Nokia’s new 808 Pureview a phone or a camera? Its 41megapixel camera rightly got huge amounts of attention when it was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow, but the phone itself was largely written off as an experimental piece of innovation. Now, for around £500, you can get your hands on one.
The question, really, is why you would want to. That camera is remarkably impressive, especially for a phone. But the phone is remarkably unimpressive because it is based on Nokia’s ancient Symbian operating system. That means web-browsing that’s so slow you might as well not bother even comparing it to Apple or Android. And it means an interface that is in places as clunky in its design as the bulbous Pureview.
Still – it is unfair to complain about the Pureview because Nokia has pitched it so perfectly. It’s almost as though the Finnish giant didn’t want users to buy it – they seem more to hope people willacknowledge that there’s real innovation and look forward to it making an appearance in the forthcoming Windows devices that Nokia is hoping will save its business.
So, the Pureview offers 3, 5, 8 and 38 megapixel shooting options – in practice, that means the remarkable zoom is, for the first time on a cameraphone, really useful at 8MP, because you’re effectively only using a part of the sensor’s capabilities. Or you can take big, full shots at 38MP and then crop them and enlarge them. That’s because, effectively, if you take a picture the same size as one with an iPhone, the 808 will include five times as many pixels. Shooting modes are as good as they are on some top compact cameras, and it’s the straightforward camera app that shines. The pictures taken are leagues ahead of any rival phone.
Video comes in at 1080p and is as excellent as the peerless, noise-free pictures. There’s even an excellent microphone, which Nokia calls Rich Recording. The screen on the phone doesn’t do justice to either pictures or video.
Where the 808 falls down, however, is in the ways a phone should enhance a camera – sharing a picture is more difficult than on other platforms for instance. But again, the technology is the key, and when it comes to Windows Phone 8 in October, Nokia will have a really good device that will deserve to sell well. A five-element Carl Zeiss lens and a proper flash would be good on any phone, but Nokia is showing it has real, transferable technology.
For now, it’s unfortunate that it’s in an 18mm thick, 169g plastic case, but even that feels very well put together. And while it’s not Samsung S3 orApple handset design, it’s very effective for a camera. Whether it’s the mini-HDMI for plugging into a television or the volume rocker that doubles as a zoom control, the 808 is well thought out. Even the camera lens, as well as the screen, is coated in protective Gorilla Glass.
Unfortunately, the software feels antiquated – if you want the latest camera, why would you suffer Symbian Belle and its endless illogical menus? Even that, however, is in part because the bar is set so high by Apple and Android. Many will argue that Symbian, with its widgets, (expensive) apps and retro feel is nonetheless good enough. There aren’t fully fledged versions of Facebook and Twitter, but many phone users will simply buy the 808 for its amazing camera. The excellent Nokia Maps and surprisingly decent, nearly a day-long battery life are a happy bonus. And as you’d expect from venerable Nokia, the calls the Pureview makes are crystal clear in a way many other new phones are not.
It’s hard to recommend that anybody rush out and buy the Pureview – but it says many good things about Nokia. The interface is going to be replaced with Windows Phone, so that problem is solved; the camera is excellent, and it will join the new interface. With its plunging share price and desperate struggle with new technology, Nokia needs a bright spot – and the Pureview is a brilliant omen for the future.
Dimensions: 123.9 x 60.2 x 13.9 mm
Weight: 169 g
Screen: AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors; 360 x 640 pixels, 4.0 inches (~184 ppi pixel density)
Memory: microSD, up to 32 GB (Internal:16 GB storage, 1 GB ROM, 512 MB RAM)
Camera: Primary 41 MP (38 MP effective, 7152 x 5368 pixels), Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, Xenon flash, check quality 1/1.2” sensor size; Video: 1080p@30fps, lossless digital zoom; Secondary: VGA@30fps
OS: Nokia Symbian Belle OS
CPU: 1.3 GHz
Battery: Li-Ion 1400 mAh
Stand-by: Up to 465 h (2G) / Up to 540 h (3G)
Talk time: Up to 11 h (2G) / Up to 6 h 50 min (3G)
Bluetooth; NFC; microUSB; HDMI