Nokia has finally introduced its flagship device – the 808 PureView – with a host of imaging technologies. Several Symbian platform loyalists as well as photography enthusiasts were looking forward to this handset since the first hints were laid last year. The Nokia 808 PureView is the true successor and quite a long jump from the camera-centric Nokia N8. The Nokia N8 with 12-megapixel imaging sensor has been ruling the camera phone segment ever since its launch in 2010.
Seldom can a handset maker replicate the success of its past devices without causing much disruption. With the changing strategy of Nokia to accommodate Windows Phone devices in the smartphones category, the future of the Symbian platform based devices did not appear as rosy as it could be. However, with the announcement of rolling out significant updates, Nokia promised to support the Symbian platform till 2016 at least.
Nokia 808 PureView sports a big 41-megapixel image sensor fixed at its back and thereby causes fairly visible protrusion. Apart from the 41-megapixel image sensor, Nokia’s Imaging Engineers have paid close attention to the optics and the flash. Now the result is in front of us.
With quad-core smartphones and voice-centric digital assistants going main stream, Nokia’s 808 PureView doesn’t come close to them. If you are not into the specification gimmicks, then here two major factors to seriously consider beforehand – Symbian^3 based Belle mobile OS and thick form factor with heavier profile. The latter is an important factor because number of handset makers have been introducing thinner and lighter with equally compelling hardware.
Hereby we present our account of the Nokia 808 PureView.
Design and display
In terms of design, Nokia 808 PureView hardly has anything fresh to flaunt. Sporting a candy-bar form factor, the one third of the phone is thicker at the top than rest of two third of the phone. The Nokia 808 PureView weights 169 grams and just about 14 mm thick. This phone is heavier and thicker than the average Google Android based smartphones available out in the market. Nokia has added curved corners and does not have any sharp edges anywhere on its body.
Nokia has used a 4-inch Amoled ClearBlack display which has been built using Corning Gorilla Glass technology for strength. Normally, one could expect an excellent quality of resolution and crisp visuals with this display. But Nokia has replicated the same resolution strategy it employed with Nokia N8 in 2010.
Yes, the 808 PureView features 360×640 pixel resolution and that is surprising – simply because all major smartphones offer 480×800 pixel resolution minimum. While 480×800 pixel resolution has become defacto standard for smartphones, the 808 PureView’s 360×640 resolution does not promise high resolution visuals. Apparently, one of the chief reasons of keeping the resolution lower was to accommodate several existing Symbian apps. At the bottom of the screen lies the button trio accommodated on a single, clickable bar. When the screen is inactive or the phone is switched off, it looks like a bigger version of the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music.
At the top of the phone rests the 3.5 mm audio port and micro HDMI port with a micro USB 2.0 port in the middle. The micro HDMI port has cap to protect the port from dust. Nokia has placed all the action buttons on the right side of the device – volume controller, screen lock and dedicated physical camera button. For high quality audio recording, the 808 PureView features the duo of sensitive microphones – one at the top and other at the bottom. These microphones use Nokia Rich Recording feature for capturing high quality sound by cancelling out ambient noise and distortion.
Battery protecting back cover is large and kind bit difficult to remove. This back cover has delicate parts that lock it to the phone and if placed wrong, it might break. The matte finish on the battery cover offers a good grip to the palm.
To conclude about the design, the Nokia 808 PureView does appear bulky but feels great in the hands.
The main attraction and the hoopla around the 808 PureView is the massive 41-megapixel image sensor used along with Carl Zeiss optics and Xenon Flash. While other handset markets try to offer camera phones that barely close in with the Nokia N8’s image quality, the company has taken a longer jump. Nokia has not merely placed a physical 41-megapixel image sensor for gimmick but also made several changes in the algorithms to the camera application. Even from the first hand experience of using the device, we can agree that the 808 PureView is at the top and untouchable camera phone.
Though the salesmen, friends, and half-informed influencers might go ga-ga over the 41-megapixel camera, you should get your facts right. The Nokia 808 PureView has 41-megapixel image sensor which is capable of clicking full resolution images at 38-megapixel or 34-megapixel resolution. This image sensor works closely with the five layers of Carl Zeiss optics made from glass to offer top quality of image output. The Nokia Imaging Engineers and Specialists who have worked on this image sensor and camera module indeed deserve accolades. Those interested in reading more about the image sensor, check out the official blogposts by Nokia in two parts – one and two.
Nokia has focused on the clarity of the images than get into competition with the Digital SLR cameras. With this camera phone, the company debuts its new PureView imaging technology that uses a pixel oversampling technique to deliver the clearest images with lowest possible noise in it. Basically, the imaging experts have used a smart algorithm that constructs one great pixel using eight good pixels from a high resolution and thereby creates a smaller resolution image but with far more clarity and least possible noise. For more details, you may refer to the PureView Technology whitepaper written by Nokia’s Imaging experts.
