The Nokia 808 PureView Reviewed!
At the Mobile World Congress this year, Nokia stunned everyone there and elsewhere with the announcement of the megapixel monster, the Nokia 808 PureView. 41 Megapixels is an awful lot of megapixels and most people including yours truly was totally flabbergasted by the sheer amount they stated.
Time sort of just flew and we got chance to dabble with a PureView on more than one occasion and it did leave me impressed. It truly wasn’t about the 41MPs, no sir! It went way beyond that.
So when the phone was finally launched in India, it was only a matter of time before I’d get the phone for review. And finally it came. For the past one week I’ve had the chance to play with the phone in the midst of all the packing I’ve been doing before I relocate to Dubai. So busy, that I couldn’t even pen down a first impressions like I had promised.
With just a little over a week of usage, here goes the World of Phones’ Nokia 808 PureView review!
When I first laid eyes on a leak for the PureView, I was mortified, the phone looked hideous in that leak. A lot has changed since that day and today. But then I’d like to keep my biases aside and be as straight forward as I can. The 808 PureView isn’t a typical mobile phone, it won’t win beauty contests, nor would it be the slimmest one around. This is a thick ‘brick’ of a phone. However Nokia has done a good job in making the phone appear decent. It does not look ugly. The phone has curves all across the body, and depending on how you are holding it, you will find that the curve is there solely for you to be able to hold the phone properly.
The finish on the phone is exceptionally brilliant. Upon holding it the first time, it definitely feels like one is holding unfinished ceramic. There’s nothing that can make a person think otherwise if he/she held it. The fact however is that it is plastic. If I concentrate on just the fit and finish, I can tell you that it is by far one of the best I’ve seen on any device. I’d personally rank this to be better than what the N9s, Lumia 800s and 900s have. Because of the finish there is a lot of grip that you get naturally due to the curves and the finish. Build quality wise, the phone is very top notch as well. No creaks or noises. It is as if the phone was crafted from a single piece of ceramic! The weight of the phone, which is more than that of the N8, is another factor which adds to giving you a grip and feel in the hand that’s rarely been seen in a phone before.
The Nokia 808 PureView weighs a cool 169gms. It is 13.9mm thin. When you first hold it those numbers suddenly mean a lot. However the 808 reminds me of the philosophy that Nokia phones had once upon a time. This phone blends the design in a way to make the phone more utilitarian for the user when he/she is clicking a photo.
All the ports have been put on top – There a Micro HDMI port, Micro USB port and the 3.5mm audio jack right on top of the phone. There’s also a tiny hole the mic for stereo recording or noise cancelling whichever you prefer. The Micro HDMI port renders the Mini HDMI add on cable of N8 useless. A new cable is needed, thankfully, the Micro HDMI cables aren’t a limited edition thing now a days. The left of the device has no button or anything jutting out. While the right side of the phone features all frequent use buttons – Volume rocker, screen lock rocker and the camera key.
The bottom of the phone houses just a small hole which is the mic and the outlet for the lanyard (which is supplied in the box) cable. The back side of the phone features the bulbous 41MP sensor, speaker and the Xenon flash in one black housing. There’s Nokia written in the center of the cover and towards the bottom there a black strip which is there to ensure that the cover doesn’t get scratch marks across. The black housing for the camera is finished off in superior quality chrome, however it does seem prone to collecting scratches and over time lose the sheen.
The front which houses the screen has a long plastic piece that juts out, this houses the dedicated buttons for calling, menu/multitasking and lastly, the Power/End key.
It might seem a bit old fashioned but the thickness of the phone makes this perfect for the hands. The phone is definitely easier to handle in the real world be it while typing the SMS, browsing the web or even taking a picture.
The screen on the 808 is a 4″ capacitive touchscreen with CBD (Clear Black Display) and is of an AMOLED nature. The Gorilla Glass on top adds to the firmness and strength of the phone. However the resolution leaves a bit of a sourness, nHD resolution just doesn’t do justice to the phone. A better resolution, 800 x 480, could have helped!
Personally, I liked the design purely for the finish and the quality of the build. Those two things won me over.
The Nokia 808 runs the latest flavour of Symbian – Belle with Feature Pack 1. In its hey days, this platform was the definition of a smartphone and was the darling of developers. Today, it’s dying a agonizing death. But not without a fight! The latest version of the platform improves upon the Belle update and adds quite a few additional features.
