim standards set by today’s flagship devices. Instead Microsoft should focus on producing good looking, high quality images without going overboard in terms of sensor size and physical camera size; both the iPhone 6+ and the Note 4 take very impressive pictures without a 41 MP camera, and certainly without such a huge bump; and Microsoft should strive to do the same.

    In terms of the actual megapixel count, although it’s just a number (as Apple has proven with the 8 megapixel camera of the iPhone 6/6+); given the fact that both the Lumia 1520 and 930 have a 20 MP camera Microsoft’s next flagship should have a similar MP count, or a t least a good explanation to why my old phone has more.

  5. A proper front facing camera- For the love of all that is holy Microsoft, it’s not very difficult, something Nokia obviously never understood; it’s seemed as if front facing cameras were always an after thought for Nokia, focusing all their imaging prowess on the main camera; then slapping a measly 0.9 MP camera on the front (I’m looking at you Lumia 830). This is made even more ridiculous by the fact that the Lumia 730/735 launched right beside the 830 with a 5 MP FFC. It seems Microsoft have gotten the memo at least, given how the last few budget devices also came with a 5 MP front facing camera, so hopefully the’ll be sane enough to give the flagship similar if not better treatment.
  6. Micro SD Storage- Microsoft and Nokia have flip-flopped around including Micro-SD storage in their device, the most glaring of omissions being in the Lumia 930; however now with all of Lumia Camera 5’s features and 4K recording it’s an absolute must (unless the device ships with 128 GBs of storage).
  7. 3,000 mAh battery (or more)- I’ve never truly experienced a Nokia/Microsoft device with a reliable battery; sometimes the battery would last all day, other times I’d be searching for a power outlet by 2 PM; the solution is simple. Bigger batteries. Please.

Besides the list above there are several other features that Microsoft would do well to include in their upcoming flagship, but would be forgiven for omitting, including:

  1. Finger print scanner- When the iPhone 5s launched with touch-ID I was among the first to call it out as a lame gimmick, but having actually used it it’s very useful; especially for unlocking your phone on the go, or authorizing a payment via NFC. a device launching with Qualcomm’s new “Snapdragon Sense ID” would be especially interesting, given the sensors ability to scan your fingerprint through almost any surface including glass, metal and even plastic.
  2. Preferably a QHD display– Although the HTC M9 launched with a 1080p display, more and more manufacturers are switching to even higher resolution QHD display, which although might not make a huge visible difference to the average person (or anyone at all) it remains a number game that will result in points against Microsoft if they continue to use a 1080p display.
  3. Smart covers- Windows Phone already supports “smart covers” (since WP 8.1 Update 1) as attested by the HTC One M8 for Window’s “Dot Cover”, however I personally find the Quickcircle case for LG’s phones the most useful of smart covers, which in general feels actually useful, rather than an aesthetic feature. Any form of smartcover on a Lumia would be a welcome addition, and with a little bit of creativity the possibilities are exciting.
  4. Wireless Charging- Although with Nokia’s previous commitment to the wireless charging movement it’s highly unlikely to see a flagship device come from Microsoft without wireless charging, I wouldn’t mind having to plug in a cord if ti meant making room for a bigger battery.
  5. Slim Profile <8 mm- I’m going to be realistic and accept that this isn’t always possible, if it is excellent; if not then I’ll live as I’m not one to embrace the fat shaming movement, just as long as the phone isn’t obscenely thick.
  6. 3 GBs of RAM- Although Windows Phone has never been a resource hungry OS, it remains to be seen whether Windows 10 will be the same; and with Microsoft’s move to release all devices with at east 1 GB of RAM it seems that might be the optimal RAM to get the best WIndows 10 performance.  And nothing says Future proof like 2 extra GBs of RAM.
  7. Wider range of 3rd party accessories- Although not directly in Microsoft’s hand, it would be great to see them strike a deal with the big case manufacturers out there (Spigen would be my favorite) to provide a wider range of high quality 3rd party accessories.

Essentially Microsoft have a huge task in front of them, not only do they have to create a flagship device capable of carrying its own against the Galaxy S6, iPhone 6, the HTC M9 and the upcoming LG G4; but the device has to make up for the delayed cycle launch by being “future-proof” to make up for the next cycle discrepancy where the same flagship will likely end up pitted against the next generation of Samsung and Apple flagships, a tall order to say the least.

What other features would you like to see in the first Windows 10 flagship?

  • lundr

    I agree with everything, except the display. QHD on 5-6″ device is stupid. End of story.

  • Faisal Islam

    Want to see metallic body Lumia golden, black color , finger print lock, all the censors that s6 have, 3GB ram , snapdragon 810 processor, good rare & front camera ! At least 5Mp front! 5Inch screen size , full HD support, doesn’t lag also those apps that still haven’t in WP ! I’m a WP lover! Since 1year I have been using lumia 625 ! Want to buy something big flagship from Microsoft! And I wanna see Microsoft rule in smartphone market! In Sha Allah someday! Plz don’t make available all the Lumia feature to others platform! We choose Lumia for a reason ok

  • Agreed with everything except the 41mp sensor. What MS needs to do is figure out how to get that sensor small enough so the camera hump is just a bump. That would be real innovation. Other than that this phone sounds like all other flagship. MS needs to differentiate itself from the pack and W10 alone won’t be enough.

