Nokia: Making a Quad-Core HD Phone That's Not a Hot Waste of Space is Hard
October 23, 2013 3:59 PM
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
"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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