There’s all the bells and whistles you saw in Belle, drop-down notifications, slimmer menu bar at the bottom, ability to organize widgets as one saw fit, etc. on the PureView there are quite a few updates and improvements to Belle.
Firstly, now there’s a data tracker which you can program, like Android. It’s not as fancy as that but it gets the job done. You can make your phone’s data connection simply switch off once it has consumed a set amount of data, you can have it issue warnings. It’s got a little widget too which tells you how much data is left from the quota you set.
There’s another change which is quite new, especially if you are coming from a Nokia N8. The Power/End button now kills/exits the application as opposed to sending it to the background. That’s great, if you ask me. If you are on one of the many homescreens that you have and you press the Power/End button, it will allow you to put the phone on ‘Silent’, turn on the ‘Offline’ mode, switch the phone off, lock it or turn on the Power Saver Mode. Pressing it for too long will simply switch the phone off, so be careful when pressing the button.
The other thing which is different in Belle FP1 is how background program appear like cards. A full screen snapshot of the app, pretty much like Palm had.
The addition of Microsoft Office products improves the shelf life of the phone and adds value to the otherwise aging platform. The Office integration isn’t half baked either, apart from the Office suite, there’s OneNote, Lync and Broadcast available to ensure that it can also perform as an office device should it be needed for that.
The user interface has undergone some changes and it is purely to just keep it usable considering how things have moved in the world of phones. The Phonebook is pretty much the same as one remembers it. One needs to remember that the most amount of flexibility in terms information to be stored per contact resides in Symbian, bested only by Android.
Messaging too is the same and there wasn’t too much of a difference from previous devices. It works pretty well and the regular set of options are all present to ensure that this communication standard is all but taken care of.
Emails work pretty well, the client is easy to setup for most accounts, mails are delivered as expected and I’ve not seen any problems here. The only place where I did suffer a bit of a headache was setting up Exchange. There’s still some ambiguity in how it should be set up exactly and I do wish that this is standardized across all Nokia devices. This will eliminate the irritation. Once I had it setup, it worked as expected. My contacts were all synced and mails kept arriving at the intervals I’d set it up at. If you want to use email, I’d suggest using the Exchange way of receiving your emails, it will allow you some additional options that IMAP or POP3 don’t offer. On a Nokia it’s essential!
The Social bit is still as weird as it was on the Nokia. Nokia Social still continues to juggle between an app and a feature of Symbian. Either ways it offers little benefit. This is one feature which should have been either fixed and improved or dropped altogether so that third party developers could have developed. I remember there were plugins which once could download from the Ovi Store (long ago). I wasn’t to happy using it as it falls woefully short of expectations. The addition of Flickr for photo sharing is a good thing and while I didn’t use the Flickr share, I did use the other bits and it just wasn’t up to my expectations. Gravity and FMobi are essential apps to have on Symbian if you want an amazing experience on Symbian phone.
The music player on the 808 is the same that you will see on any Symbian device from Nokia (the recent ones). The music player was able to play the common file formats that were thrown at it. The 808 has an equalizer which cannot be customized which is a downer as the ability to configure a custom setting would have made the difference in the audio. The quality of the audio through the speakers was loud. Having become used to a low sounding Galaxy Nexus, the 808 is a breath of fresh air. It’s loud, clear and doesn’t seem to crack on full volume. Even with the supplied earphones the quality was not bad. Nokia
The big change Belle brings is B/W iconography in the menus. In a black background that’s interesting, but I do miss a bit of colour in them. Maybe a hint of grey would help. However the distinction is quite clear now. The inner menus will always show B/W icons and that’s what makes it so intriguing.
The one thing where Symbian Belle under performs is the keypad. the onscreen QWERTY keypad just plain disappoints. I don’t know why, but it completely ruined the experience for me. I had to switch to the Swype solution for a bearable experience. Portrait mode or landscape, the experience is just about average or below that in some cases. With Symbian still away from it’s planned abandonment, it makes sense for Nokia or the new owners of Symbian to really fix it.
The notifications in Symbian are pull down, something that’s been made famous by Google’s Android. All the notifications are right up there. The toggles to the WiFi, Bluetooth and other bits and bobs are there. This arrangement is certainly a better one and helps to maintain a clutter free homescreen(s). I do wish that there’s more planned for that space. It does seem capable of having a lot more up there.
