July 11, 2013 -- Long ago, phones with cameras were called "camera phones." That term faded as most phones became equipped with cameras, but Nokia's newest smartphone might be worthy of resurrecting the term. Its new Lumia 1020 has a whopping 41-megapixel camera and an array of other specifications you only hear listed when talking about a dedicated digital camera.
"We have helped people capture pictures for more than a decade. Now we can help people see more than their eyes can see," Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said at a New York City press event to introduce the phone this morning. "This is the next chapter in smartphone photography."
It might sound like a lot of marketing speak, but the 4.5-inch phone's technology specs back up the flowery talk. Not only does the Windows Phone smartphone have a 41-megapixel camera, which tops the iPhone 5's 8-megapixel shooter, but it has 6x high-resolution zoom that lets you capture photos and zoom in on them after you've taken them. The $300 six-lens camera also has a backside illuminated sensor and a fast Xenon flash.
"It captures clearer pictures all of the time -- during the day and also at night," Elop described.
Nokia pairs that hardware with some new software and apps, which are built on Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. Nokia's Pro Camera app will teach people how to use the advanced features. It also includes a manual focus option.
The company is also encouraging other app makers to build features that take advantage of the phone; Hipstamatic, Vyclone and Foursquare are some of the apps that tap into the new camera features. And to make sharing easier, the camera takes two photos every time, one that is the full resolution and the other that is smaller and easier to upload and share on social networks. Nokia announced that Path, Vine and Flipboard will be available on Windows Phone soon.
Still missing in the Windows Phone app store, however, is the most popular photography app: Instagram. The lack of Instagram and other popular apps has been one of the main aspects holding back Windows Phone devices from competing with Android and iPhone devices.
"Windows Phone is an excellent operating system, but there is nothing wrong with iOS or Android, and those operating systems have larger app ecosystems," Avi Greengart, research director of consumer devices at Current Analysis, told ABC News. "Nokia really needs something that gets consumers to sit up and take notice, and the imaging capabilities on the Lumia 1020 are quite extraordinary."
Nokia committed to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform in 2011 after seeing its phone business hit by the success of the iPhone and Android. It does not offer any phones with Google's Android software.
The Lumia 1020 with 32GB of storage will be available exclusively from AT&T starting on July 26 for $300 with a two-year contract. While the camera features might beat out the competition, at $100 more than the 16GB iPhone and other Android phones, it stands in a harder position.
"The plan of attack is that the impressive imaging 'tail' can wag the Windows Phone 'dog.' But at $299 on subsidy, clearly the target customers are photo enthusiasts who would consider it over a premium point-and-shoot camera."