How to adapt to Lumia phones' hardware features

This article provides guidance and best practices for adapting your apps for the hardware features of Nokia Lumia phones running Windows Phone 8, especially focusing on the several hardware sensors that are sometimes not available on low end models. Besides providing techniques on how to deal with the missing features and varying hardware characteristics, to make sure that your apps will run smoothly across all the devices of the Windows Phone 8 portfolio, some UX aspects are also discussed.

Though focus is on Lumia Windows Phone 8 device portfolio, a few references are made to Lumia Windows Phone 7 devices as well.


The Nokia Lumia 520 does not have all of the hardware features found on most Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices, including: front camera, flash for main/back camera, gyroscope, magnetometer (compass), and NFC. As a result, there are some apps which need to replace or drop functionality, and others which cannot function at all.

When a particular sensor is essential to the operation of the application, you can opt-out (prevent installation of the app on the device) by specifying the sensor's hardware ID as a requirement in the app's manifest file. If the app can still function without the sensor, then you can make run-time checks to disable (hide) the functionality on less capable devices, or even better, provide some alternative functionality.

Note: Do not disqualify your app from devices with lack of certain hardware feature unless it is truly essential to the operation of the app; this would considerably limit the distribution of your app for no real reason. Rather consider replacing or disabling functionality from your app on such devices. However, if your app truly requires a feature to function properly, you should prevent your app from being available on the Windows Phone store for the devices lacking it.

Difference on Lumia Windows Phone 8 hardware capabilities

Sensor HW requirement Lumia 520 / 521 Lumia 620 / 720 Lumia 810 / 822 Lumia 920 / 920T / 925 / 928
Accelerometer   Yes Yes Yes Yes
Flash for the Main/Back Camera   No Yes Yes Yes
Front Camera ID_REQ_FRONT_CAMERA No Yes Yes Yes
GPS   Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gyroscope ID_REQ_GYROSCOPE No No Yes Yes
Main/Back Camera   Yes Yes Yes Yes
Magnetometer (Compass) ID_REQ_MAGNETOMETER No Yes Yes Yes
SD Card slot   Yes Yes Yes No

Though most apps will run just fine on Nokia Lumia 520, here are some examples of typical use cases that would be challenging or impossible:

  • Video telephony (without the front camera).
  • Mirror application (without the front camera).
  • Augmented reality application where the app needs to know the phone direction (North, South, East, West).
  • Writing or reading content to/from an NFC tag.
  • Unlocking a game level using an NFC tag.

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Last updated 20 October 2013

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