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Microsoft's new flagship devices are only a couple months from market

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) autumn launch of Windows 10 for smartphones may come packing some serious firepower, when it comes to device hardware.

I. The Frontline

Leading the way will be the Lumia 940 and the Lumia 940 XL.

The former device -- the Lumia 940 -- is codenamed "Talkman", according to top leaks sources, and is associated with the regulatory codes RM-1104 (3G) and RM-1106 (LTE).  It's already passing through wireless compliance testing in a number of regions. Joining it will be the 940 XL, codenamed "Cityman".  There was some confusion that the Lumia 940 XL was associated with the regulatory code RM-1085, but it appears this is actually a midrange phablet, such as the Lumia 740 XL or 840 XL (both unannounced, but rumored).

Both smartphones are expected to be among the first Windows Phones to receive 2,560 x 1,440 pixel quad high definition (QHD) displays [source].  The Lumia 940 is believed to feature a 5.2-inch panel, while the Lumia 940 XL will probably come with a 5.7-inch display.  Both devices may be driven by the Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) octa-core Snapdragon 810 system-on-a-chip (SoC) although some sources suggest that the Lumia 940 will instead use the hexa-core Snapdragon 808.

Both Snapdragons are 64-bit chips built on a 20 nanometer process.  The key difference is the Snapdragon 810 packs a beefer on-die GPU (dGPU) (the Adreno 430 vs. the Adreno 418 in the Snapdragon 808), and the '808 only has two of the beefier Cortex A-Series intellectual property (IP) core, the Cortex-A57.  Clock speeds on the CPU cores on the Snapdragon 808 are also somewhat slower.

Iris scan
The phones may pack an iris scanner. [Image Source: iStockPhoto]

The devices are also believed to include 32 GB of NAND flash storage, 3 GB of LPDDR4, a microSD slot (for additional memory expansion).  The frame is reportedly metal, although leaked images suggest the backplane may be some sort of polymer, making this a hybrid body design.  The front-facing camera (FFC) is believed to be a wide-angle 5 megapixel sensor, while the rear facing camera (RFC) is a 20 megapixel PureView sensor (some reports suggest the Lumia 940 XL may pack a marginally more powerful sensor in the 22-25 megapixel range).  The rear facing camera is illuminated by short-pulse variable-tone LED flash technology for better picture-taking in poor lighting.

The phones are expected to use USB type-C (USB 3.1) for charging and data-transfer.  In addition to Windows 10, they're expected to support "Continuum" at a firmware level.  Continuum is a technology that allows you to wireless turn your smartphone into a thin client.  This allows you to perform actual work using only a smartphone and a compatible monitor.

The devices are also expected to feature iris scanner technology for password-free login (some reports indicate only the Lumia 940 XL will have this tech., however).  The Lumia 940 XL is also expected to support stylus pens, likely scaled down versions of the Surface Pen produced by recent acquisition, Israeli stylus-maker N-Trig.

Surface Pro 3

Nowherelse.fr published a supposed leaked shot of the Lumia 940 in early May, with a disclaimer expressing skepticism regarding the authenticity of the image.

Since then a number of bloggers have gone full circle from elation to seeking to debunk said image.  WMPowerUser (WMPU), for instance, blogged:

The "leaked" image of the Lumia 940 is a poorly done fake... Digging into the image itself, the biggest news the tipster forgot to mention was that the Lumia 940 can apparently warp space and time. If you don’t believe me, check out the "Lumia 940" and the "Microsoft" text in relation to the "940", it’s just an impossible image.

Lumia 940
WMPU's analysis claims the text is "impossible". [Image Source: WMPU]

Perhaps they're right, but their analysis is a bit off.  Actually if you look at the font, there's nothing odd about it.  If you draw perspective lines, and then skew some text to match, you see that Segoe UI Semibold lays virtually on top and that the alignment is not "impossible as the author suggests.  It's just viewed from an odd perspective.

Lumia 940
O rly... perspective for the win. [Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

That said, I do agree with the premise.  As the WMPU blog states, the camera configuration looks somewhat like the one found in the Cyan Lumia 640 XL.  If the image is a fake, I suspect actually it's a blend of the camera from the Lumia 640 XL:
Lumia 640 XL
The Lumia 640 XL -- possible source of the logos and mic slot

And the Lumia 930....
Lumia 940
(The Lumia 930 is seen in green.) [Image Source: tecnocino.it]


But wait, couldn't that actually be simply Microsoft's design strategy -- to iteratively tweak and inherity the Lumia 930's metal frame with a larger aperture camera with branding and placement like the Lumia 640 XL?  Perhaps.

Looking at the image error level analysis (ELA), via FotoForensics, we see there's a fair amount of activity around the flash and what appears to be tiling on the edges.  And yet, there's also no clear-cut sign of images being sloppily glued together:

Lumia 940 XL
[Image Source: FotoForensics]

So at the end of the day, while I agree this looks uncannily like a Frankensteined montage of past Lumias, that may simply be the nature of its design.  And if it is a fake, it's a well done one as the perspective is more or less correct and there's few image artifacts.

The final verdict?  I think it may be the real deal, but we'll have to wait and see.

II. And Then There Was Three

Meanwhile, top leaker Evan Blass (@evleaks) published a blurry photo of what is believed to be an upcoming successor to the aging Lumia 1020, aka Windows Phone's supershooter. The Lumia 1020 featured a 41 megapixel sensor (cropped to a slightly lower resolution).  The Lumia 1030 (regulatory ID: RM-1052) -- believed to have been scrapped -- was rumored to have featured a 50 megapixel sensor.  It was spotted last November as a convincing looking prototype leak from China.

Lumia 1030

The new device may be dubbed the "Lumia 1040", according to NokiaPowerUser.

The camera module appears to have a tri-colored LED flash, although the spacing is a bit peculiar.  We've seen a handful of tri-colored LED designs previously, e.g. the Vibe from the Lenovo Group Ltd. (HKG:0992):

Lenovo vib

This also follows the mockup of "Microsoft Lover" that came out in early May.  

Lumia 940

Note, though that the position of the aperture indicates this is a different camera and perhaps authentic (Nokia Devices' larger cameras are often offset from the flash).

We can expect perhaps one or more of this high end device trio (the Lumia 940, 940 XL, 1040) to make their debut at the IFA 2015 consumer electronics trade show which runs Sept. 4-9 in Berlin, Germany.  Sources point to August availability of Windows 10 for smartphones in finished form, so we should know the truth by sometime in September or October.

At last Windows Phone's drought on the smartphone market's high end may be at an end.

Sources: @evleaks, WMPowerUser





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