Happy Valentine's Day, TP Friends!

Last Tuesday, my friend Frank Schuenguel - one of the biggest smartphone enthusiasts I know - allowed me to play with a few of his handsets over coffee. He has several interesting pieces that have yet to see official release in the country and one of which was the svelte Nokia Lumia 820. (Thanks again, Frank! You're the best!)

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As I've earlier shared in TechPinas, Nokia Lumia 820 offers an opportunity for budget-conscious consumers - including students and young professionals - to switch to a full-featured Windows Phone by the Finnish company without having to break the bank. Although lacking the PureView imaging capabilities and the monoblock polycarbonate shell of its more expensive sibling, the flagship release Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 820 nonetheless has almost the same innards - including the 1.5GHz Dual Core Snapdragon S4 processor running Windows Phone 8 operating system and 1 GB of RAM for efficient multitasking - and a laudable set of features like LTE support, a battery that can wirelessly charged, a powerful 8 MegaPixel with Carl Zeiss optics, and a Full HD 1080p video recorder.

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Apart from the powerful multimedia capabilities and location services that only Nokia can provide, the highlight of this device would have to be its WP8 OS, which delivers a slew of fresh features that current iOS and Android users might want to check out. Resizable Live Tiles dynamically show application activities and updates direct on the Start Screen. People Hub, on the other hand, actively gathers contact information from various social networks and multiple address books making it convenient for the user to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. From the Me tile, you can check in to their current location, post a status update, send messages, and be notified what's happening across your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts. Of course, users also get Microsoft Office, 7GB of SkyDrive cloud storage, Xbox Live, and safer and faster web-browsing via the new Internet Explorer 10.

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The phone looks great in press shots but let me tell you, it's a lot more handsome in person. The edge-to-edge glass in front complemented by the rounded back case really give the handset that sleek and elegant air that's quite rare in smartphones - regardless of price category - these days. Holding it, you get that reassuring heft and solid feel in the hand that's almost unique to Nokia smartphones. I know the shell is made of plastic but when you touch it, you'd actually think it's made of ceramic. Nokia has always been the most respected handset company when it comes to hardware and I think Nokia Lumia 820 is another testament to that.

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I've always said that if there's any platform that can match if not beat iOS when it comes to smoothness of touch response and beauty of transitions from one page to another, it's definitely Windows Phone. And WP8 brings all the strengths of Microsoft's mobile platform to a whole new level not just with improved visuals but also with faster, more powerful all-around performance. To be honest, the number of games and applications currently available in Windows Marketplace isn't quite on the level of Google Play Store and App Store just yet but I'm confident that the more users embrace or try out WP for all of its many charms, the faster its Marketplace's growth will be.

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It's funny and amazing at the same time that just a day after I played with Frank's phone, Nokia Philippines made a formal announcement via its Facebook page about Nokia Lumia 820's SRP and release date locally.

Perhaps as a Valentine's Day present for all Nokianatics in the Philippines, Nokia today officially makes Nokia Lumia 820 available nationwide via select stores and retailers. The official suggested retail price is just Php 18,990 and you get several color options, namely, White, Yellow, Black, and - the color of the month - Red.