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Microsoft Surface phone: 5 features we could see from a Lumia flagship phone

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Surface Phone

Microsoft Surface phone: 5 features we could see from a Lumia flagship phone

With the Lumia 650 rumoured to be the last phone from Microsoft with the Lumia branding, we're already looking to forward to see where the brand's phone division might go next.

In all likelihood, it seems like the obvious choice would be to use the Surface branding. With the Surface Pro 4 receiving rave reviews and the Surface Book continuing the high-end feel, it would be great to see a similarly built smartphone.

So, what could the Surface Phone bring? Let's take a look and see.

1. An Aluminium and magnesium unibody design

According to this latest report, Microsoft's new flagship phone will feature an aluminium and magnesium "unibody" design. Combined with that "Surface Mobile" name, we can't help but imagine a shrunken Surface Pro 4. Drool.

Presumably this would set the new phone apart from Microsoft's other rumoured Windows 10 smartphones, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. From initial (and far more convincing) leaks, these appear to stay true to the classy-plastic Nokia heritage.

The report also suggests that the Surface Mobile will feature a USB-C port (as seen in the OnePlus 2 and the new MacBook) and wireless charging. That latter point would appear to clash with the whole all-metal design claim, unless Microsoft or its partners have made a Qualcomm-like breakthrough in that respect. Hmm.

A little more convincing is the suggestion that the Surface Mobile will come with a Surface Pen stylus, which is said to be similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note 5's S Pen.

2. A 5.5-inch Quad HD screen

While we weren't overly impressed with the latest pair of Lumia devices, they did both have at least a few impressive specs. Notably, the 5.7-inch display toting 950 XL had a gorgeous, quad-HD display that was both sharp and bright, with vivid colours and ace viewing angles.

We'd be happy if this same panel was used for the Surface Phone. Even better if there were multiple size options, a 5.2-inch and 5.7-inch one for example.

Related: Why Continuum is Windows 10 Mobile's killer feature

Surface Pro 3Surface Pro 3

3. An Intel processor

From a pure spec list perspective, this is where the real doubt creeps in.

Microsoft's Surface Mobile is going to carry the flag for using full Windows 10 on your mobile. The idea is that you'll be able to hook up a keyboard, mouse, and monitor over Bluetooth and the USB-C port, and it will essentially become a PC (a feature known as Continuum).

For that to become a reality, the Surface will need some serious power - and that's the problem with these latest rumours.

The report claims that the Surface Mobile will run on a 64-bit Intel Atom x3 (SoFIA) processor paired with 4GB of RAM. We'll buy that RAM amount, but the Intel Atom x3 is an old and pretty weedy chip by current standards, and one that was designed for low-end devices from the off.

Given that the year-old Surface Pro 3 runs on an Atom x7, we can see Surface Mobile running on something with a little more pep than the lowly x3 - even in such a small form factor. Besides the power shortfall, the x3 in its current form doesn't appear to support 21-megapixel cameras, USB-C, or 2K displays.

So what will the Surface Mobile run on? We just don't know, but it's possible that Intel will announce a new range of mobile chips based on the Cherry Trail architecture early next year. That would do the trick.

4. A PureView camera based on Nokia designs

You can bet that the Surface Mobile will have a stellar camera, regardless of the accuracy of these latest rumours. How can we be so sure?

Because it has the old Nokia team working within its walls. Regardless of how you view Nokia's efforts in the Windows Phone field, you can't deny that the company is one of the best and most innovative smartphone camera makers in the business.

In particular, its PureView brand of cameras and use of Zeiss lenses have made for some true cameraphone champs over the years.

Lumia 930Nokia Lumia 930

We can fully get behind the report when it suggests that there'll be a 21-megapixel PureView Zeiss 6-lens main camera, then. After all, that's not far of the camera spec of Nokia's last flagship phone, the year-old Lumia 930 (which has a certain Surface-ness to it already, no?).

We'd also expect to see things like OIS and laser autofocus in there.

Apparently, the Surface Mobile will also have an 8-megapixel Zeiss wide-angle front-facing camera, which should cover those selfie snaps nicely.

5. Up to 128GB storage and microSD

The report claims that the Microsoft Surface Mobile will come with the option of 64GB and 128GB of storage.

