Depending on which part of the timeline you are looking at, Nokia has ruled the mobile phone market and it has also been the underdog. So, there’s reason to believe that by now they know what works and what doesn’t with different consumer categories. With their latest flagship product, the Nokia 808 PureView, too, they seem to have a very specific, very high-end offering for their potential customer. Justifying the super-camera smartphone tag is a 41-megapixel sensor and sharing the USP-status of the phones is integrated Dolby Digital technology. Does Nokia have a winner where it intended one?
The handset overall feels like you are holding a solid block during usage. But we really wish the smartphone looked more premium, say with anodised aluminium elements like in the Nokia N8.
The HDMI port, microUSB and the 3.5 mm headphone jack are located at the top of the handset. The slider Lock/Unlock button doubles up as a flashlight after a long slide-and-hold. Note that it’s not a quick-access button to switch the Flash on or off when you operate the camera, the dedicated key to which lies right next to the slider.
Company officials claim the design at the back was aimed to be reminiscent of a smiley – with the camera lens block resembling eyes and a thin protruding plastic element at the bottom tracing the slight curve of a smile. We don’t think the resemblance is so obvious.
Most of the bulk on the smartphone is attributed to fitting the cube-shaped 41-megapixel sensor in. A little more than one centimetre is the most compact the design guys could get while still managing to fit the sensor in. It’s a little worrying to see that the most important part of the phone – the lens – remains uncovered but it’s also slightly depressed as compared to the rest of the back panel. This will hopefully save it from scratches.
The Corning Gorilla glass display lends a good share of sturdiness to the display as well. The 4-inch display is an AMOLED one and looks brilliant despite the low screen resolution. Nokia’s proprietary ClearBlack technology bumps up the brightness and helps retain readability under bright sunlight.
It’d be a real surprise if Nokia had invested five years of effort into making a super-camera smartphone that didn’t deliver stunning results. So, it shouldn’t probably come as a surprise when we say that the results from the 41-meg snapper were every bit as good as we’d expected them to be.
Landscapes as well as buildings shot during the day were impressively sharp and there were no compromises in colour. Nokia claims that the super-camera smartphone delivers 3x lossless zoom for still images. We tested this with a couple of outdoor shots and even when we zoomed in to the maximum the images were still reasonably sharp. The Macro Mode didn’t let us get too close to the object we were shooting but at a distance of about 6-7 cms or so we could focus well on the object.
Even zooming in with the camera app is distinctly different. You just slide your finger up along the frame to zoom in to the element you want to focus on. This is also useful during video recording where gestures like pinch to zoom or even conventional zoom aren’t the most optimal ways to compose a frame while you are shooting it. The 808 PureView can shoot 1080p videos at 30fps.
Although it’s not the first time that a Nokia handset features Dolby Mobile technology, the two companies have exclusively partnered to bring in surround sound experience to the mobile platform. On the speakerphone itself, the sound streamed is crystal clear and loud enough to entertain a bunch of friends sitting together. When you plug in however, not only does Dolby work to cancel ambient noise but also imitates a surround sound experience that you would otherwise only find in a home theatre setup. Nokia claims that even if you do not use the headset given in the box the inherent technology ensures that the sound quality remains the same. Even during the voice calls that we made, we could notice each time the noise cancellation came into play. Nokia also claims that the 808 PureView comes with the best microphone integrated into any handset in its segment.
To make use of the hardware, Nokia has included a couple of pre-installed apps that you can have some fun with. SilentFilm Director is one such. The app post-processes videos that you capture and applies filters to make them look like a 60’s home video or 20’s movie. You can tweak the resolution of the capture and go for low-res ones to save on storage memory and processing time or go for a high-def one if you are shooting something special.
You also have ColorizIt which lets you selectively colour one specific part of an image you have captured.
You’ll also find the usual JoikuSpot app which helps you turn your smartphone into a mobile hot-spot. The PureView includes only the Light version which you can later upgrade with a purchase. An app that works to protect your PureView against theft is F-Secure. No surprises with the Social app – it integrates all your social networking sites activity from Facebook and Twitter.
The Nokia 808 PureView is NFC-enabled and directs you to a couple of NFC-enabled apps that you could make use of. However, we didn’t have a lot of accessories on hand to try these out. You can tap and connect the smartphone to NFC-enabled speakers, headphones or other smartphones not only to stream music or voice calls but also play games on, for example, Angry Birds has a pre-installed NFC-version on the smartphones. With an NFC tag you can easily access more content, film trailers, songs, microsites, maps as well as discount vouchers from various vendors.
The Belle might be the most intuitive user interface we’ve seen on a Symbian device. The interface now gives you up to six home screens to customise and play around with. You can access a quick pull-down menu to tweak your internet settings, change profiles or set an alarm.
The widgets too are easy to operate and can be resized to five different dimensions. The Toggle widgets such as NFC or Bluetooth, are especially easy to use. The smoothly rounded icons adorn the main menu which displays all the apps in your smartphone.
The Belle also makes for a better browsing experience although by now we just instinctively download Dolphin HD browser on any smartphone we try out.
Connectivity and performance
The Nokia 808 PureView supports USB On-The-Go which means you can connect another smartphone or mobile storage device and transfer data directly from/to the handset. The device has a built-in memory of 16GB, but you can expand it up to 32GB or 48GB with external storage.
The internal storage capacity should suffice for someone who loves his multimedia. The phone is powered by a 1,400 mAh battery and while constantly being connected to the internet, we could use the smartphone for easily more than a day.
The target audience for the Nokia 808 PureView couldn’t be more defined – someone looking for the most pixel-dense camera available and someone who puts a lot of emphasis on the acoustics – basically someone who goes way beyond just making phone calls or checking emails on his/her smartphone.
Those who are sticklers for product design will find the smartphone slightly more bulky then they’d like it to be. And although this is not a problem when you are holding it, it doesn’t exactly make for a great fit in your pocket. However, for the kind of optics and acoustics integrated into a smartphone, not to mention an almost one of a kind combination, your pocket will not be uncomfortably lighter if you do decide to go for this.
Love – Great camera, crystal clear acoustics, decent battery life
Hate – Bulky design,