Lumia Denim Explained

Microsoft has released a major new firmware update for its Lumia smart phones. Dubbed Lumia Denim, this update will be delivered in tandem with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 and includes an improved Glance screen and, for some newer Lumia devices, dramatic camera improvements. Here’s what you can expect from Lumia Denim, and when you can expect to get it.

On that note, let’s talk timing first since this is such a sensitive topic.

As you may recall, Microsoft finalized Windows Phone 8.1 in April 2014, and Microsoft/Nokia (remember, Microsoft bought Nokia’s devices and services product lines that month) shipped the Lumia Cyan firmware update alongside that release. So when wireless carriers rolled out Windows Phone 8.1 throughout 2014, Lumia users also got Cyan too.

Windows Intelligence In Your Inbox

Sign up for our new free newsletter to get three time-saving tips each Friday — and get free copies of Paul Thurrott's Windows 11 and Windows 10 Field Guides (normally $9.99) as a special welcome gift!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Then, in August 2014, Microsoft finalized Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 (sometimes called Windows Phone 8.1.1) and, for the Lumia handsets, the Lumia Denim firmware update. As of this writing, Denim is only rolling out to a limited number of devices in selected markets, according to Microsoft. But a wider rollout of Denim to all Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to begin this month following wireless carrier testing and approvals.

If you’re a Windows Phone user, you know that that last bit—”wireless carrier testing and approvals”—is the sticking point. For example, here in the United States, Verizon Wireless has yet to deliver Windows Phone 8.1 and Cyan to the Lumia Icon, which is causing issues with users of what still is one of the best Windows Phone handsets ever made. They’ve pledged to deliver these updates this month—don’t hold your breath—but even if they do, one has to wonder when they’ll see Windows Phone 8.1 Update and Denim. 2016? Never?

You can check to see where you are in the queue on Microsoft’s Mobile Devices web site. Looking at the United States as an example, you can see that only two phones have been updated to Denim—ironically, both on Verizon—but that neither is a high-end or recent device. And some phones are still stuck on Lumia Amber, which was the original Lumia firmware update for Windows Phone 8.


For a partial workaround to this carrier recalcitrance, you can use Microsoft’s Preview for Developers app, which runs on Windows Phone 8 or newer. This app lets you bypass your wireless carrier and get updated to the latest Windows Phone version, but it doesn’t provide the Lumia firmware updates. So if you were to use this app to upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 on, say, a Lumia Icon, you would still be stuck at the Lumia Black firmware level (which predates Cyan). It’s better than nothing. (And I’ll write more about the Preview for Developers app soon, as it has a single gotcha for prospective users.)

Also, some phones are already shipping with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 and Denim, though my understanding is that some of these will also be updated to newer versions of each over time. The Lumia 535, 735, and 830 all ship with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 and Denim, for example. As is often the case with digital devices, the best way to get the latest software revision is to get a new device.

If you’re willing to wait for Denim, here’s what you can expect.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. First, don’t forget that Denim ships alongside the latest version of the Windows Phone OS, which includes a ton of useful new features including the Cortana digital personal assistant with “Hey, Cortana” functionality, live folders, a faster and bandwidth-friendly update to Internet Explorer, consumer VPN, and more. I’ll be writing about specific Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 features soon.

Live folders
Live folders

Glance. Lumia users will tell you that the Glance screen functionality on their handsets is among their favorite features, and with Denim this feature is improved in a variety of ways. Now, you can show your lock screen image on Glance and display fitness and other health-related information from the MSN Health and Fitness app. (Glance requires a Lumia 1520, Lumia 1320, Lumia 1020, Lumia 928, Lumia 925, Lumia 920 or Lumia 830 handset).


Camera improvements. If you have a newer, high-end Lumia handset—Lumia Icon, Lumia 1520, Lumia 930 or Lumia 830—you will see major improvements to camera performance with Denim. And you will gain access to the Lumia Camera app—instead of the older Nokia Camera app—which adds new features like 4K-capable Moment Capture and Rich Capture.


Here’s a short Microsoft video showing off Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 and Lumia Denim features. I think you’ll agree these updates are worth the wait. The only question is how long that wait will be.