Nokia 808 PureView offers great clarity and natural colour in images when shot at the standard resolutions – 2 megapixel, 5 megapixel and 8 megapixel. The phone’s camera app carries an algorithm that offers a great quality of image at 5 megapixel which almost beats every other smartphone as well as point and shoot at same resolution. Even after the 100 per cent crop of a portion in a full 38-megapixel resolution image, it offers relatively lesser noise despite of the obvious grains. Thanks to the second generation Xenon Flash, you get ample amount of light in low-light conditions. Avoid using the Flash for close-ups with kids or pets for the heavy duty brightness may startle them.
Another important feature of the camera is the 3x lossless zoom has been incorporated but it does not upscale the image. In fact, the zoom makes it lossless by cropping that particular area on the image sensor. Nokia has also implemented the pixel oversampling technique in the video recording aspect as well. One can easily record great quality of 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second. Best part is that you can enjoy 4x zoom even while recording the video.
The zoom functionality can be used by simply doing a pinch gesture on the screen or you can swipe on the left corner of the screen from bottom to up while you are holding the phone on landscape mode. The video is recording with high quality of audio by using twin microphones and Nokia Rich Recording technology. The videos are so good that you will actually consider it taking to concerts to create your own bootlegs.
Best part of recording videos with this phone is the super quick focus as one can manually tap on the screen to shift the focus of the sensor. However, it is not as perfect as the continuous autofocus found in the Apple iPhone 4S. Surprisingly this focusing system was comparatively slow while taking still images. So we hope that upcoming updates might fix that and reduce the focus timings.
The camera app offers three basic modes – automatic, scenes and creative. Out of these three, the creative is the one that comes with several customisable settings such as resolution, aspect ratio, saturation, colour tones, colour modes, contrast, sharpness and quality. Automatic and scene modes are self explanatory.
The 808 PureView can be called the leader of the camera phones with the quality of imaging and videography options it offers.
Operating System and Applications
When it comes to the operating system on the Nokia 808 PureView, anyone would expect something ground-breaking or at least something never seen. Nokia has configured the new Belle Feature Pack 1 for the 808 PureView which is basically the same dragon-age Symbian code with under the hood tweaks and new features. The Symbian indeed looks better now than it did four years ago. But it continues to struggle for providing smartphone level performance. In all fairness, there is hardly any major improvement except visual in the operating system when it comes to real-world usage.
For all those who have been using the age-old Symbian device, Belle FP1 would be a fair update. However, those who already use Google Android or Apple iOS based devices; touch this device only if you have ample patience. The Symbian OS has been around for years but the actual development to make it more robust, faster and more responsive to touchscreen is still not even closer to perfection. Sure the 808 PureView comes preloaded with number of games and apps, but till how long will the user succumb to the 16-bit graphics?
When it comes to mobile web browser, the native mobile browser is sluggish and will remind you of first generation of touchscreen browser. The pinch-and-zoom gesture as well as text alignment is not as quick as that in even in the Android 2.3 Gingerbread or iOS 4.0 update. Clearly, you have to download and install third party mobile browser such as Opera Mini or Opera Mobile to enable basic mobile web browsing.
The apps load slowly despite of 512 MB memory when compared to other mobile platforms. Now only if the apps would make the best of the 128 MB video memory to speed up its performance. At times you may have to tap on same icon more than once to get the app started.
If Nokia means business with Belle on Symbian about 808 PureView, then software development needs a massive boost. Nokia should bring together the large community of developers who have been loyal to the platform since a decade along with the prominent developers working on other mobile platforms to creating a better looking high-resolution apps library.
Maps and Navigation
Nokia has stepped up in the Mapping and Navigation game with its exclusive mapping apps that offer even 3D Maps now. With the new set of mapping features, the Nokia 808 PureView is tritely a traveler’s delight. For starters, this phone comes with free voice-guided lifetime navigation and the built-in GPS receiver that takes hardly a minute or two to lock your location. To make the GPS lock faster, make sure you are in an open area such as ground, next to a sea or on your building’s terrace.
Nokia Maps offers offline maps of several countries including India. So if you want to download entire country’s map then it is a massive 520 MB download but totally worth since the phone offers offline navigation too. The voice-guided navigation is made available for about 70 countries and in over 40 different languages. Go to Maps settings and then choose whichever voice that you are comfortable with. Couple of apps such as Public Transport and Guides are certainly of help while travelling abroad or even in your own city. The Public Transport is limited only to 421 cities as of now and none of it includes a single city from India.
Thanks to the over 1 GHz clocked mobile processor, the maps app is slightly faster than the experience on the other Symbian Belle/Anna devices. There is a 3D View, Satellite and Terrain View in the maps and one can also use it for the pedestrian mode. Routing algorithms have been tweaked to chart out the route quickly and re-route even faster in case of any changes. Nokia is constantly improving its mapping apps and location based apps to provide great experience.
