In the fight for its life, Nokia pins hopes on Lumia 920

Nokia (s nok), in the biggest fight for its survival, unveiled the Lumia 920, which will be among the first smartphones to run Microsoft’s(s msft) latest mobile OS Windows Phone 8.

The device represents a pivotal moment for Nokia, which has seen its smartphone share dwindle in recent years in the face of increasing Android (s goog) and iPhone (s aapl) sales. And it’s a critical launch for Microsoft, which needs to find some momentum for its two-year-old mobile platform.

Nokia Lumia 920, Windows Phone 8The Lumia 920 will be the flagship for Nokia with its 4.5-inch HD display, 1.5 GHz Snapdragon(s qcom) dual-core processor, NFC, 32 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM. It will sport an 8.7-megapixel camera with Nokia’s PureView technology, a melding of sensors, processing and optics, that is designed to create superior pictures. And it will boast wireless charging, allowing people to place their phone on a charging pad without having to plug it in. The phone, like its predecessor the Lumia 900, comes in an array of colors. The availability and pricing of the 920 was not announced but the sales will begin sometime in the fourth quarter.

The PureView technology allows 5-10 times in more light for pictures and uses advanced stabilization — with a floating lens — to ensure better pictures and video, especially in low light. The Lumia 920 also sports an augmented reality feature with Nokia CityLens, which lets you point your camera at any city block and see the names of shops and restaurants on screen. Nokia Maps will also get augmented reality so users can switch between maps and AR views.

And the new device will also offer a PureMotion HD+ display, which Nokia touts as better than HD resolution with a fast refresh rate and blur-free scrolling. The screen also adjusts for sunlight to ensure bright images in day time.

Stephen Elop, Nokia

The Lumia 920 holds a 2,000 mAh battery and works with a Fatboy wireless charging pillow, compatible with the Qi wireless charging standard. Virgin Atlantic and Coffee Bean and Tealeaf will offer wireless charging pads in select locations.

Nokia, which currently dominates Windows Phone sales, is now facing more competition, chiefly from Samsung, which introduced its first Windows Phone 8 device last week, the Ativ S. The Ativ S, which is similar to the Samsung Galaxy S III, gives Microsoft another headline device to push holiday sales, but it will mean more competition for Nokia’s line-up of phones. HTC and Huawei are also preparing Windows Phone 8 devices.

This coming holiday season is the best chance yet for Microsoft to get back in the smartphone game with Windows Phone 8. The smartphone platform will share a common core of code with Windows 8 on desktops and laptops, making it easier for developers to create one app for both platforms. Despite being on the market for almost two years, Windows Phone captured just 3.5 percent of shipments in the second quarter of 2012, according to IDC.

Nokia Lumia 920, Windows Phone 8With the next iPhone expected to debut next week and the Android onslaught showing no signs of slowing down, Windows Phone 8 will have its work cut out for it. The latest devices will need to raise the bar over what the iPhone and Android offers. The camera technology might lure some in and the wireless charging features are interesting though the Palm Pre also had a similar ability and had little to show for it.

It’s hard to say if the Lumia devices will warrant more of a look from smartphone users, who are often conditioned to think of the iPhone and Android as their main choices. Some of the success will depend on Microsoft getting developers to adopt Windows Phone 8 and build more apps. The platform has more than 100,000 apps but it trails both iOS and Android by a wide margin.