Symbian Belle on a 1.3GHz processor and 512MB of RAM does seem faster, smoother and less prone to freezes. There were a couple of stray instances where my phone froze but nothing a reboot couldn’t fix. Interestingly I did notice on many an occasion that the phone responds as if it’s falling behind. There is this feverish rush to bring forth the information desired. While it’s nice to know a phone that’s so jumpy and quick, the flipside of this means that the OS still needs more fine tuning to make it behave smoothly. Better transitions in between requests is needed. That being said Symbian Belle FP1 offers a marked improvement in animations/transitions, almost reminiscent of the times when S60 3rd edition had received the FP2 update. However the need for consistency in animations and transitions cannot be ruled out. For the first time in a long time, Nokia has outfitted capable hardware (old hardware, but still good) and put a OS which is frugal in its requirements with the 808, but it needs to fine tune it so that the two can function in tandem.
The 808 PureView showcases the best of Symbian and that’s a fact!
Browser, Navigation and Nokia Store:
A platform is not all that makes up a phone, there are other things which go a long way in creating an experience that defines how a phone is perceived. So how can the browser, navigation and app marketplace be left out?
Let’s begin with the browser. The S60 browser on the Belle has undergone a bit of an upgrade so as to say. It’s nice, but in the face of current competition, the browser just loses out. It’s quite capable but not as fast enough as Chrome or FireFox are on Android or even Internet Explorer for that matter. There’s tabbed browsing and that’s a life saver. I still found the browser to be a bit of a clunky thing, it feels like it’s built to work, just not for speed. Pages take time to render on the S60 browser as compared to the Chrome browser or even the stock Android browser.
Pages coded in Flash or HTML 5 open in this browser and you won’t find yourself unable to view a site. The low resolution of the screen plays truant at times and that mixed with a clunky browser means that the experience isn’t nearly as good as you would like. It’s bad because the 808 seems quite capable of handling heavy content.
The menu with many more options lie in buried for access, should you choose to access them. The last button on the taskbar in the browser is what hides it all. Nothing very different from previous iterations, but hey if you must insist on tuning the browser to behave in a certain manner, you know where to head.
As a browser, it has the capability to render complex webpages, however it falls short of delivering the performance in terms of speed.
Navigation is a big bet for Nokia, one that’s still playing out for them. I’d be silly to say that this is just another solution. Nokia Maps has undergone huge amount of changes since I first laid my eyes on it. The current iteration seems to have gone further ahead.
Maps today allows you to grab information on the Public Transport in your city (if it’s covered) and gets you from one place to the other quickly and effortlessly. You can even download the Maps of specific geographies from the phone itself. A beautiful feature is that you can choose to download only specific portion of a country map (if supported and available). This meant that I could download the map of the state I was living as opposed to the entire country. This not only means more space on the phone for other things, but quicker download times and faster turn around times when it comes to being on the road. Now you can have just what you need instead of a lot of data which you might not need or use. Anyway you look at it, it spells efficiency.
Recommendations is another feature that Nokia has tweaked and fine tuned. It does work quite well, certainly an improvement over previous versions. If you are in a new place or are looking for something, Recommendations does a good job of making it easier for you to select from a set of options. be it a restaurant, ATM or anything else, Recommendations worked pretty well and was able to suggest some interesting spots to me based on searches I made.
There are guides available too, but I didn’t use that feature at all. I did however use the Check In feature. I love the fact that Maps will allow itself to be linked to your Facebook account and/or Foursquare account and then let you check-in directly from Maps. That’s great! I used this quite a bit and I loved it, you may even use it in isolation through the widget, you don’t necessarily need to fire up Maps as a whole. Weather updates is also just assimilated into Maps and that’s from where you can pull in weather data of the place you headed to or are at.
I gave Drive a go and did use it quite often. I am very used to using Nokia Maps to guide me to a place I want to be at and get the turn-by-turn directions from a voice. Even when offline, the application worked very nicely and did a good job locating places and then guiding me to it.
Nokia Maps as a solutions is pretty well conceived and does a killer job at what its meant to. One of the rare pieces of software that made a big difference to Nokia phones. This advantage is a tough one to beat for any manufacturer. The biggest strength for Nokia Maps is the ability to work pretty nicely even when it’s offline as opposed to solutions offered by Google and other solutions. Nokia Maps is fairly accurate and does a mighty good job of calculating any changes to the route and suggesting an alternative.
I’ve rarely been disappointed with Nokia Maps and even on the 808 it doesn’t disappoint. the lock times are fast. One new feature that I’m glad to see with the 808 is that if your images are geo-tagged, it will display them out as thumbnails for you to see. It is a great way to build a map of where the interesting moments are. Certainly helps in remembering the story and the moments better. Not only that it also let’s you visualize on a map your photos and videos.
