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First Look: Nokia's City Lens app for Lumia handsets

updated 01:22 am EDT, Wed May 9, 2012

New apps attempt to differentiate Lumia line

Nokia is still in the beginning stages of its smartphone transformation, which focuses on the Windows Phone-equipped Lumia lineup. The Finnish company did not bring any new hardware to CTIA this week, however representatives did allow Electronista to take an early look at several of its Windows Phone apps, including the augmented-reality utility City Lens, that aim to differentiate the Lumia series from other smartphone platforms and other devices in the Windows Phone realm.

Although Android and iOS still dominate the smartphone market, we've been impressed by Microsoft's Windows Phone OS and Nokia's latest high-end smartphone hardware. The Nokia/Microsoft partnership may be bearing fruit, as strong US Lumia 900 sales are blamed on a delayed UK launch, however the company is still attempting to further bolster its position, and the new apps--limited to Lumia devices--are an extension of the strategy.

City Lens enables users to view a variety of nearby content, with categories such as food, hotels, shopping, famous, fun, sights and transport. After clicking on a category, an augmented-reality browser shows various waypoints that change as the user pans the device between headings or tilts the device to look up or down.

Results are organized by distance, category and rating, enabling users to quickly determine which places are closest and which have been rated the highest. The system also integrates with guides, such as Lonely Planet, that help further differentiate the service from basic offerings such as Google Goggles. To switch to a traditional map view, a user can simply place the device on a horizontal surface.

Current augmented-reality apps have yet to really catch on, despite significant effort by Google's Googles team and many smaller developers. We feel that City Lens may prove a worthy competitor that will help bring the technology to mainstream users, rather than a smaller subsegment of knowledgeable smartphone experts.

The company has yet to formally launch the final version, however an early version is available through Beta Labs.

by MacNN Staff



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