In terms of multimedia, this phone does it better than its two year old kin – Nokia N8. The built-in music player works smoothly in portrait and landscape mode. In fact, in the landscape mode it offers Apple’s Coverflow effect to the user for scanning through the album. By default, the phone comes with 16 GB on-board memory which is good enough for storing a great collection of song and couple of videos. When it comes to video formats, the Nokia 808 PureView supports a variety of audio formats out of which many you may not have heard of.
Thanks to the Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Headphone technologies included in the phone’s hardware, one can only expect superior quality of audio output. The difference of audio quality is clearly experienced when the Dolby Headphone setting is enabled from the Music Player’s settings. Nokia has done a good job by adding technologies such as Active Noise Cancellation and made a great portable media player out of this phone. However, the Dolby Headphone can be only experienced truly with the bundled headphones and not any random pair. Of course, that is one of the trade-offs you may have to live with.
When it comes to video, this Belle Feature Pack 1 bearing 808 PureView outperforms the Nokia 701. The Nokia 808 PureView comes with a low-power Broadcom graphics chip that comes with 128 MB dedicated video memory. We tried transferred some high quality .avi and .mkv files to the on-board storage and the playback result surprised us. The 808 PureView can easily playback 720p HD videos and 1080p HD videos smoothly. Of course, it doesn’t make sense putting full HD videos on a phone that supports only nHD (360×640) pixel resolution.
The stereo FM radio with RDS certainly will please several FM radio enthusiasts across the country. The native FM Radio app supports swipe gestures that will let you jump between stations by a simple flick of finger. Unfortunately, there is no built-in antenna in the phone so you will have to keep the headphones plugged to use the FM Radio. The Play via Radio app allows the user to tweak the radio playback at high quality in the native music player. Since the 808 PureView is also DLNA complaint, there is a special app provided for connecting it to the compatible devices and stream content.
Nokia has added a Recorder app that allows recording audio at a very high quality on the on-board storage. Now this is a very useful tool for professionals and students to record important session for listening to it later.
A speaker is placed under the back panel. This speaker offers very loud and clear sound which is really great when you wish to listen to music or have set an alarm. On a lighter note, you can use it to annoy your colleagues at office by playing obnoxious songs and wake up your family members using the alarm.
Whenever it comes to reliable battery life offering devices, no one nails it better than Nokia. However, with the mention of 41-megapixel imaging sensor, 1.3 GHz mobile processor and 4-inch Amoled display, we did hold some doubts about the phone’s actual run time.
By using the low-power consuming ARM11 architecture design based processor, the Nokia 808 PureView can easily make through a day and half and still continue to surprise you. Nokia has packed a 1400 mAh Li-ion 5.3Wh battery which is almost equivalent to that of an entry-level camcorder. It is quite difficult to judge the exact battery life if one clicks only photos using this phone. Of course, if you are going to record full 1080p HD quality videos with great ambient sound, then it will last only till 5 hours maximum.
With the 1.3 GHz mobile processor, the phone’s operating system hardly taps the full potential of the processor. We are not even considering the low-powered Broadcom graphics chip since it providers sufficient enough performance for the Belle based games as well as apps. Unlike other modern day smartphones, the phone runs for longer even if you have left it for seeking WiFi access points.
Nokia has created yet another phenomenal camera phone that shall be desired for years till its successor arrives with something even better. At this moment, the Nokia 808 PureView retails for Rs 33, 899 at the Nokia Priority Dealers but now can be purchased for around Rs 31,000 approximately. Indeed, the phone does look expensive when considering the Symbian based Belle OS and low powered single-core ARM11 mobile processor. For the same amount, one can bag a full 5-inch display bearing Galaxy Note or dual-core processor and Super Amoled display bearing HTC One X. That is simply rambling on the price part.
Of course, one can easily wait for couple of months for the prices to drop down a bit. In our opinion, the best price of this phone should be around Rs 25,000 and it would sell significantly well if not like hot cakes.
Sure, the Nokia 808 PureView indeed is a ‘game changer’ but that factor is limited only to one aspect – camera. For rest of the technologies including most crucial – mobile operating system, the company still has lot to cover. The Nokia 808 PureView does come with great potential to improve on the software part with regular updates that tweaks the system and also decent amount of apps.
Nokia 808 PureView is certainly your point-and-shoot replacement and a great phone with great voice calling clarity. Those looking for a great camera phone with lasting battery life and better calling should certainly try out this device. Music lovers will be delighted to enjoy the Dolby Digital Plus technology incorporated in it for better audio output.
To conclude, the Nokia 808 PureView is the camera phone with capability to deliver astonishing photos, lasting battery life and rich audio playback as well as recording experience.