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  (Source: Baidu)
Only one midrange or highend Windows Phone remains on sale on America's top four networks (the Nokia Lumia 830 on AT&T)

It appears one of the long-awaited high end Lumia smartphones from Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is nearing the finish line, just in time for the launch of Windows 10.

I. High End Explosion

Microsoft's smartphone engineering team and product line of Lumia Windows phones have kept pretty low key over the past year.  Following its purchase of Nokia Devices from Finnish telecom Nokia Oyj. (HEL:NOK1V) for $7.2B USD (the deal closed in ), Microsoft has made any bold moves on the high-end.  If we define high end models as units with a Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) Snapdragon 800/801/805/810, then ts last major high-end release were: The new device, leaked via a May 27 database entry on GFXbench, revealing a Nokia RM-1106:

Nokia RM-1106

We might guess that this device packs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 (as anticipated), based on the presence of the Adreno 430 GPU.  But things get a little strange when it it says the processor is ARMv7 (32-bit) and hexacore.  The last chip in the Snapdragon 8XX line to pack ARMv7 (more specifically, ARMv7-A) support was the Snapdragon 805.  More cent versions have support ARMv8 -- the new 64-bit instruction set.  Likewise the core count (6) has only been seen in the Snapdragon 808, which has a ARMv8 instruction set and an Adreno 418 GPU.

It's possible that Microsoft or its partner was testing the device in some sort of 32-bit compatibility mode.  But the core count is more curious as it points to potentially a new hexacore version of the Snapdragon 810 -- or alternatively a new Snapdragon 808 with an upgrade to the Adreno 430 GPU.  Either way this will be a new development and indicates the presence of Windows 10, as Windows 8.1 only supports quad-core Snapdragon chips.

Otherwise the phone spec is remarkable -- 1,920 x 1,080 pixel (1080p / full high definition (FHD)), 1.5 GB of DRAM free (3 GB DRAM total), 17 megapixel rear camera w/ flash and PureView optics.

NokiaPowerUser, a top Lumia blog, predicts this device (RM-1106) is going to be released under the name Microsoft Lumia 940 that's certainly plausible as it follows in the longstanding Microsoft/Nokia naming and numbering scheme.  It first heard word of the upcoming device back in April.

The site also says in a piece on the benchmark leak that it confirmed that the 1080p resolution in the database entry was actually a crop of the true screen resolution.  It expresses with confidence that it has confirmed that the original resolution was 5.2-inch 2560×1440 pixel (quad-HD (QHD)/2K) before cropping (it's unclear how it found this out). Likewise the true rear camera resolutions are believed to be 20 megapixel on the rear camera, but a 4:3 crop reduced the pixels in the picture by 15 percent to achieve the target aspect ratio.  It adds that the front-facing camera (FFC) resolution is actually 5 megapixels.

This device was previously the subject of a supposed pictures leak from a laminating test in China, posted via wp.it.home in November of last year.  While NokiaPowerUser suggests it's actually a Lumia 940, the text in the post suggested in might also be a Lumia 1030 with a high-end PureView camera:

Microsoft Lumia

Microsoft Lumia


Microsoft Lumia

A more recent leak, however, suggests that it will actually come with a 5.2-inch curved screen similar to the Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935) Galaxy S6 Edge.  These pictures of a supposed prototype were posted to Baidu [1][2] just days ago and can be seen below:

Lumia 940


Lumia 940

NokiaPowerUser has also revealed that there will be a larger companion to the Lumia 940.  It says that this device will pack a 5.7 inch QHD screen and will be dubbed the "Nokia (sic) 940 XL". It will also bump the processsor up to an octacore system-on-a-chip (likely a Snapdragon 810) and will feature a "24-25 megapixel PureView camera."

Not done it adds:

We also hear some cool features like 3D-interaction, Iris scanner and native Pen support as part of the package.

Other leaks to NokiaPowerUser indicate that Microsoft has plans to lauch Microsoft Lumia 1330/1335 (RM-1062), Lumia 840, Lumia 740, and Lumia 740 XL midrange devices.  It writes on the last device (the 740 XL):

So, we have some info about one such mid-ranger in works, that may pack Dual-Sim support, 13-14 MP rear camera (PureView), 5 MP FFC, better processor and may sport similar or slightly modified design to Lumia 830. While it is not sure what the name may be, we may call it Lumia 840 for our convenience. This device may have a screen size around 5-inch.

One more mid-ranger has been tipped as in works by our sources and it may be a device with bigger display (5.5 inch to 5.7 inch) and may pack camera specs similar to Lumia 840 but non-Pureview. Again we don’t know what it will be called but let us call its Lumia 740 XL.

One the silent discontinuation of the Lumia 830 and and the upcoming release of the Lumia 840 NokiaPowerUser writes:

So, we have some info about one such mid-ranger in works, that may pack Dual-Sim support, 13-14 MP rear camera (PureView), 5 MP FFC, better processor and may sport similar or slightly modified design to Lumia 830. While it is not sure what the name may be, we may call it Lumia 840 for our convenience. This device may have a screen size around 5-inch.