Tagged with

Share post

Please check our Community Guidelines before commenting

Conversation 12 comments

  • Sebastian Oliva

    17 January, 2015 - 5:30 am

    Paaaaul you’re so silly, WP8.1 wasn’t finished in April 2015, it was 2014 you rascal.

  • Trevor Lawrence

    17 January, 2015 - 6:37 am

    There’s a couple of references to 2015 that ought to be 2014

  • Alex Haddock

    17 January, 2015 - 8:04 am

    Hi Paul, I’d love to know why Country Variants with no carrier involvement are so slow to get updates. One would hope for a signature type experience and day one availability but sadly it doesn’t seem to be the case. Over here in the UK it seems to be one of the carriers (Vodafone) being first! I wonder if you could raise it with your contacts? Congratulations on the site btw!

    • PMM

      17 January, 2015 - 9:41 am

      Country variants need total carriers approval… Locked phones just need that particular carrier to approve the OS update… That’s why Vodafone’s units get them first…

      • Alex Haddock

        17 January, 2015 - 10:37 am

        Urgh, sadly makes sense. Hopefully they will consider adding future firmware to the Insider programme for 10. Cheers

  • janper

    17 January, 2015 - 10:10 am

    Where’s this denim-like background from?

    • Vincent Allen

      17 January, 2015 - 3:04 pm

      1) Aim Phone at jeans
      2) Long press Camera button
      3) Take photo in a way that suits you for light and focus
      4) Open SETTINGS navigate to START+THEME
      5) Click on Choose Photo navigate to Camera Roll
      6) Select photo of denim and scale to fit.

  • Malay Agarwal

    17 January, 2015 - 12:14 pm

    So my Lumia 730 will not get Lumia Camera 5.0?

  • Funderful

    17 January, 2015 - 1:12 pm

    Has Microsoft explained, anywhere at any time, what their policy is for deciding which devices get stuff like the new camera features?

    It can’t be down to technical reasons, there’s no technical difference that would enable the 830 to do HDR photos but not the 735 since if anything said processing would be more difficult for the identical SoC to do with the former handset’s larger image files.
    I would have at least thought that flagship devices that are only a half generation old, like the 925, would still be properly supported and get what features it can technically handle but apparently that is expecting too much.
    Is the line up so fractured that Microsoft can’t support the many chipsets they’ve shipped over the past year or two? I wouldn’t think so since they’re still very much limiting which chipsets they use.

    The only thing I can guess at is that they’re only really bothering with current flagship devices, except of course they’re also updating the 830 which is, as I’ve pointed out already, practically identical to the 73x (well, except for how it was marketed in its launch press release I guess, so maybe that’s what counts?).

    I’d very much appreciate if Microsoft stepped it up when it came to supporting a broader selection of devices than just current flagship ones, especially since the devices are all running on a limited selection of chipsets anyways and perhaps most importantly because the platform could really use an edge of the competition and this is an area in which only Apple seems to be doing OK and even they have room for improvement.

  • Prabu

    17 January, 2015 - 1:26 pm

    Paul, glad to join you on the new site. I have an international version of 930 just like you and on ATT. Have you received Denim yet?

  • Cave Man

    17 January, 2015 - 2:00 pm

    no new flagship, no windows 10 update, no denim rollout; a WEAK attempt at a refresh [only for a few models (yaaa! puke green and blingtastic gold wow)] and a slew of: underpowered, under-featured, emerging market handsets [that are a hassle to get here StateSide anyway]. Why we all haven’t jumped ship or just pick up bottom barrel Nokia 215s… no explanation

    • Alex Haddock

      17 January, 2015 - 3:15 pm

      But we’ll find out on 10 next week no? Really can’t see anything massively compelling about the latest phone hardware that makes me feel my 1520 and 930 are underpowered. I’d like to hear some confirmation of new phones coming but happy to hold out till Windows 10 launch if that means the very latest SoC. Snapdragon 810 only just about to ship and looks like it will probably need a quick revision. If they’d launched something high end in the last couple of months it would have been almost immediately behind in the specs race. Think I’m more glass half full than you on this one 🙂

Windows Intelligence In Your Inbox

Sign up for our new free newsletter to get three time-saving tips each Friday

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Thurrott © 2023 Thurrott LLC