From the piece:
In late 2005, Nokia were in the final phases of preparing the Nokia N73 3Mpix AF and the rather unique N93 3Mpix AF 3x optical zoom smartphones for introduction in the spring of 2006. We’d already been researching alternative directions in the area of imaging and camera development as well as extending the direction both of these products would be soon starting. Roughly a year after their introduction, the N95 and N93i came to market.
Around this time, we were starting the development of a number of next-generation imaging rich smartphones. Commercial products such as the Nokia N82, N86 8MP as well as the extremely popular Nokia N8. But there were many other projects intended to include optical zoom which never made it to the market. A number of these were quite advanced concepts using different camera configurations and physical form factors, some conventional, some significantly different.
At full zoom, while pixel oversampling could not be used, optical performance would benefit as only the central optical path would be used, where the performance is always superior due to manufacturing tolerances and light incoming angle. We could therefore keep the same low f no. and achieve performance which is not possible with optical zooming (not even in expensive SLR optics. As a bonus the closest focus distance would remain the same as wide, resulting in greater macro performance!
Damian's just part of a larger imaging team, of course, but as the man behind the quoted N93, N82, N86 and N8 (to varying degrees), it's fascinating to hear his own viewpoint on this apparent sea change in how imaging is 'done' in smartphones.