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Nokia clarifies why it chose to trail Android OEMs in adopting larger screens, higher core count SoCs

This week Nokia devices -- the former Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V) that's now under Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) umbrella -- announced its first major device launch since Microsoft purchased it for $7.2B USD in September.  The results have thus far impressed, with the announcement of the 10.1-inch Lumia 2520 Windows RT 8.1 tablet and the 6-inch Lumia 1520/1320 phablets, plus some slick accessories like the "Treasure Tag".

I. Windows Phone Trims Hardware Gap With Android to About 6 Months

But the release of Lumia 1520 -- which packs a 1080p screen and quad-core Snapdragon 800 system-on-a-chip (SoC) from Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) -- raised some eyebrows given Nokia's past comments about HD screens and multi-core CPUs hurting more than they help.

In a new interview with TechRadar, Samuli Hanninen, Nokia Devices' VP of software program management, clarifies why Nokia trailed Android phonemakers in making the leap to 1080p and quad-core.

First he takes issue with the notion that it took "a long time", while acknowledging that Nokia's Windows Phone line has trailed Android on the path towards higher resolutions displays, first at the 720p node and then at the 1080p node.  He comments, "I don't think it took us a long time [to bring a Full HD display to a Nokia phone]."

From a pure numbers perspective, he has some grounds to make that argument.  Historically, Windows Phone has trailed Android and iOS by up to a year or two in key features.  But of late that gap has shrunk substantially.

The first 1080p Android smartphones weren't announced until early this year when HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) unveiled the One (February) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) announced the Galaxy S4 (March).  Both products did not start shipping at volume until May.

There's no official ship date for the Lumia 1520 in the U.S. -- yet -- but it's expected to ship within a few weeks.  So Nokia is trailing Android in 1080p adoption by about six months.

This is similar to the case with 720p; the 720p (1280x720 pixel) Galaxy S3 was announced in May 2012, while the similar resolution Lumia 920 (1280x768 pixel) was announced in September.

II. Necessity and Design Dictate Hardware Timing, Says Nokia

And Nokia says that the extra time for 1080p was necessary as the higher resolution required a jump in device size to be useful.  Mr. Hanninen comments, "You only see the benefits when using a 5-inch screen and larger, anything below that the eye can't see the difference."

Again there's a lot of truth to this comment.  At a certain use distance for any device there's a certain maximum resolution that is useful to individuals with average eyesight -- for 4-inch devices that resolution is (roughly) 720p; for 6-inch devices it's roughly 1080p.  Of course 1080p resolutions on 4- or 5-inch devices may make certain specialized applications (e.g. making rendered text look "smooth") less expensive and may provide some crispness/clarity gains for the minority of people who have above average eyesight.

Stephen Elop
Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop criticized previous generations of multicore smartphone SoCs. [Image Source: Reuters]

Likewise Mr. Hanninen clarifies that Microsoft SVP (and former Nokia Oyj. CEO) Stephen Elop wasn't attacking multicore smartphone SoCs, just pointing out that they were only hype without proper device design and application.

Snapdragon 800
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 only became available in August. [Image Source: Liliputing]

He comments:

If I had the possibility of having a quad core CPU last year, I'd have said that I don't want it.  You have to get the best from a quad core chip. If you do it badly then the phones get very hot.

In other words, with older processor generations (i.e. the Snapdragon S4), Nokia didn't feel like it could design a quad-core smartphone that wouldn't be hot and inefficient.  The Snapdragon 800 (quad-core) only recently became available, so that explains Nokia's launch timing in a bit more depth.  (The first Snapdragon 800 equipped Android was LG Electronics, Inc.'s (KSC:066570) G2, which was announced in August.)

Source: TechRadar



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Or...
By CaedenV on 10/23/2013 4:46:29 PM , Rating: 1
I love my Windows Phone, but seriously, this is all marketing hype. The fact of the matter is that it took a time for MS to support 720p, 1080p, and quad core CPUs. Had the OS supported it then they would have implemented it when the 800 chips first came out rather than waiting half a year. We could have had a 5" 1080p 1020 device rather than a Lumia 920 with a 41MP camera hacked on.

