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41-Megapixel PureView Leaves Nokia's Smartphone Strategy Muddy

By Ed Sutherland
Feb 27, 2012 1:38 PM PT

Nokia, battered by Apple's iPhone and Google's Android operating system, Monday introduced the 808 PureView. The new smartphone, which boasts a 41-megapixel digital camera, left some observers stunned and others just yawning.

41-Megapixel PureView Leaves Nokia's Smartphone Strategy Muddy

Unveiled during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the 808 PureView costs 450 euros (US$602) before carrier subsidy. Available soon, the phone is for "folks who take and share beautiful pictures," spokesperson Karen Lachtansky told TechNewsWorld.

'Just A PR Stunt'

Nokia 808 PureView
Nokia 808 PureView
The new Nokia device is drawing a mixed response.

"It's just a PR stunt by Nokia to retain mindshare," said Neil Shah, a wireless devices strategies analyst with Strategy Analytics.

The handset will only attract a "niche market for commercial photographers," he told TechNewsWorld.

Still, the camera technology is impressive, Shah acknowledged. Although a 41-megapixel image would usually create huge files, Nokia's PureView software compresses the image to the size of a 5-megapixel digital photo. In addition, because of its ability to snap 41-megapixel images, the 808 PureView offers photographers sharp, loss-less digital zooms.

Other features of note are the 808 PureView's ability to record full HD video and "CD-like" hi-fi audio using the camera's Dolby 5.1 sensor, Shah said.

A 'Leap Forward'

The device is "quite a leap forward in camera technology," said Ovum analyst Nick Dillon, who got a sneak-peak at the 808 PureView last week, prior to Nokia publicly unveiling the phone.

However, Dillon was hard-pressed to list any other PureView feature that stands out.

Because of the phone's imaging, audio and video requirements, it doesn't sport the traditional sleek-and-slim cellphone footprint.

"The physical size is a bulge -- not as slim as others," Dillon told TechNewsWorld.

Although Nokia CEO Stephen Elop told reporters at the Mobile World Congress the 808 PureView represents "the actions necessary" to improve the company's ability to compete, Dillon disagreed with that assessment.

"I don't see it as a threat to the iPhone or high-end Android phones," he said. Despite the headlines, the 41-megapixel product is "not going to be a top seller."

Symbian - Seriously?

What is most eagerly awaited in Nokia's handset lineup is a Windows Phone alternative to the iPhone and low-cost Android handsets, both Shah and Dillon. Why Nokia introduced the PureView with Symbian -- the operating system it is phasing out in favor of the Windows Phone platform -- has them mystified.

"This is a technology preview," Dillon explained. "The question is how long it will take to get the technology on Windows Phone."

Nokia's Lumia family of Windows Phone devices should appear with AT&T in March, he said.

Nokia won't say when the 808 PureView will appear as a Windows Phone handset, but that transition is "expected," according to company spokesperson Lachtansky.

The 808 PureView is not being viewed as a shot across the bow in what Elop has termed a "war of ecosystems." In spite of its impressive camera technology, it doesn't appear to be what the markets were expecting.

Nokia's shares dropped 7 percent early Monday as investors received news of the offering. The "bulging" profile of the 808 PureView appears to be at odds with Apple's iconic minimalistic iPhone, and the price of the 41-megapixel camera phone can't match the low cost of many Android handsets, which are all the rage in developing countries.

The question for Nokia is what's next? The answer is not clear -- no matter how many megapixels are used to get the picture.

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