Will a phone with a world-beating camera arrest Nokia’s decline, asks Matt Warman
The Nokia Lumia 1020 with Nokia Camera Grip 2: will it turn around Nokia's fortunes?
By Matt Warman, Consumer Technology Editor
When you go to buy your next mobile phone, what will be the most important factor? The price, the operating system? Or will it be the camera? Troubled Finnish giant Nokia is betting on photography.
It’s a significant gamble – research suggests that once a camera is 'good enough’, few consumers bother much about its precise specifications. But Nokia reckons that while its rivals offer photographs at 12 or 13-megapixels at most, its 41 megapixel version will prove so eye-catching that consumers won’t be able to resist.
The tactic is the latest in a long line of genuine engineering innovations from the company that has signed up with Microsoft to make the best Windows Phones on the market. But it’s an operating system lacking in apps that, like BlackBerry, has struggled to make any serious inroads against the overwhelming might of Google and Apple, despite high praise from some reviewers.
Among analysts, the consensus quickly emerged that the new Nokia Lumia 1020 has achieved a remarkable piece of engineering, cramming a genuinely good camera into a package that is almost the size of a normal phone. But the product, many said, “can’t save Nokia alone”. This is, according to Daniel Gleeson of IHS, a “halo product” which the company hopes will establish it as powerhouse for the very latest innovations. Consumers may yet think they want to buy into the brand. But bearing in mind people talk increasingly of saving Nokia, it’s a tough sell.
“The Lumia 1020 will act as a halo product to boost Nokia’s appeal,” said Gleeson. “But IHS forecasts that this smartphone will not ship sufficient volume’s to turn around the company’s fortunes on its own. Nokia’s share of the smartphone market will fall to 3 per cent in 2013, down from 5 per cent in 2012 unless Nokia follows this launch with a strong new smartphone portfolio across all price points in the autumn. Additionally, Nokia must continue to invest in content and services to bolster the range of Windows Phone app choice and quality.”
Nokia launches Lumia 1020 12 Jul 2013
Nokia's Lumia 1020 leaks 09 Jul 2013
Nokia Lumia 1020: the 41MP Phone 11 Jul 2013
An example of the quality photograph achiveable
Tony Cripps, of analysts Ovum, agreed: “The combination sets a new benchmark for high-end smartphone engineering – and a timely reminder of Nokia’s R&D capabilities – but the company must still overcome incumbent rivals, slow adoption of Windows Phone and a modest marketing budget if it is to finally help the company turn a financial corner after its recent time in the doldrums.” Those who got their hands on the new device, too, were impressed with it on its own terms.
Launched in New York, Nokia’s aim is in part also to crack the challenging American market, even though it is not yet even really considered a top-tier brand in a country where top-of-the-range smartphone sales continue to be dominated by Apple. Arriving in the US first, the Lumia 1020 will start at a steep $299 up front on two-year contract.
In that context, it’s little wonder Nokia makes grand claims for the new Lumia: “Unlike any smartphone in the market today the Nokia Lumia 1020 reinvents zoom, enabling people to discover more detail than the eye can see. With Nokia’s innovative PureView technology, including optical image stabilization, the device is able to produce some of the sharpest images possible by any digital camera.” It’s worth noting they don’t say any cameraphone – it’s better than any digital camera.
The phone's 41-MP camera has been the source of much interest
People are increasingly using either proper, DSLR cameras or smartphones. Small, cheap digital cameras are being replaced by the phones in everyone’s pockets. Nokia tries, in a sense, to cover both options, by using the camera to take one very high resolution picture at 38 megapixels for editing, and another, 5MP one that is smaller and easier to share online.
Stephen Elop, Nokia’s chief executive, claimed “We want to take people on a journey from capturing pictures to recording and sharing their lives”. Except, of course, many millions are doing that already – just not many of them on Windows Phones.
And it’s emblematic that, while Nokia emphasises its camera prowess, it showed off software from photo app Hipstamatic. Cool and functional, it has however long since been surpassed in popularity by Instagram, bought by Facebook for $1billion.