Nokia announces new phones while Microsoft updates Windows Phone 8

New phones are on the way from Nokia, filling in both the budget and premium part of the market, while Microsoft makes its mobile operating system even better.

Over in San Francisco, Microsoft is showing off what it has in store for the first half of the year, taking developers, media, and avid consumers for a tour of everything Windows.

Thanks to Microsoft’s heavy hand in Nokia, though, that also includes the Finnish phone fabricator, and there will be three new phones coming to world markets over the next few months, though we have no idea quite how many Australia will be receiving.

At the top of the list is the Nokia 930, which looks very similar to what Nokia released in America as the Icon. Locally, we’re more likely to stick with the numbers, and for this model, you can expect numbers like a 5 inch Full HD screen, a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 32GB storage, Cat4 4G LTE, and a 20 megapixel PureView camera.

From those specs alone, we’re reminded of the Lumia 1520, except cut down from 6 inches to a more manageable 5 inches, making it more a big phone and less a phablet.

A second 4G phone could also be coming, called the Lumia 635. The design on this handset reminds us of the Lumia 620, but with a bigger screen jumping from 3.8 to 4.5 inches, with the camera button also removed. There will also be access to 4G LTE, which is something we didn’t see on the 620 handset.

Nokia is also taking the template from this handset and not just making a 3G version, but a 3G variant capable of taking two SIMs.

Dual SIM phones aren’t very common in Australia, and are generally made available for people who travel often, making it possible to quickly jump between various telcos, or even to use one provider for voice and another for data, which can also keep costs down. We’re told these will only be 3G phones, so data won’t be as quick as with a 4G device, but could still offer as much as 21Mbps down in places that support the standard.

Unfortunately, Nokia hasn’t said when Australia will be getting these devices, or even if we will, but given how many Nokia handsets we reviewed last year (we missed the Lumia 720, but did everything else), we’d say it’s highly likely that the 635 and 930 will reach Australia, with the 630 and 630 dual SIM only slightly likely. If we do, however, expect them mid-year.

Beyond Nokia’s announcements, Microsoft also had something to say about Windows Phone 8, and that is just like Windows on the desktop, tablet, and laptop front, it too will be getting an update.

Microsoft’s update to the WP8 platform will even feature a similar name, adopting the 8.1 moniker and adding it to the “Windows Phone” branding.

Updates to the interface will be added, as will the “Action Centre” which shows notifications and reminds us of Android drop down bar, gesture typing like what both Swype and SwiftKey use (finally), and even a voice assistant: Google has its Google Now voice, Apple has Siri, and Windows Phone users will get to speak to “Cortana,” inspired by the artificial intelligence from Halo.

Similar to Siri, you’ll be able to ask Cortana questions and have her answer back, but this assistant will also monitor what you’re doing, tracking elements and learning from you to be a better assistant.

From what we’re hearing, the good news about Cortana and the rest of the Windows Phone 8.1 update is that it will be rolled out to WP8 products in the “coming months,” though Cortana will hit the US first, and then follow other parts of the world, with the UK and China coming later on this year, with other countries arriving next year in 2015.