Nokia Store is the app store for Nokia phones (Non Windows Phone). Once you’ve logged in to your Nokia account in the beginning, at the time of set up, you are will be all set to download the apps and other content you want. Nokia Store is smooth on the 808 and Nokia in India is offering a few premium apps with the phone from the store for free. The Store client is definitely smoother than any of the other pieces of software on the phone. It will notify you of updates to the apps installed, however this notification is relegated to within the client only.That’s bad and I wonder why this could be made to appear on the pull down notification bar.
Finding apps and installing them isn’t difficult. The Nokia Store allows you to download an app up to 10 times after it has been bought and therefore it shows all the apps you have ‘purchased’. This makes it easy to quickly download the apps and this meant that it took less time to set the phone up.
Certain apps threw a warning of incompatibility and refused to install, but I was able to get them to install and work without a glitch. MoloMe was particularly difficult to install, but it worked at last.
Nokia Store seemed better of this time and with the client being tightly integrated with Belle FP1 the experience is more in line with the entire platform as such.
Nokia Music Store however is a different story! it logged me in and downloading music was not the problem, but I could not redeem the voucher I was entitled to simply because I had an existing voucher. It seemed quite odd. This despite the fact that I was able to get my music subscription extended by another year with Nokia Music on my Lumia 800. Queer!
I’ve stated time and again that Nokia Music should be integrated into Nokia Store client or be given a similar app. The service is great and making it run of a browser is a crime. Nokia Music Store should also allow users to download a higher bitrate version of the song, should the user wish to. I mean I love Nokia Music Store and I sue it to get most of my music and I wish I could download a higher quality version of the DRM free songs it provides!
As I end, my review of the 808 PureView, I must say how much I enjoyed with this phone… No that doesn’t sound right! How can a review be over without a look at the camera aspect of the PureView, that is the reason for its existence after all!
The camera on the Nokia 808 PureView is a whopping 41 Megapixels. Yes you heard me right! That’s the most I’ve ever heard in a camera till date! Nokia keeps saying it is not about the number of megapixels at all, but what the camera itself can do. I had a go at the camera and while I’m not photographer I can tell you Nokia was not wrong about what it said.
The 808 is simply leagues ahead of what a cameraphone offers. The number of settings and combinations available are nothing short of amazing! The maximum megapixels you can get is 38 in 4:3 mode and 34 in the 16:9 mode. That still is a whole lot of megapixels.
In the Automatic mode and the presets, the megapixels are locked to just 5MP. But there is zoom available, this is nothing but digital zoom, but in the case of the 808 it makes a huge difference. It can be said that the 808 offers the first useful digital zoom. This zoom is a lossless zoom of up to 3X. That’s akin to having an optical zoom of 3X! Beyond this the camera just doesn’t zoom which means, you will never be shooting grainy images with this phone and just so that you don’t get overexcited, the zoom feature is available only if you are not shooting in the 38Mp or 34MP resolution. The zoom feature can be accessed by pinching an area on the screen and then zooming or with the volume rocker. The other great thing about PureView is touch to focus! You can actually focus on a an object anywhere on the screen. Yes it’s taken a while for it to come to Nokia phones, but it’s finally here!
The real fun lies in the various settings you can play with. From the ISO, to the ND filter, there’s a plethora of setting to tinker around to get an amazing shot. In the scene mode there’s little you can do since it’s all set up and all you need to do is focus and shoot.
The fun of the 41MP camera is in the custom mode! From changing the way the lens behaves and focuses, the amount of light you want to take in, the speed of the shutter, the ND filter, there’s a lot of options available and I’m barely scratching the surface. You can even do time lapse photography. it’s simple to set up and once you’re all set, just let it do what it does.
The 808 enables one to click some truly astounding photographs and and capture fast fleeting moments with ease. The level of details captured is breath taking and the results can surprise many a people. But how amazing are the results? Well here’s two galleries that will show you just how amazing the 808′s camera is!
And here’s a second which is mostly macros -
As you can see, the 808 managed to capture some amazing photos in low light. The macros are also unbelievably good, notice the bokeh effect in the background of some photos. The level of detail stored in each of these images is unbelievable.
