Is the only real use for the 808 PureView's 34MP mode making jaws drop?

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I was struck by an email from reader 'Brian' from Florida, recounting how he wowed an iPhone-owning friend with the image fragment below, using the full power of the massive sensor in the Nokia 808 PureView camera to full effect. Not because he wowed an iPhone owner with a demonstration of the far superior camera, but because it got me thinking about whether there are in fact any other genuine uses for 34 (or 38) megapixel images?

First of all, Brian's brief story. This was his starting image, with photo looking a bit average here on the page but looking neat enough on a phone screen:

Cropped image

Brian writes:

It's not everyday we Symbian fans can say they blew the minds of loyal Apple fans. I showed my friend this image [above] on my Nokia 808... I was like.. "hey check out this shot I just took"... and he was like... "Looks good".

Then I zoomed out to show that the image was actually so far back in the distance, and was just a very small crop of the original image. His jaw dropped...

Heh! Here's the effect, this is the full image, click on it to download the full 10MB, 34 megapixel original if you're interested, see if you can spot where the crop was taken from! Blow away? You should be...

Full image, scaled down

A pretty impressive demonstration of the detail that can be squeezed into a phone-shot image on something as powerful as the Nokia 808 PureView, especially in good light, as here. And, in itself, makes for a nice mini-story on AAS about how a user of a.n.other phone was wowed. But the incident got me thinking further....

You see, I've taken over 1400 photos on my Nokia 808 PureView in the last 3 months and I haven't used the 34MP or 38MP modes once. Not once. In fact, the whole point of Nokia's vision for the 808 was that you never, ever need to use (nearly) every single pixel on the sensor. You either shoot with the full sensor in PureView mode, i.e. using the zero-noise superpixels or you use the PureView zoom to provide (typically) 3x 'lossless' zoom, all shooting at the default 5 megapixels. And the system does work very well. 

Even when I've strayed into Creative mode, it's been to experiment with different exposures, different ISOs, or to shoot in 8 megapixel mode. Never once have I selected 38MP or 34MP mode. There's just no point:

  • A 34MP image is far too high a resolution to view as-is on any existing monitor, and a printout would have to be tens of metres wide for you to see the pixels standing a few metres away.
  • A 10MB image file takes longer to save (about 3 seconds), longer to open up on the phone or on the desktop later, longer to process.
  • Each pixel in a a 1:1 sensor image like this is no better handled than that in any other competing smartphone (e.g. the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III), in fact, quite a bit worse, since there's no Back Side Illumination here. So you get noise and uncertainty on each pixel. 

So.... comments welcome, but I contend that such 34MP or 38MP shots are really only of use for showing what the 808's sensor is capable of in terms of resolution - for real world photos, such resolutions are best avoided.