So there we were, a bunch of geeks down the pub, and we got to talking about the Nokia 808 PureView. After all we had a couple on the table in front of us (white and black, above) and quite a bit of experience with the device between us. There was general agreement that the 808 was something special - you've heard it all here before:
- the best camera phone ever
- the best Symbian smartphone ever
- the most converged device ever
You'll, after all, have been keeping up with the AAS review coverage and podcasts. But then the talk got round to the utterly bizarre situation whereby none of the UK networks seem to have any interest whatsoever in the 808. Was this part of a boycott of Symbian, with the twin ghosts of the N97 and the 'February 11th' execution looming over the device? Were the rest of the smartphone field that much better overall? The situation certainly had us bemused.
After all, whenever I've demonstrated the 808 PureView to a friend or acquantaince, jaws have - quite literally dropped. This happened earlier today - I was filming a short video sequence, on the 808 mounted on a tripod, with a very tech savvy CEO (and a really nice chap, look out for a video story about his new mobile service shortly here on AAS) and I was explaining a bit about pixel oversampling and not having to worry about less than perfect light conditions because all the noise would be removed by the GPU. He started asking more and more questions about this and the 4x lossless zoom that I was using at times. And then he came out with an understandable but very telling question.
"Incredible technology, won't it be great when they put this into a phone".
I realised he'd been under the impression that I'd been filming with a regular camera, albeit one that was fairly slimline. When I replied that this already was a phone, in fact a full smartphone, and flipped it round to show the touchscreen and scrolling pages of applications, the CEO was totally floored.
After filming, we took a break before lunch and I demonstrated the stills camera too, taking a couple of casual snaps of the CEO in relaxed mood. "Amazing", he said, "could you email me copies of those?" The PR lady caught a glimpse, too. "Those are brilliant, we'd love to use those in our marketing, if that's OK?"
This sort of reaction is utterly typical and demonstrates what a potential attraction there is for the 808 in the wider phone market, if only more people knew about the phone.
Which brings us back to the discussion at hand. Let's say that a major network picked up the Nokia 808 PureView and offered it on a competitive contract, say £30/month with no upfront cost on a two year contract. Say it was presented in phones shops next to the Galaxy S II and II, next to the iPhone 4S, next to the Lumia 800 and 900.
Yes, the bullet points could happily say '41 megapixel sensor' and '1080p video recording', and yes, every new buyer would be told it's the best camera phone in the world, yes, sales might even get off to a good start. But, even though this is All About Symbian and we're slightly biased, we'd admit quite readily that going from the iOS, Android or Windows Phone UIs to Symbian Nokia Belle is a bit of a wrench in terms of UI speed and application choice. General, uninformed High Street phone buyers would get home, try out some snaps and be impressed, and then spend the next 24 hours scratching their heads over some of the Symbian defaults - Nokia Social, Web, and so on.
No doubt some buyers would figure it all out and get a decent way up the Symbian learning curve. And would end up very happy. But many others would give up before they'd found Gravity (or Twimgo or Tweetian or facinate or fMobi, etc) or Opera Mobile. They'd give up before they'd found Notekeeper or Podcatcher or any of the other stars of the Symbian app world. And they'd return the 808 prematurely, leading to significant unhappiness on behalf of the network or shop, who are used to small returns percentages.
I think, at the meet, it was James Honeyball who spoke up and summarised things most clearly:
"It would be better for the Nokia 808, in the long run, to have it only available SIM-free, through online shops and with praise of the phone passed by word of mouth. That way, only those who really want the phone go and buy it."
The 808 PureView is something of a niche device, in that you have to know and like Symbian and have to want the cutting edge camera/camcorder. Note the 'and'. If the former isn't true then you might as well wait six months for a Windows Phone-based PureView device. If the latter isn't true then you're probably best off seeking out a Nokia 701 (also not ranged by operators over here, but that's another rant for another day!) or sticking with your old E7, E6 or C7.
What do you think? Do you disagree? Would ranging the 808 on a traditional subsidised contract, sold through High Street shops be a success? Or is it indeed better to have it as a sleeper hit, a viral success, a device that people only discover in the context of outrageous praise and recommendation?