Nokia is betting that the innovative PureView camera and camcorder capabilities of its new flagship Lumia 920 smartphone will prove attractive enough to overcome the buzz surrounding Apple's expected launch of a new iPhone next week. However, Nokia's shares fell 15 percent on Wednesday following the unveiling of its Windows Phone 8 models.
Still, industry analysts view mobile imaging as a core area in which Nokia has been able to achieve true differentiation in the smartphone space. According to IDC Chief Research Officer Crawford Del Prete, low-light photography has traditionally been a weak point for camera-enabled smartphones.
"Nokia has addressed this with PureView to create real customer value," Del Prete said. "By applying its rich expertise in imaging, Nokia has created a best-of-breed experience for everyday use."
A new object image stabilization technique that floats the device's entire Carl Zeiss lens on tiny springs is what enables the Lumia 920 to capture jitter-free photos and video clips under a range of lighting conditions.
"Our engineers decided to provide springs around the entire optical assembly," said Nokia Vice President Kevin Shields. The technology is "up to 50 percent more effective than what many high-end single-lens reflex cameras offer today."
By compensating for the user's tiny hand movements, Nokia's floating lens technology enables the camera's f2.0 aperture to stay open longer under low light conditions. Nokia said this enables the stabilized camera lens to capture five to 10 times more light without having to use the camera's flash capability -- even at night.
The number of images that consumers snap with mobile phones is on the verge of surpassing the number of photos taken by consumers with stand-alone digital cameras. Citing data from IDC, Nokia Executive Vice President Jo Harlow noted that mobile phones are used each and every day to snap 1.4 billion photos, of which 628 million are being posted online over mobile networks.
Nokia has been working with online service providers to develop Lumia apps that provide smartphone users with a simple way to quickly post their HD video clips and photos to social networking sites. For example, Nokia has been running ads around the world to show CNN International viewers how easy it is to post their newsworthy video clips on CNN iReports.
A Short-term Ecosystem Problem
Though Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer predicted that Nokia's new Windows Phone 8 smartphones would benefit from their integration with Windows 8 for PCs and Windows RT for tablets, analysts say it will take awhile for the synergy to become apparent to consumers.
"The problem is the ecosystem," said Francisco Jeronimo, an IDC research manager based in the U.K. "The most important apps are on iOS and Android," Jeronimo told us.
Among other things, Microsoft has not yet released the requisite software development kit for enabling developers to take advantage of the many innovations built into the new Windows Phone 8 platform, which is to be introduced Oct. 26.
"I think the development opportunity is significant, [but] it is going to be a convergence story that will take a year or more to fully play out with developers," said Al Hilwa, director of application development software research at IDC. "Aligning phone and PC will prove crucial to the success of both in the long run from an app ecosystem perspective," Hilwa told us.
The long-term prospects for Nokia and other makers of Windows Phone 8 devices appear brighter than investors' immediate reaction to the Lumia 920 indicates. According to Jeronimo, wireless carriers around the world are looking for alternatives to the current Apple-Google duopoly in platforms.
"Not a single operator in the world is happy to see most of its portfolios and sales on Android and iOS," Jeronimo said.