Nokia: Making a Quad-Core HD Phone That's Not a Hot Waste of Space is Hard
October 23, 2013 3:59 PM
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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. (
) that's now under Microsoft Corp.'s (
) 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
6-inch Lumia 1520/1320 phablets
, plus some
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
a new interview
, 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. (
unveiled the One
(February) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (
the Galaxy S4
(March). Both products did not start shipping at volume
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.
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.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 only became available in August. [Image Source: Liliputing]
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 (
) G2, which was
announced in August
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
10/23/2013 11:50:07 PM
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)
10/24/2013 1:25:39 AM
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.
10/24/2013 11:22:38 AM
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.
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.
"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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