Lumia Black – What’s new?

Introduction

When the Lumia 1520 and 1320 were revealed during Nokia World on Oct 22 2013, Lumia Black was also revealed, with availability expected to be January 2014. True enough, Nokia has been rolling out the update for the past few weeks, starting with the Lumia 1020 and 925. As of the point of writing, the 920, 820, and the 625 are also receiving the update. Hopefully, the update will roll out to the rest of the Lumia line soon enough.

So what exactly is Lumia Black? Since the release of Windows Phone 8, there have been 3 updates, namely GDR1, GDR2, and GDR3 (General Distribution Release). Nokia started to inject their own tweaks and features into the updates starting with GDR2, and named it Lumia Amber. Similarly, Nokia added more features on top of GDR3, naming it Lumia Black. This would be the last update before Windows Phone 8.1, and Nokia will likely continue to come up with its own flavour of GDRs.

Glance 2.0

With the Lumia Black update, Nokia has added more features to the Glance screen, making it more useful. It can now display the lockscreen quick statuses (the little icons at the bottom), providing you with quick essential notifications and the time as well without having to turn on the screen.

Also, with Glance 2.0, you can now choose the colour of night mode from red, green, and blue, instead of only red.

Nokia Beamer

A successor to Nokia Photobeamer, Nokia Beamer is an app which you can download from the Store (only works if you have Lumia Black) which displays what is currently on your phone on any HTML5 enabled browser, which is basically all browsers, be it on smartphones, smart TVs, or even internet-enabled gaming consoles with browsers.

To share your device’s screen, simply go to your target browser, go to http://beam.nokia.com and scan the QR code displayed with the Nokia Beamer app. Alternatively, you can send a link from the app and open it on your target browser, which would be useful for long distant sharing.

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You can either choose to manually update the screen on the browser by shaking your device, or have it auto update. However, auto updating does not mean it becomes a live feed, what it does is essentially constantly “shaking” the device for you, updating the browser’s screen automatically. It  also takes around 1-2 seconds for the browser’s screen to be updated, so don’t go blaming your internet connection.

Nokia Storyteller

Another app which you can download from the Store, Nokia Storyteller is an alternative to the default Windows Phone 8 photos gallery with more features.

By obtaining your location info from Nokia’s HERE maps, Storyteller sorts your photos into albums according to your location by default. However, you can also edit the albums names, and create new albums yourself by merging photos that are currently not in albums.

To add another layer of depth to your photos, you can add captions to each photos, and even view where each of your photos were taken on a map by zooming out on photos.  As the name suggests, these can really help to preserve your memories, with each photos capable of telling stories.

While it lacks certain features like Facebook integration, the Storyteller is a very good alternative if you don’t want to use the default Photos, especially if you take a lot of photos and want a better way to organise them on your phone.

App folder

Besides providing a shortcut to apps, you can also group settings together.

However, it has serious limitations as app folders. As app folders, you’d expect it to expand on touch and provide quick access to the apps and settings inside, but what it does is it opens the App Folder application where shortcuts to your apps and settings are found. This means it takes up to two seconds before you can actually choose to open the apps or settings inside the folder, unlike app folders in iOS and Android where they actually work like app folders.

With its limited functionality, I don’t see the reason for using it, since apps you use regularly should already be readily accessible on your start screen. And as for settings, since opening Settings takes less than a second (compared to two seconds for App Folder) from a tile, I can’t really see myself using it unless Nokia improves on its loading times.

Camera

With the Lumia Black update, the rest of the Lumia line will be able to download the Nokia Camera app from the Store. Combining the features of Nokia Pro Camera and Nokia Smart Camera into a single application, switching between the two is as simple as swiping up and down, much like how you would have switched between shooting stills and videos in the Nokia Pro Camera app.

Nokia also promised new imaging algorithms, which will help improve picture quality, especially on the Lumia 1020.

(Taken from allaboutwindowsphone.com)

As can be seen from the above samples, the new imaging algorithms help to noticeably reduce the noise, and at the same time providing more accurate and natural colours.

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Photography buffs will also be delighted to know that with the Lumia Black update, the Lumia 1020 will be able to capture in RAW DNG format, making editing more pleasant without all the pesky JPEG compression algorithms. That said, each DNG file will take up around 40 MB of space, which will fill up your 32 GB of internal storage pretty fast. So unless you require them, I would not recommend shooting in DNG.

GDR3 features

Since Lumia Black is based on the GDR3 update, features from GDR3 are also available. Among all the new features made available with GDR3, the ones that stand out the most would be the ability to close apps from the multitasking view, and also locking your screen orientation from settings. Finally.

Conclusion

With features from GDR3 and Nokia, Lumia Black is a great last interim update for WP8, as us consumers begin eagerly waiting for WP8.1 which will be unveiled and announced in April 2014. If the update is available for your device now, update it! If not, head over to our other articles as you constantly check your phone for updates.

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