Montag, 26. April 2010

Stop the megapixel madness

The specs for Nokia's new flagship Symbian^3 smartphone just leaked out (see, thanks for the photos). If these are correct, it will have a 12 megapixel camera. The new flagship must have the highest spec components available, right?
But unfortunately, the camera phone makers and buyers have not learned the lesson, which the compact camera folks just have.
But it is so easy:
  • On a given sensor size, more megapixel means smaller pixel
  • Smaller pixel mean less light sensitive pixel
  • Less light sensitive pixel mean more noise
This is just simple physics. As well as
  • It does not make sense to build a camera with a higher sensor resolution than supported by the optics
This is known to every amateur photograph, but not to every average more-is-always-better buyer. Thus, ambitioned amateur photographs typically buy compact cameras with lower resoltution than the average buyer. And the manufacturers react to it. Panasonic's high end compact camera, the LX3 has the lowest resoltion of all Panasonic compact cameras. And it has the best image quality.
It is getting weird when looking at Canon's latest product lineup. While the entry level compact cameras like the new SX210 getting up from 12 to 14megapixel, their high end compact cameras G11 and S90 are downgraded from 14,7 to 10 megapixel.
Unnecessary to mention, that the SX210 produces noisier images than its 12 megapixel predecessor SX200, whereas the G11 produces much better images than its predecessor under lowlight conditions.
And to compare this to camera phones: even the sensor of Nokia N86, which is the largest sensor of all camera phones, is smaller than the sensor of the cheapest compact cameras. So if 9-10 megapixel is a reasonable resolution for high end compact cameras with the largest sensors in this space, this would mean that the resoltion of camera phones has to be below this margin. Even 8mp should be too much, maybe 5mp would be a reasonable resolution.

This is a lesson, camera phone producers and buyers still have to learn. And one already learned. The Apple iPhone has a 3.2mp camera, the next generation will probably have 5mp. And the iPhone's photos are better than these from most camera phone, exept some photo experts like the N95 or N86.
So hopefully other manufacturers will follow and downgrade their camera resolution for better image quality.


Arrgh! This posting is just one day old and Nokia proved me to be wrong ... at least to some degree. Today, the Nokia N8 has officially been announced and they showed some sample photos on Nokia Conversations. These are quite good, much better than I expected.
In fact, this is no magic. In another posting, they explained the trick: they took "the biggest sensor in a mobile device". The N86 had a 1/2,5'' sensor, which has been the standard for cheap compact cameras some years ago. Now, the compact camera standard is 1/2,33'' and many of these are available with 12mp. So probably the N8 has just gotten a standard compact camera sensor. And with a given aperture speed of f/2,8, it will give the N8 a reasonable low light performance, comparable to standard compact cameras.
I can't wait to see N8 tests from photographic sites. Probably, the little optics won't keep up with the 12mp sensor, so I am curious what the effective resolution of the N8 will be.
But in fact: if these photos are not faked, the N8 will probably become the best camera phone on the market.

According to, the sensor is even larger than I assumed. If this is correct, it is a 1/1.83" sensor. To put this into comparison with compact cameras: only a handfull of high end compact cameras have a similar sized sensor, eg. the Canon G11, Panasonic LX3 or Fuji F200EXR.
Back to my initial statement of stopping the megapixel madness: if Nokia had restricted the resolution to 8-10mp, the photos would probably be even better. But the N8 will probably not only make better photos than all other camera phones, but also will successfully compete with digital compact cameras.

Sonntag, 25. April 2010

Nokia & Symbian: Hurry Up!

It might look like I am becoming a Nokia basher. But beeing a Nokia and Symbian user for quite some time, I really would like to see Nokia returning to the first line of smartphone producers. But they have to move, or they won't catch up to the rest of the field anymore.
Just one year ago, I have been satisfied with my Nokia 5800 XM. In a direct comparision to the iPhone 3G running iPhone OS 2.x, the 5800 has been a clear winner for me.
What happened until now? Apple brought iPhone OS 3.x and the iPhone 3GS, both reasonable improvements to their predecessors. This was enough for me to switch to the iPhone. Apple already announced iPhone OS 4.0, which will probably arrive around June. This one will further improve the platform, and the next iPhone, rumored to be called iPhone HD, will definitely be a step forward.
But Apple is not the only competitor. Google's Android is doing well, and during the livetime of S60 5th Ed., Android users got Android OS 1.5, 2.0, 2.1 and 2.2 is coming.
Let's compare to Nokia & Symbian. Nokia came out with the N97. Compared to the 5800, it offered a slide out keyboard, a better camera, a better screen and some other improvements. But it is probably to big for anyone except geeks and came with too little megabytes of RAM, making the system unstable when running out of memory. Read more about this on This has not been a phone to compete on the high end with the iPhone, even for someone like me who prefers hardware keyboards.
On the software side, this is still S60 5th Edition, now with a new gadgetable homescreen. I just thought "Wow. Is this all you have done in the meantime?"
To be fair, Nokia had quite some work to do in the background making Symbian OS open source and by the way getting rid of UIQ, thus uniting the Symbian community. Symbian started with a very ambitioned release planning, always working on several releases in parallel so they could release a new version every 6 months. Unfortunately, these plans look like they became a litte over-ambitioned.
The first release delivered by, called Symbian^2, is already some months behind schedule. They needed more time for hardening. The original planning has been to release first handsets with Symbian^2 in the first half of 2010. Now, we might be lucky if we see just the OS in this timeframe. And even if it will come out: Symbian^2 would not offer much, which could close the gap to competitors like the iPhone or Android. It looks like the N97's widgetable homescreen will become standard in Symbian^2 and there will be a bunch of updates on network protocols. But for most users, Symbian^2, which has initially been planned as S60 5.1, it won't offer any visible advantages. According to an article from intomobile, Nokia might also plan to skip Symbian^2 and release the next family of handsets with the coming Symbian^3. But this one is late also.
So while Apple as well as Google and their partners are constantly releasing new OS'es and handsets, Nokia seems to stand still. There is no alternative, Nokia has to execute. No more delays in OS releases, get them out of the door. And this time put them into devices without major flaws.