To be honest the 808′s camera and its prowess when it comes to photography took my breath away. The 808 just blow the competition away. when it comes to clicking photos. But is the 808 perfect? No, not the least bit, there are a couple of things I wish the 808 had, for example, the ability to take instantaneous HDR photos as opposed to 3 different ones separately. For most people, they want to see a photo immediately and the immediate thrill of capturing an HDR is just something else. The 808 is heavy, let nothing fool you, that should make it a cinch to click amazing pics right? wrong! The heavy body helps, but a stubborn and hard camera shutter button ruins the experience. You need to have the phone on a tripod in order to get an image which is completely free of movement, if you are clicking in PureView mode. That’s a shame, since most people will not be carrying a tripod everywhere they go. I do hope Nokia makes this minor change to the button. A slightly softer button would really improve the quality and the ease of taking photos.
When it comes to still photography, the 808 easily triumphs whatever is available in the market today and quite safely tomorrow.
A camera review cannot be complete without delving into the video recording capabilities now, can it?
When it comes to video, the 808 can shoot a 1080p video, that’s full HD in case you were wondering and the number of megapixels allows it to provide a lossless zoom of up to 4X and this jumps to a lossless zoom of 12x when shooting in WVGA mode (640×360). The zoom is silent and there’s touch to focus as well as continuous auto focus available and let me tell you that it works really well, really, really well!
The audio recording is by far the best I’ve heard (upon playback) from a recording device. It’s crystal clear and the active noise filtering reducing a lot of the noise and allows for unmatched audio to be recorded with the video. Even in the night, the video recording is flawless and I could find no hint of noise pixelation.
Here’s a sample of the both at play – The below sample was taken at a popular night club in Pune with the music playing very loudly. But the 808 managed to reduce all of that excess noise. even the video quality impresses as much as the audio!
Here’s another video shot with the 808 PureView, which gives us a glimpse of the CAF ability of the phone. It did take a bit of effort to get the PureView to focus on the subject, but once it had, it maintained the focus quite well and blurred out the background. Even upon zooming, the 808 was quick to regain focus and provide amazing clarity.
Nokia team that worked on the making the 808 Pureview camera module have said in a white paper and I quote -
…oversampling eliminates Bayer pattern problems. For example, conventional 8MPix sensors include only 4Mpix green, 2Mpix red and 2Mpix blue pixels, which are interpolated to 8Mpix R, G, B image. With pixel oversampling, all pixels become true R, G, and B pixels. What’s more, based on Nyqvist theorem, you actually need oversampling for good performance. For example, audio needs to be sampled at 44 kHz to get good 22 kHz quality.
This is quite clearly visible to anyone who has a camera or has shot videos with a camera or a cameraphone. The difference is clearly visible and audible to even a ‘layman’!
All of this quality meant that the 808 needed to have superior processing capabilities and therefore the 808 PureView has a companion core which allows for all of he pixels to be processed efficiently. It processes a billion pixels every second! that’s how powerful the companion core is.
When it comes to photography and video recording the 808 clearly surpasses anything that is available in the market! The phone defies the the niche it is/was meant for. However by definition this meant for people who take their photography with a degree of seriousness.
The Nokia 808 PureView is a device which will be remembered for being a unique device – A behemoth of a camera that is miles away from competition by a few years but at the same time its running what many people perceive as an old mobile operating system.
The phone’s build quality is the best for a Symbian device till date. I’d even rate it as better than Lumia 800s. The speakers are loud and the phone weight is perfect from the angle of photography. A whopping 41 megapixels ensure crisp photos and some of the most amazing videos!
The USP of this phone is the camera and it doesn’t disappoint. In terms of what it achieves, the 808 is quite easily a couple or more generations ahead in camera tech than competition. But an aging operating system coupled with a low res screen and the fact that it runs only single core is likely to turn off people. The phone is priced exorbitantly but that will not deter cameraphone lovers and that’s been seen in India at least.
This phone is truly meant for the person who loves his camera and has been an aficionado of the N series cameraphones. If you cannot compromise on the camera quality, the 808 is the device to have. But since it is running Symbian, be ready to see a few of the popular apps missing, however, there are similar functionality equipped apps. In many cases, popular sites and services don’t have a dedicated app for the Symbian platform, but you can find indie developers making something to fill the gap.
The 808 is one heckuva device, but an old platform is what takes away its thunder. Had it been an Android or even may be a Windows Phone, its chances of greater adoption would have been higher. The phone is not supposed to be a mass market device and so will never be labelled a failed product, chiefly because it has a distinct set of people who want a product like this!
I recommend it to you, if you want the best cameraphone in the market!