    • Mr. Peabody

      I am not sure I agree. While there is no doubt that the 41MP takes the best photos of any other phone on the planet, the question remains whether this is desirable going forward with the new tech introduced with the Denim update. With the 20MP sensors on the 930, each picture taken using the Motion Capture and auto HDR settings results in HUGE files. But the results are fantastic, so you know the typical consumer is going to like the results and leave them on all the time. Now the problem becomes storage.
      Just think how often the typical teen or mother snaps a quick photo to throw on Instagram, etc. And now imagine how large the file space consumption will be with each shot taken with that 1020 sensor. Even a 128GB card would get consumed in short order, causing the normals to freak out and bitch about what shitty storage their new Windows phone has without even having a clue as to why.
      Now maybe the solution for a true enthusiast niche device is a default setting that only takes the smaller MP picture and the user most tell the device he wants to utilize the larger MP function — maybe something called “Pro Mode” or what ever. Because even people who buy the 1020 to take amazing DSLR type pics are probably only wanting to take a quick snap for social network upload 90% of the time they use it.

  • EmmanuelM

    You may also consider buying an iPhone 6+ or a Galaxy S6 Edge :-)

  • Mr. Peabody

    A nice list – I agree with most of it, but I would reiterate that the Snapdragon Sense ID is non-negotiable. Having this capability is going to be vital for mobile payments and a quality payment experience is going to be a critical element to buyers’ decision making in the coming year or two. Given Samsung’s struggles with finding a good answer to Apple’s thumb reader, there is a window of opportunity that most be snapped up quickly here. It sounds like Qualcomm’s solution is the best of the three and MSFT HAS to grab it.
    Also, I a would say the wireless charging is non-negotiable too. And given the recent launch of the new smart chargers, it would be incomprehensible how Microsoft could release flagships that did not support them. And the new flagships need to support BOTH Qi and the Powermat tech, the way the Lumia 830 for AT&T does. This would be very useful given the different formats being rolled out publicly and an easy point of differentiation that could be easily conveyed in short TV commercials.
    They need to keep the camera module currently utilized in the 1520/930. It is the one thing the MSFT flagships have over the competition and needs to continue to be the front-runner.

  • uberlaff

    This is bare minimum stuff that any OEM can build.

    What they need is a easy to explain differentiator that people want.

    I’m really coming around to the “Surface” phone with the Surface Pen (N-trig stylus) and Intel chipset so they can plug it into a dock and use it as a desktop. That is blow-it-out-of-the-water style differentiation that can be explained with a fancy commercial.

    It needs to go huge. I think the common touchscreen, selfie / picture taking smartphone is not enough and the 640 / 640 XL can start running with that crown. The new phone has to do more, much more.

  • Franix

    I would add a Gorilla Glass IV screen to the list.

  • Cold Dog

    Stylus. It would make me go WP. I mean if it is cheaper, than Note. Note needs competition.

  • GaryHarvery

    A damn notification LED on the handsets!

    For goodness sakes, it’s been the second highest requested feature on their Uservoice site for 3-4 years now. Their pathetic answer that Glance (which hasn’t been included much lately) is the solution is just plain short sighted.

    Hell, just make the fingerprint scanner a Cortana Halo, which is also a multi-colour LED ring, so you can set custom colours for certain people, alerts, apps etc.

    Also, they should move towards Amoled screens more. The blacks, Tiles, and the Glance screen look soooo much better than lcd screens with the Windows Phone OS.

  • Charlie Enriquez

    What about a new design? The fabula design is already old and tired :(

  • joeku

    I don’t want fingerprint, a 5″ screen is fine, I don’t do selfies so I don’t need the front facing camera to be any good, I don’t want QHD if it means reduced battery life, I don’t want a case or any accessories, just make the phone itself a bit rugged if you can.

    I do want the highest 20Mpxl main camera, the >2.8Ahr battery, the best power efficient processor money can buy, 2-3GB main memory, SD card, oleo-phobic screen, dedicated camera button,

    So do I still want that flagship? It all depends on the software!

  • artemvalieiev

    slowmotion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ben Pearlman

    I would agree, except that wireless charging should be a must have.

  • mpw

    Happy with the next features mentioned but would also like to see dual-SIM provided. With work and social travel across Europe and stiff roaming charges it’s ideal to be able to snap-in a local SIM without the bother of storing your main SIM somewhere else, only to lose it. Equally, dual-SIM affords a SIM for both work and personal numbers thereby not requiring two phones. If low-cost OEMs are doing this already why can’t the next-gen WP phones do it as well?

  • DStwentyone

    Got to have a camera better than my 808 Pureview.
    (My 830 is a joke camera wise compared to it. I know, unfair compairason, but it was/is “the affordable flagsip”).

  • Vader_MIB

    830 with a 24MPx sensor.
    Or 930 with removable battery.
    Just want that.

    Or, to be more precise:
    – 5 – 5.2″ max screen, with glance, and true clear black
    – Full Office (not this thing on current WP)
    – Removable battery
    – Good camera (20MPx or more)
    – SD would be best, but i can live without it