Nokia just announced its 808 PureView. Lets look at what Nokia can do, if the CEO steps aside and stops meddling in matters he clearly does not understand. So a quick overview? The biggest camera sensor ever seen in a phone - 41 megapixels! Not 4.1 megapixels, yes, 41 megapixels. If you thought the HTC Titan 2 was a huge camera sensor at 16 mp, this 808 PureView maxes that not by the usual 20% to 33% better (the usual jump in camera resolutions by generation) or not 50% better, not even 100% more, but truly 2.5x bigger sensor. MASSIVE jump. So big, it will take years for rivals to match this.
And the rest of the specs. Total top-of-the-line across the board. 4 inch capacitive touch screen, WiFi, Bluetooth 3, second camera, FM radio, FM transmitter, TV out, HDMI out, NFC, and obviously all specs that are normal now for top phones from WiFi to GPS. The specs are on par or better than most top phones on the market and by most specs will leave for example the iPhone 4S in the dust. And thats before we look at the piece de resistance, the camera...
Xenon flash (that is 'real' flash for the non-camera geeks). Full HD video recording resolution (??? Yes!) ie - get this - 1920x1080 !!!! and that is at 30 fps. Carl Zeiss optics (of course). Focal length of 35mm equivalent, F stop 2.4. Autofocus and manual focus. And macro mode to 15cm close-ups. ..and the 808 PureView has tripod support as well. This is instantly the cameraphone every single professional journalist and photographer and media person craves.
And what is this superduper smartphone then running on? That 'our future smartphones will all work on Windows Phone' operating system from Microsoft? No. Oh, then it must be that 'other' new OS that Nokia developed with Intel last year, called MeeGo, for which it produced two superphones already, the N9 and the N950. This must be the third MeeGo phone. No.
This 808 PureView runs on the 'burning platforms' obsolete Symbian. Yes. The specs are so incredible, Windows Phone cannot be used to run this phone. Only Symbian supports all these features on this phone. Now who was that lunatic CEO who said last year in February that Symbian was so totally dead as an OS, that Nokia staff had to jump off the oil rig to near-certain death? Ah, yes. That Symbian. And its newest edition, called Symbian Belle.
ALL NEW PHONES LOOK GOOD WHEN REVEALED
Is it the ultimate phone? We don't know yet, because you never know when a phone is announced, if it then has unforseen problems or design flaws. But on paper, this is a hot smartphone. Is it the best phone of the year? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the best cameraphone. For sure. This 808 PureView did not just move the goal-posts of the cameraphone game, it invented a whole new game where it is the only player. This is what Nokia can do, when the meddling CEO steps aside, and just lets Nokia be Nokia. This is the level of market brilliance and excellence, that we used to expect from Nokia back in the years of Ollila's leadership (before his successor CEO, Kallasvuo the accountant, came in and made moronic decisions to cut corners and savings at the cost of the brand and leadership).
Is it ugly. Yeah, I'll grant you its not pretty. If you want a pretty phone, buy an iPhone. But this is such a monster leap in the camera side of mobile phones, that even if it is severely delayed like the N8 was, for example, it will still set a whole new standard to cameraphones when it ships. And one thing Elop has been doing at Nokia, clearly, is getting Nokia to deliver promised phones more on time, so we might see the 808 PureView selling this summer - just in time to run against the iPhone 5, which will look quite modest (in its specs) when compared to this monster. I mean, the 'big' step for Apple that people hope for is NFC, something Nokia has had in its previous flagship already in the N9 last year.
BUT CAMERAS DO NOT MATTER
Do cameras matter. Haha, funny you'd ask. The camera ranks among the top criteria in buying smartphones - ahead of the OS or the apps in fact. When I did my simplified smartphone segmentation model here on this blog two years ago, I found that 6% of consumer smartphones are purchased based on a premium camera ability as the most important criterion (for those of us who really love our cameraphones or video recording phones). And I stressed back then, that this segment was owned by the top cameraphones of the Nokia N-Series. How big is this segment overall this year? About 39 million premium cameraphones. The 808 PureView will not win all of that, as its price will be a barrier, but it will be the aspirational phone for those 39 million customers, for literally every one of them. They will all test an 808 PureView in a store and will do their darndest to try to justify buying it, regardless of what is the price. If Nokia is smart, they will rush an 707 PureView onto the market well before Christmas, as a lower cost little-brother and Nokia may well return to be the cameraphone master as it was up to the N8 a year ago and take most of this market segment.
WHAT TOMI WOULD DO
But lets be clear. I argued time and again on this blog and elsewhere, that the madness for giant handset maker Nokia was to abandon its competitive edges, and try to do a perfect copy of the iPhone. That was as mad as Ford abandoning its vast range of cars, and only do supercars to compete with Ferrari. A year ago on this blog, after I had been quite critical of Nokia the past few years of cutting corners and pursuing its 'iPhone envy' strategy, I was asked by my readers, what would I do. This was soon after Elop had taken over - and I was early on very supportive of Elop's early steps - I did write a long blog about how to fix Nokia. I have explained very clearly on this blog that the problem was not the operating system - that Nokia had a strong strategy for its OS migration - which was of course moving away from Symbian to the MeeGo OS - and that moving to some other OS like Windows Phone would be suicidal. I was very clear that Nokia's true problems were those of execution and of marketing. Of very basic business issues such as providing products that customers want and love. Like Nokia was early in the 1990s but lost its way under Kallasvuo's crazy cost-cutting days towards the end of the decade.
