Today Nokia promised owners of its Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices that its “Amber” update will reach all phones by the end of September. The Amber upgrade is a mix of feature improvements that will improve Nokia’s handsets, further setting them apart from devices built by other smartphone OEMs.
Amber contains a photo-editing tool, improved image processing, the ability to snag motion in sequence with “Action Shot,” the acceptance of double-tap input to wake the phone, and improved internal storage reporting.
However, the most important new piece delivered by Amber is “Glance Screen,” a tool that makes your phone’s inactive state more interesting. When your handset is inactive, it will display a clock and battery information. So, you can more quickly interact with your phone without having to do anything at all. You can turn off Glance, of course, or have it switch off after a set amount of time.
In past years, we would now discuss how Amber puts Nokia ahead of Samsung, HTC, and other Windows Phone OEMs (remember Dell?). We don’t have to do that anymore, as Nokia controls essentially the entire Windows Phone market. Thus, the changes are not as much changes to Nokia’s Windows Phone handsets as they are adaptations to the Windows Phone platform itself. Given that Nokia sells nearly 90 percent of Windows Phone devices, any changes that it makes become de facto official changes.
This is a problem for Microsoft, as it initially ceded flexibility to make changes to Nokia in partial exchange for it adopting the platform. This saved Microsoft’s mobile life, but in the process cost it control: If Nokia can essentially skin Windows Phone to its own contentment, Microsoft is in a material way not in charge of the Windows Phone user experience and design.
I doubt that sits well in Redmond. Thus, Microsoft either builds a phone itself (there have been rumors), or it bolsters HTC (the only remaining OEM partner with more than a scrape of market share that isn’t Nokia) to get a better grip on its platform.
Whatever the case, if you are a Nokia handset owner, the Amber update will be rolling out depending on your handset and country and likely carrier over the next month. Get ready.
Top Image Credit: Vernon Chan