So there's this giant convention for smartphone makers, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and every company in the business is trying to stand out. It's not easy, considering that most handhelds look more alike than different, with manufacturers trying to tell you about their large, bright screens and their fast network connections.
Nokia is making its bid with a phone called the 808 PureView. In addition to the other bells and whistles, the company says its built-in camera has a resolution of 41 megapixels.
Roll that over on your tongue for a minute. Forty-one megapixels. Forty-one. That's not a camera, that's a statement.
Most of the high-end smartphones on the market - Apple's iPhone 4S, say, or Samsung's Galaxy S II line - have 8-megapixel cameras, which is more than most people need, especially if they're only taking snapshots to upload to Facebook or Twitpic. (Megapixels, if you're not into such things, are a measure of the detail in a digital image. It's not this simple, but more pixels generally mean more detail in the picture.)
Even Nokia, in promoting the PureView, suggests that most users will set the camera to "standard" resolution - at just 5 or 8 megapixels. The camera will use its over-the-top resolution capabilities to "over-sample" the image you shoot, says Nokia, so that if you shoot at 5 MP, each pixel in the final picture will actually use image data from the pixels around it.
Nokia, which sold 40 percent of the world's cellphones as recently as 2008, but saw its market share drop to 30 percent more recently, seems already to be attracting the kind of attention it wants with the PureView. One review, representative of what most of the industry press has been saying so far, came from Gizmodo: "FORTY-ONE ACTUAL MEGAPIXELS. Forgive our capitals-explosion, but we're a little shocked right now."
There are a few professional cameras - from the likes of Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad, etc. - that are capable of higher resolution, but Nokia's banking that you won't have one of them in your back pocket when you see that magic, serendipitous shot you really want to get.
Despite the splash (the company also showed off an inexpensive Windows phone in Barcelona), Nokia stock went down five percent after the announcement. The PureView doesn't run Google's Android software - the market leader - or Apple's iOS5. Instead the phone runs on Nokia's own Belle operating system. No price or release date yet announced, though $600 (without a data plan) in May have been mentioned by Mashable. Would you want to have one?