Mittwoch, 14. April 2010

The power connector belongs to the bottom

I have never understood why the power connectors are spread all among the bodies of various smartphones, whereas the is only one logical location for it. At the bottom. Why? Because it is the only position where a car mount could be build for it without any ugly extra cables. In fact, there are countries where it is forbidden to use a mobile phone in the card without a hands free set. This might not be an issue for phones targeted at kids, as they usually won't have a car anyway. But for all phones targeted at adults, especially for smartphones aimed at the professional user, a power connector at the bottom is a must in my opinion.
The people at Brodit are very professional in getting almost every phone into almost every car. But look, what quirks they have to make sometimes. When I had a Nokia 5800, I also had the Brodit car mount for it. But when I dropped the 5800 into the mount, I had to connect the power cable to the power connector at the top as shown at This looks even worse on a N97 with a power connector on the left side.
But there is some hope. Nokia just announced the C6, among with other messaging phones. There is no photo from bottom out right now, but I could not find a power connector on the photos of any other side. The C6 can be seen as a 5800 with a slide out QWERTY keyboard, more RAM and a higher spec camera. Or as a low cost alternative to the N97, if you like. And maybe this time they got the location of the power connector right ...

There is a detailed review of the C6 on mobile-review (thanks for the photo), showing that the power jack is definitively on the bottom. But there is a micro USB port at the top. As mobile-review assumed, this could mean that the C6 might not support USB charging. This would definitely be a shame. When I am at business travels, I hate to carry a bunch of power connectors with me and try to charge as much devices as possible via USB. So hopefully, the proprietary connector at the botton is just an option. But at least, there is a power jack at the bottom, making it possible to build drop in car kits for it.

Freitag, 9. April 2010

iPhone vs 5800 Update: RSS and ReadItLater

My RSS newsreader 'Reeder' is one of my busiest iPhone apps. This is how a perfect mobile newsreader should look like. When browsing the news, sometimes I stumble over longer articles which I would like to read with more time and display space when I am back home. This is what ReadItLater is for. From my browser or newsreader, I can mark the URL's and read them later.
This works good on the iPhone. Reeder can mark news for ReadItLater. And ReadItLater offers a great iPhone app to sync my reading list. If I like to, I can sync large articles with images when I am at home via WLAN. And I can read them on the road, even without any network connection. This works perfect for me, 5 points.

Looking at the 5800, things look different. I could not find any S60 newsreaders which a comparable to Reeder (or eg. NetNewsWire) on the iPhone. And none of them offer any integration with ReadItLater (or the comparable Instapaper). When looking for an ReadItLater S60 app, they point to their website, which will run on the 5800's browser. So one could copy an URL from the newsreader of his choice and put it on the reading list via the web interface. This is clumbsy but at least it works, so one point for that. Gravity, one of the only S60 apps that matches the iPhone apps in design and quality adds a second point for allowing to put URL's from Tweets into the reading list.

So my points for RSS and ReadItLater integration:

iPhone: 5, 5800: 2


iPhone: 106, 5800: 96

Mittwoch, 7. April 2010

iPhone vs 5800 Update: Audible

Now having switched to the iPhone 3GS for more than half a year, I found some more aspects to compare them. A smartphone has to elimiate the need for a separate iPod, which I use it mostly for Podcasts and Audiobooks.
Though I buy some Audibooks on CD, sometimes I download them from Audible like I did two weeks ago to get Dan Brown's latest Lost Symbol in an unabridged edition. The Audible integration is perfect with the iPhone, 5 points for that. But I found out that there is no officially way to get Audible books on S60 6th Edition devices. OK, one could burn the whole book on CD and re-rip it, but eg. the Lost Symbol contains of more than a dozen CD's, which adds the costs of the CD's and lots of work. At least, there is a way, but I would not want to do that. Only one Point for S60 5th for the option via CD-reripping.

There is an Audible player for S60 3rd Ed. called AudibleAir which offers over-the-air (OTA) downloads. But this is not available for 5th Ed right now, while we are hoping to see Symbian^3 next month. Even on my E51, I did not manage to get AudibleAir to do something useful. The installation is awkward. It is a Windows executable, which installs the software on a SD-Card, so it will be installed when the card is inserted into the device. But this did not work for me. On Audibles help pages, I found the jar-file ... AudibleAir is a Java application. This means, it is constantly asking for permissions several times. At least I manage to login to my Audible Account and browse my library. The app could be switched to German, but failed to display German Umlauts, showing some funny special characters instead. In the End, the application failed to download any of my audio books, but giving me some communication error instead.

So adding to my comparison chart:

iPhone: 5, 5800: 1


iPhone: 101, 5800: 94