Nokia Piles Eggs in Its Smartphone Camera Basket
One might argue that running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system is quite a differentiator in itself, but Nokia has been struggling for a way to distinguish its smartphones from a hardware perspective. Numerous rumors and leaks point to the unveiling on Thursday of a smartphone with a 41MP camera on board. It will no doubt be impressive -- but will it be enough?
Nokia is expected to bring its monster 41-megapixel camera sensor to its line of Windows Phone 8 handsets Thursday at its "Zoom Reinvented" event in New York City.
Nokia's 808 PureView technology has been in one of its Symbian phones for a while with little notice given to it, but the company apparently hopes that will change with the expected introduction of a new flagship WP8 handset, the Lumia 1020.
Although officially mum on the new handset -- Nokia spokesperson Nina Ratavaara told TechNewsWorld the company doesn't comment on rumors -- information has been leaking about the device like water from a colander.
Pictures taken using the handset reportedly were posted online this week by Microsoft Windows Phone Manager Joe Belfiore.
The phone's 41MP camera is rumored to have a maximum aperture of f/2.2 with image stabilization to compensate for any camera shake when snapping shots.
It appears the camera's 41MP sensor will allow users to take two shots simultaneously: a 5MP shot for uploading to low-resolution venues on the Web and a 32MP one for high-resolution purposes, like photo books.
Other features attributed to the phone include a 4.5-inch display, two gigabytes of RAM, 32GB of online storage (there doesn't seem to be a slot for memory card storage), support for NFC and wireless charging.
By far, the biggest feature in the new flagship handset will be its camera, which will distinguish the smartphone in the market. However, that alone isn't likely to help Nokia grab share from market dominators Samsung and Apple.
Those two companies, according to research firm IDC, corralled 92.3 percent of smartphone shipments in this year's first quarter, compared to 3.2 percent for Nokia.
Nokia should get a tip of the hat for trying to differentiate its premium offering from those of its competitors, observed Carl Howe, research director for the Yankee Group.
The ability to take photos with cellphones and share them through Instagram, Tumblr and the like is important -- but that's not a game won with megapixels.
"You win that with apps and ease of use," Howe told TechNewsWorld.
What's more, there's a limit to the value megapixels give to a photographer.
"When you try to load a 40-megapixel photo to Facebook, it will have most of its resolution removed, but it will consume a lot of airtime getting it there," Howe explained.
"I'm not sure the investment is going into the right place, but we'll have to see," he said.
By including such a powerful camera in a handset, Nokia raises the question of whether it is selling a camera with a good smartphone or a smartphone with a good camera.
"Whenever you have a problem answering a question like that, it's a straddle," Howe noted. "Straddles tend not to work real well."
Looking for an Edge
Adding a 41MP camera to a smartphone will distinguish it from others in the market, but it won't be a game changer for Nokia, contended Michael Morgan, a mobile devices analyst with ABI Research.
"It gives Nokia a competitive feature," he told TechNewsWorld, "but it's not going to steal consumers from other devices."
Nevertheless, Nokia is trying to stand out from its competitors in a market where that's not easy to do.
Hardware differentiation in the smartphone market is limited to a few areas -- display, audio, processor, memory and camera, explained Charles Golvin, a principal analyst with Forrester Research.
"Given those limited hardware venues, Nokia is trying to put its best put forward and demonstrate that it has created something far superior to what their competitors have," he told TechNewsWorld.
Is Microsoft the Culprit?
A superior camera in a smartphone likely will not turn Nokia's fortunes around.
"Nokia is struggling to reclaim its former presence in the smartphone market," Golvin said. "Nokia has yet to turn the corner."
In its attempt to turn that corner, Microsoft hasn't been as helpful as it could be, asserted Ken Dulaney, vice president for mobile computing at Gartner.
"Nokia has done all it needs to do to produce a great product. The problem remains with Microsoft," he told TechNewsWorld.
"Microsoft is focused on the consumer -- It should be more focused on the enterprise," Dulaney suggested.
"Microsoft has good bones on the skeleton, but it's got to fill it out," he added. "It's got to do much better advertising."