On the other hand, WP8 managed to get a ton of performance out of duel core CPUs, and in spite of running on older duel core CPUs they still manage to get good battery life as well. So with that in mind I am pretty curious to see how it performs on a proper quad core.
The 1520 looks nice... but a nice big screen without software enhancements to make it useful just makes for an oversized phone... and nobody wants a big phone for the sake of having a big phone. We want a big phone so that we don't have to carry around a tablet or laptop. Lets see some winRT style snapping capabilities, and more fully featured office mobile. Give me the software to do more with a big device and I will get a big device. But if it is just a big regular smartphone then I'll stick with the more conventional sizes.




RE: Or...
By Argon18 on 10/23/13, Rating: -1
RE: Or...
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/23/2013 10:14:08 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
So what you're saying is that the Windows OS is way behind iOS and Android? That isn't news. Windows has always been behind iOS and Android, forever playing catch-up.
Alright, awesome, I'm setting my time machine to 2003. At least I know what kind of phones to look at -- Android, iOS -- I sure wouldn't get a Nokia or Windows Mobile phone.

After all, Captain Genius from the present told me Windows has "always been behind iOS and Android". Gee, I sure hope he isn't wrong!
quote:
That's why they're the 3rd place me-too product that nobody wants.
I agree, BlackBerry is looking more and more like nobody...
http://www.dailytech.com/RIM+CEO+We+Want+to+be+in+...

You forgot about Firefox OS, though (understandable).
quote:
Windows phone is a cheap imitation
Really? Does it look anything like Android or iOS? You clearly are full of insight, I'm glad you came along.
quote:
the $99 entry level price point they sell at is proof of this.
Yea totally... it's not like any Androids are $99, right?

And I mean price is clearly a measure of quality, that's why Apple devices are more expensive than Androids??

I'm totally gonna buy that 2003 iPhone along with some $$weet Monster cables! If it's more expensive it's better!!

I'm so glad you came along and enlightened us all with your wonderful fact based opinions.


RE: Or...
By testbug00 on 10/23/2013 11:54:26 PM , Rating: 2
you forgot that the $100 WP8 devices that exist have:
1. faster hardware
2. more RAM (Generally speaking)
3. larger screens
4. useful built in apps
5. run smoothly

Compared to $100 Androids (yes, I bought one of those) well, the 52x line crushes cheap Androids.

P.S. Don't forget to buy a PowerMac


RE: Or...
By purerice on 10/24/2013 4:38:37 AM , Rating: 2
all those features might be nice on a cell phone but to me the most important is the phone reception. Of the 6 phones-4 of them smart phones-I had in the US, sadly the best for use as a phone was a $20 dumb phone I used with Virgin Mobile for a couple months.

If a smart phone has bad calling capabilities, it is really just a glorified PDA. I want to believe that with Nokia's past leadership in phones that their phones will have better call quality than others such as Apple or Samsung.


RE: Or...
By CaedenV on 10/24/2013 12:43:38 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, WP is absolutely behind the other platforms. But lets remember the fact that it is a 3 year old interface running on a 1 year old OS core. Considering that it took them 3 years to go from scrapping their defunct product, migrate to a new UI, migrate to a new OS, and now catch up on hardware and app support they are really not doing bad at all. Now that they are just about caught up on hardware and major apps they are at a make-it or break-it point on features. I think that they are well aware of this and will have fixes in WP8.1 and the following GDRs next year which will bring the feature side up to par.

Lets also remember that the little Lumia 520 you mentioned. Lets find any other Android device in the sub $150 price range with a comparable feature set, store access, OS update support, and build quality. Sure, it runs on slow hardware, and does not have the greatest camera ever, but neither do any other devices in that price range. As more and more people pick up a 520 as a cheap go-phone or replacement device for their broken flagship when they are still waiting for their 2 year upgrade, then it will turn heads that you can get so many features for $100 or less.

And for the app ecosystem... I don't get the argument. The 2 popular apps that WP is missing are slated to come out before the end of the year (granted, that is MS speak for February). Also, the design philosophy of Android is to make a platform to run apps, skins, and mods, while the WP philosophy is to make a platform that essentially does everything, but can run apps for specific features, or if you simply want something different. The very nature of this philosophy means that WP will never have the same app count. But WP has had the bulk of the most popular apps for almost a year now, and will have the rest before the end of next year. But the whole point of the WP OS is that you simply don't need apps and mods to have a very functional device. That is very appealing to the average user.