It also notes in another post that the Lumia 840 was spotted in testing in Finland in mid-April.

II. Current Generation Head Towards Twilight

In the past year it's released a handful of midrange models ... ... in the past 8 months the midrange has fallen silent as well.

Amid the crickets on the high end have been occasional rumors of some sort of high end refresh (which almost all proved inaccurate).  Microsoft did keep itself busy with a rebranding, transitioning from "Nokia Lumia" to "Microsoft Lumia".  But so far it's only test that new brand name in the budget space with very cheap Windows Phone devices -- some of which retail for well under $100 unlocked.  Among these have been:
Microsoft Lumia 430
The Microsoft Lumia 430 debutted in March 2015, quietly.
Microsoft Lumia 540

The Lumia 540 was the latest to launch, debutting in April of this year.


++= The last "Nokia Lumia" branded device.
**= The first "Microsoft Lumia" branded device.

Of course, the highend and midrange have for some time been a lower volume business for Microsoft, who has seen its best success on the budget range.  (In fact, despite the lack of high end hardware, Windows Phone has continued to see modest growth globally.)  But the midrange and high end have given Microsoft some visibility in the U.S., which kept it in the race, even if only on the periphery.

In the U.S. most of us (myself included) one-time users of high-end Windows Phones have moved on to devices powered by Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android OS or Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone.  With the last round of high end devices like the Lumia 925, Icon (Lumia 929), Lumia 1020, and Lumia 1520, gone from carrier lineups, most carriers are only offering budget-minded U.S. Windows Phone options.  

In fact my check indicated of America's top four carriers -- Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Corp. (S), and T-Mobile U.S., Inc. (TMUS) there's only a single high-end or mid-range Lumia still for sale -- specifically the Nokia Lumia 830 (Sept. 2014) on AT&T.

http://images.dailytech.com/nimage/Windows_Phones_Available_From_Top_Four_US_Carriers_May_29_2015_Wide.jpg
Windows Phones by major U.S. carrier are seen above (click to enlarge)(retrieved 5/29/2015).

Ironically, Microsoft does get a bit of welcome news in the carrier survey as it appears that HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) -- who offers the HTC One (M8) Windows Phone on Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and AT&T, plus the HTC 8XT (June 2013; basically the 8X from Sept. 2012) on Sprint -- and Samsung Electronics -- who offers the Ativ SE (April 2014) on Verizon Wireless and the Ativ S Neo (June 2013; basically the Ativ S from Aug. 2012) on Sprint -- are sort of keeping up the mid-to-high-end in Microsoft's absence.

That's a welcome development since Microsoft had long seen rather lackluster third party support from anyone not named "Nokia" previously.  Small as their device options on Windows Phone may be, for better or worse HTC and Samsung Electronics are helping to keep the platform on life support in the U.S.  The same sort of patronage is also being seen on the low end, where rival budget Windows Phone models powered by small OEMs support the lineup alongside the low cost Lumias.

III. The Phone Continuum Factor

With the advent of a number of new high end models this fall launch aside Windows 10 -- namely the Microsoft Lumia 740/740 XL/840/(840 XL?)/940/940 XL/(1030?)/(1330?). It may finally be feasible for high end smartphone afficionados to reembrace Windows 10.

Perhaps most compelling is the new feature of Windows 10 dubbed "Phone Continuum", which was unveiled at BUILD last month.  Using wireless HDMI and support for Bluetooth peripherals like BT keyboards, the device essential turns your smartphone into a PC, show a standard desktop similar to a traditional PC when you connect your phone to a wireless HDMI compatible desktop.

Phone Continuum
Phone Continuum in action at BUILD [Image Source: Neowin]

Such technology has been showcased by Asian Android OEMs, previously, including tablet-phone combos or phone-laptop pairings (see ASUSTek Computer Inc.'s (TPE:2357) Padfone).  Generally the results were poor, but Microsoft may manage better, thanks to its Universal Apps program and common user interface language that can easily scale to display optimally on different kinds of displays.  (Note: the apps that run on the big screen are still ARM apps, not traditional x86 apps like you'd find in your laptop or desktop.)

The second screen streaming productivity technology is especially optimized for use with Microsoft's top Universal Apps, such as the Universal Apps versions of the Office Suite apps:

Office Universal Preview app

Powerpoint Universal Preview app

One neat thing about the feature is that the phone remain usable while in this "productivity mode" and can even take calls.  It's unclear how many of mid-range models will be compatible, but one would assume the Microsoft Lumia 940 and 940 XL will at least pack support.

Windows 10 for smartphones is expected to ship sometime after the PC/tablet version which is expect to be done and delivered by the end of July.  The smartphone launch will likely fall sometime in the Aug.-October window of this year.

Sources: GFXBench, via NokiaPowerUser





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