It might sound quite brave to make 64GB the default option, but remember that this will be a truly high-end device, and one that will likely be judged against other 2016 flagships.

Also remember that such a Surface Mobile would be expected to push the whole Continuum feature – in other worlds, it will have to operate like a Windows 10 computer when hooked up to the appropriate gear. A decent amount of storage will be imperative.

Oh, and the report also claims that there'll be microSD support, which also seems highly likely. Again, this will be Windows 10 device first and foremost, so a lack of expandable storage would be unforgivable.

Concept Image Credit: Nadir Aslam

Would you like to see a Microsoft Surface phone? What features do you think it needs to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung? Let us know in the comment section below.

Dead Words

August 26, 2015, 11:21 am

I'd love to see a Surface Mobile, and I believe there's a very, very good chance of there being one.
I don't think all these specs are completely accurate (particularly the processor), but I have heard from other reliable sources that there will be an Intel powered Windows Mobile, probably released January or February of 2016.

ThatConsultant

August 26, 2015, 12:26 pm

Pssst... Jon... WindowsCentral has already confirmed that a surface phone won't be released until Q2 2016.

donzebe

August 26, 2015, 12:57 pm

If there is a surface phone in the making, Microsoft better release it with windows 10. That's what will change everything for Microsoft; new phone OS branding with new flag ship branding with great features will create a powerful wow! factor and keep the media and everyone talking forever. Microsoft can do the Lumia range flagship later or release in Q2 2016. After everything, the general availability of their flagship phones to key market is key. If old marketing model is carried on, things might not change, no matter how great the hardware is. Hopefully they can get rid of exclusivity and release fast to key markets.

donzebe

August 26, 2015, 1:19 pm

A Microsoft Surface phone is a great idea. A Microsoft Surface phone should have features that exceed those of current Apple and Samsung flagships. Microsoft should just try to be the first to introduce certain features whether consumers need them or not, let the consumer decide.

Gregory C Newman

August 26, 2015, 1:51 pm

MS CEO Nadella said microsoft would produce 3 types of Windows smart phones
1=Value Budget, 2=Enthusiasts Flag ship, 3=Business class. The Surface Pro 3
is a business class Tablet. so a metal Surface Smart phone with Windows 10
mobile with the Continuum feature that turns a Windows 10 mobile OS Smart phone into a mini Computer like device is a win win device if it marketed properly.

Tcat Houser

August 26, 2015, 2:05 pm

I'm on your side, Jon. Technically, the X3 cannot address 4GB of active RAM, the graphics does have the moxy for QHD... Is it possible Intel and MS have an Atom behind the curtain for Surface Phone? Yeah.
And your right. This HAS to be a Pocket PC with Continuum.
It can be done. I switched to Win RT 8.1 when the Lumia 2520's we're dropped.. A few of them and Power Keyboards and I can wait. I also see where MSFT has all the tools (as you mentioned about the Nokia Assets) to pull this off. I can see the hardware in the 1520, 2025, and 1020. Re-package RT into Win 10 was brilliance.
I don't buy a 2015 Surface Phone. :(. Wishful...

Prem Desai

August 26, 2015, 4:27 pm

Sounds good. I just hope it not made of metal but good quality plastic.

Nothing more irritating than super slim slippery metal phones.

Ralph

August 26, 2015, 4:49 pm

As a small business owner, if MS launch a phone that could replace all our PC's and iPhones I would be delighted. Just need to give appropriate staff a screen and keyboard kit for home, and off they go. All I then need is for MS to do the PadPhone trick.....I can then buy a couple of the Pad bits so that anyone who needs a laptop for a presentation or to work on their train journey is well equipped. They could absolutely steal the business space back from Apple. To completely seal the deal MS must ensure more apps are available - why isn't there a BT CloudVoice app for Windows? Or Sonos? Or Bose? Or any of the home security kits? Until I can use my MS phone in all these areas I will also need an iPhone or Android device, which means MS is allowing the enemy into my environment.
But the speed and capability of the kit has got to be good..........

Jethro Bodine

August 27, 2015, 12:15 am

I owned a Lumia 1520. I say owned because I cracked the screen. When I tried to get a new one, with my insurance, I was offered another phone because the 1520 was discontinued. I was pretty ticked off. So, if a MS surface phone comes close to the 1520, I will be a happy man and I'll definitely get one.