But still, WP is behind. I am not a blind lover of all things MS who is oblivious to that. As things stand today there is not a huge reason to pick WP over iOS or Android. But a year from now, when MS has all of the major apps available, has caught up on features, and has a full set of next gen devices on hand, I find it very difficult to believe that the general public will continue to cling to the sad state of mid to low end Android devices and WP will pick up a ton of steam. 2012 was a year of transition to a new kernel, 2013 was a year of hardware support, 2014 will be a year of app and feature support, and 2015 will be the year of WP gaining popular acceptance.
I am not saying that WP will ever dominate the market like Android does today, but what I am saying is that Android will not dominate like it currently does either. If I had to guess I would imagine that in ~5 years we will see a constantly fluctuating 3 way tie for dominance. After that, who knows? Maybe smartphones become irrelevant in the light of some other device or form factor? Maybe Ubuntu or FireFox OS gains popularity? That is way too far in the future to predict. But unless something major happens between now and then, WP is on the road to be quite successful.


RE: Or...
By Reclaimer77 on 10/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: Or...
By FITCamaro on 10/24/2013 1:03:41 PM , Rating: 3
You realize that there are around 2 billion people in the world who just want a phone and don't do subsidies. They don't care that it isn't the fanciest. Nokia marketing to them with feature packed phones with still GOOD hardware is a viable way to get marketshare.


RE: Or...
By testbug00 on 10/23/2013 11:50:07 PM , Rating: 2
Er, you have a statement which is half true, WP8 launched with support for up to 64 cores.

Nokia could have launched the 1020 with a quad-core S4 in it from my understanding.

side note: Sadly, Nokia didn't just take a 920 and put a camera on it, they also changed the Fking display from IPS to pentile AMOLED (and made it lighter)


RE: Or...
By CaedenV on 10/24/2013 1:25:39 AM , Rating: 2
Nope, WP8 was released with the capability of supporting 2 cores. Not 1 core, not 4 cores, and not just any 2 cores, but a very specific Qualcomm S4 setup which is used in every WP8 device up until now. GDR3 devices will be the first WP8 devices to use something other than a duel core S4 chip, but I think they are still tied to Qualcomm architecture.

Now, the kernel, being based upon Windows NT, is capable of supporting a maximum of 64 cores. But lets not confuse the maximum cores that the kernel is able to address with the number of cores that the overall system is capable of utilizing. That is like saying that Windows 7 Home 64bit is capable of supporting 256 cores because that is what can be addressed by the software, when the reality is that Home edition is technically capped at a maximum of 8 cores for other reasons. Capable, and supported are 2 very different things.
-------------------------------
OK, so they took an 920, put on a more power efficient display, and hacked in a 41MP camera. If we are being that picky, they also removed the built in Qi charging (best feature ever), added a 2nd GB of ram, changed the case, and a few other things. But the similarities between the 920 and the 1020 are much more pronounced than any other 2 Lumia devices. And by 'hacked in' I literally mean that Nokia had to get lots of help from qualcomm to get the camera to work because it was well beyond hardware spec. Qualcomm figured out how to force it to work anyways, and showed Nokia how to do it. It works just fine the way that it is... it would just work better with a faster CPu with more cores that could better keep up with that amount of data. But as that was not available, Nokia found a way to make it work rather than waiting for a Christmas release where it would face stiffer competition.

And why does everyone hate amoled? I am never going to be using my phone for hard core photo or video editing where I need the color to be perfect. For a portable device I would very much prefer the higher contrast, true blacks, and longer active battery life of an amoled. Yes, the amoled display will fade over time, but this is a phone! I will keep it at most 3 years, which is long before the display is going to go through any significant color shift or fade. The amoled on the 1020 is still stunning to behold and is more than good enough for me. Amoled on the 920 would have allowed a lighter and smaller device that would have gotten much better reviews and better battery life on active use.

I imagine that with the 6" display of the 1520 the difference between IPS and amoled would be even more pronounced where the device could have significantly longer battery life, or a significantly lighter weight if they went with an amoled solution.


RE: Or...
By testbug00 on 10/24/2013 11:22:38 AM , Rating: 2
on cores, yes, that is a better, more in depth explanation. WP8 supported up to 64 cores. WP8 also supported zero ARM CPUs that had over 2 cores.

A 920 to 928 is much closer. The 928 to 1020 is also much closer.

*yawns*
as for AMOLED? No issues with it. My issue is with Pentile, which makes the 1020 screen fugly compared to the 920 IPS screen.

I do a lot of reading on my phone, and, well, pentile, which only arrived because AMOLED did, is far worst than IPS.


"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone














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