In that blog I made it very clear, that one of the competitive advantages that Nokia had always held, a true Nokia strong-hold was the cameraphone segment of premium smartphones, most epitomized by the N93, the smartphone that redefined what a cameraphone could be, and for years being the standard-setter for supremacy in cameraphones (US consumers never got to buy the N93, like they missed out on most of Nokia's true flagship phones). I was very clear, a year ago just before the notorious Burning Platforms memo, that what Nokia needed was a flagship smartphone that was an anti-iPhone, something completely different, and one of Nokia's such superphone legacies was the cameraphone side. And I urged Nokia to produce the best cameraphone ever made, with Xenon flash etc etc etc. This 808 PureView is EXACTLY what I begged Nokia to do a year ago. It is a shame it took idiot CEO Elop a year of trying every other stupid path of futility, before he finally did stumble upon this path. So do I agree with this phone, its form factor, its target market, its specs? You betcha! This is EXACTLY what Nokia need.....ed last year.
And better yet. I have been very critical on this blog about recent Nokia top phones, which have been abandoning various Nokia staples and strongholds and competitive advantages. It started with Kallasvuo's time and was made far worse under Elop. So look at the Lumia 800 and what 'faults' I have catalogued with Nokia's supposed flagship for Christmas 2011? On a vast array of abilities and specs, Nokia has moved backwards from what it once offered - every one of those backward steps will produce disappointment in loyal returning Nokia consumers. And please remember, some of these problems were introduced already before but are also on the Lumia 800. Problems like what? No removable battery! (Nokia phones often sold in countries where electricity supply is not regular and steady; plus premium phones used by busy execs who may run long days and travel and need extra batteries, not to mention Nokia phones being the brand most sold in second hand market - where a fresh battery is needed). No more microSD memory slot! No forward-facing second camera! No Xenon flash, only LED flash. The camera resolution was literally a step back where previous flagship had 12 mp, with the Lumia 800 it was down to 8 mp. No more NFC. No TV-out. No HDMI out. The stupid fixed-focus lens that does not do close-ups. No FM radio transmitter, etc etc etc
This 808 PureView fixes ALL of those issues I have cried about on this blog. Yes, it finally restores the user-removable battery. Yes, the microSD is back! The Xenon flash is back. The flagship has the biggest camera sensor Nokia has ever produced (and wow what a leap). TV out is back. HDMI out is back. FM transmitter is back. The camera - ah, thank you Nokia for seeing the reason - is back to having autofocus and macro mode. We need to scan our receipts and documents and all sorts of little slips of paper etc that we now store on our phones. Thank you! Yes, this one smartphone fixes essentially every problem I have complained about on this blog, about why Nokia has lost its way and is pissing off its customers. The only minor qualm I would have is that the screen resolution does not do justice to this phone.
If this 808 PureView is the sign of what all future Nokia smartphones will be like, it is good news indeed. And if I had been in charge of Nokia's design, this is just about exactly what I would have wanted Nokia engineers to produce. This is as near perfection to my mind as I can imagine - and bearing in mind, I am an ex Camera buff who once was a serious amateur photo-journalist with countless printed photographs including newspaper cover shots etc. So I am obviously in that camera-geek category segment for whom this 808 PureView is targeted.
A CONFUSED COMPANY
Will this 808 PureView help Nokia's Lumia and Microsoft strategy? No. The tech in the 808 PureView is not even compatible with Windows Phone as it exists today. Maybe some day. But no. Symbian is far ahead of WP on the tech specs to enable this kind of uber-device. Will the 808 PureView restore Nokia's leadership image - it could have if moron CEO Stephen Elop didn't first issue his infamous Burning Platforms memo that wiped out billions of Nokia revenues and indeed billions of Nokia profits. But now, after all the damage done by Elop last year, this will be something that came just too late.
But for those who thought Nokia's best offer was the Lumia 900 was somehow the best Nokia could do these days, clearly not. The Lumia 900 is a sorry excuse for a flagship phone. This 808 PureView is far closer to what Nokia can do. And think about this. Last year Elop torpedoed and sunk any resources in and around Symbian, and Nokia's past path, and Nokia's exceptional and unique competitive advantages. He attempted to mold Nokia into the form of Apple, copying the iPhone with the lame Windows Phone OS. This 808 PureView is the absolute opposite of that. This is clearly the 'anti-iPhone' - a smartphone that excels in superb technology, while not attempting to be the coolest-looking show-off fashion phone.
If Elop had not caused unprecedented chaos at Nokia last year, and instead had let Nokia be Nokia, we would have had something like this 808 PureView for Christmas 2011 sales, maybe not 41mp but looking what Nokia managed in 2010 with the N8, surely we'd have had something like 16 or 20 megapixels - and Xenon flash etc etc etc - for Q4 (running Symbian obviously) and Nokia would have had a big Christmas sales quarter and all tech magazines would have featured the top-of-the-line Nokia on their covers. This 808 PureView yes, on Symbian, could have been a hit phone in the USA even. If Elop is able to land deals for the truly pedestrian Lumia 710 and the (boring) Lumia 900 at US carriers, imagine the excitement they could have had with this 808 PureView.
But yes, congratulations Nokia! This is what we all expected of you. Not those rubbish toys under the Lumia brand that are moving Nokia years back in time and treat Nokia customers like fools. (and that only managed 600,000 total sales in Q4 of last year, when even the N9 alone running MeeGo outsold all Lumia phones by Nokia by 3 to 1) This 808 PureView is a tour de force, showing what Nokia can do if the CEO steps aside and simply lets Nokia be Nokia. This 808 PureView has re-set the standard for all cameraphones and will be the standard for years to come (until eclipsed by an even more astonishing Nokia uberphone)