Dead Words

August 27, 2015, 12:29 am

You might be better off with the upcoming Lumia 950 XL coming in a few months. It's the spiritual successor to the Lumia 1520:
5.7 inch QHD AMOLED display
20MP PureView camera with OIS
Tri-flash (three LED flashes)
HAAC recording
Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
Surface Pen accessory (rumored)
3300mAh battery
3GB RAM
32GB storage with microSD
It's set to be a powerhouse.

Dead Words

August 27, 2015, 12:30 am

Continuum is supposed to do everything you say, with the Surface series being the laptops/tablets.

Dead Words

August 27, 2015, 12:31 am

If it was a Surface device, it would probably have a magnesium build. Magnesium has a different, grippier texture to aluminum, is stronger, lighter, thinner, and has better heat management. It just looks less "pretty" and costs more.

Dead Words

August 27, 2015, 12:31 am

It would definitely fit the business category.

Dead Words

August 27, 2015, 12:32 am

It wouldn't make sense to released the "business focused" device first. The consumer flagships will be the launch devices for Windows 10 Mobile, with the Surface device coming later on.
And of course this device would run Windows 10 Mobile.

Tom

August 27, 2015, 9:00 am

Agree, either the padfone or the Motorola Atrix netbook idea would be great for 99% of the uses that people have for their tablets/laptops

http://www.amazon.de/Motorola-...

rtcinema

August 28, 2015, 2:43 am

Like the article points out, all these rumors seem to overlook the fact that Intel Atom x3/5/7 chips can't support camera's larger than 13MP. So if you expect a 21MP PureView camera, it won't be with the Intel chip. It's a simple fact.

That being said, I wouldn't be surprised to see a Surface Phone with a less than stellar camera. It would be sold on the support and business features rather than a "flagship" phone. After all, Microsoft has said before they plan to launch 3 levels of phones. Budget, Premium, and Business. Lumia 6xx, 7xx, 8xx all fall under "budget". Lumia 950/950 XL would be premium. A Surface line of phones could easily find it's way into a "business" line, but don't expect "flagship" specs.

Prem Desai

August 29, 2015, 6:09 pm

Fair point. Still prefer plastic though. Not the cheap recycled rubbish. Modern plastic materials are the way forward. Hey, plastic is even good enough for F1 cars.

Dead Words

August 29, 2015, 6:11 pm

The upcoming Lumia flagships from Microsoft will both be crafted out of high quality polycarbonate.

Paul

October 5, 2015, 11:43 am

Yes, but it can still have all those features and a more powerful Intel CPU that actually supports them.

Paul

October 5, 2015, 11:43 am

That screen is just fucking huge. It doesn't fit in my hand.

Paul

October 5, 2015, 11:45 am

Ummm no it wouldn't. Two words: Microsoft Office.

Dead Words

October 5, 2015, 2:24 pm

There's also the Lumia 950 which has the same specs except a Snapdragon 808 and a 5.2 inch screen.

rtcinema

October 5, 2015, 3:07 pm

Except, to my knowledge, there isn't a single Intel chip on the market with built in support for over a 13MP camera. Maybe the next generation x3 SoFIA chip might, but we won't know for sure until it launches mid-2016. In any case, the rumor can't be true unless Intel lied about the new Atom x3 SoFIA timeline because it's currently no where near ready for OEM testing.

Paul

October 6, 2015, 1:01 pm

Oh, ok... This might sound dumb, but there are "universal" connectors in Intel's architecture, such as USB and PCI... Those have enough bandwidth to support a monster camera, I'm sure :)
(not really sure if PCI is even remotely possible on smartphones? But USB3 is being implemented everywhere...)

rtcinema

October 6, 2015, 1:39 pm

Mobile SOCs have large dedicated image processing built in specifically to support high resolution cameras. Including a camera larger than the SOC was designed to handle requires additional hardware. There isn't always space to add additional hardware for something that many in the business world would view as trivial such as a large MP camera.

Nokia has added a dedicated image processor before, it's how they were able to make a 41MP phone. However, the Lumia 950 series is a consumer phone so it's unlikely Microsoft would release a nearly identical spec'd x86 version that's targeted at the same crowd. It would just end up confusing potential Windows phone users.

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