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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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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.


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