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This is my next: the Nokia 808 PureView

This is my next: the Nokia 808 PureView


The Nokia 808 PureView might not be the best smartphone in the world, but I love it. Here's why.

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This is my next is a special feature where writers of The Verge sound off on their latest deep, dark desires from the world of technology.

"You know I pre-ordered the PureView."

"Hahaha. Good one, Aaron."

"£500 well spent."

"Wait. You're serious?"

The preceding excerpt was from an IRC conversation Vlad Savov and I had on April 1st this year. Vlad, who has a strong distaste for Symbian (although he'll tell you that he doesn't speak ill of the dead), didn't understand, and still has trouble understanding, why the 808 PureView is next on my perpetual "phones I need in my life" list.

Why do I crave it so damn much?

You see, Mr. Savov quite rightly reviewed the 808 against modern smartphones, and yes, if you want to drop several hundred dollars on a device that will satiate your every desire, the PureView doesn't fit the bill. In fact, I think you'd struggle to persuade him it was a smartphone at all. So why do I crave it so damn much?

Around 10 years ago, all I wanted in life was a HTC Canary. That's a bold statement. Perhaps, if I were able to portal back into my pubescent body, I'd find all manner of desires and whims pulling me every which way but loose. However, my present-day self remembers that one concupiscent urge as dominating my every waking thought. Soon enough I spent an inordinate amount of money — all earned rather than given I might add — on the world's first Windows Phone (although at the time it was technically a Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition phone).

The Canary wasn't a great phone, but it was undeniably different. The mobile scene in 2002 was dominated by the likes of the Nokia 6610 and the Samsung T100. Both were svelte devices with limited color screens, text-based menus, and a complete lack of vision. The Canary gave me push email, Outlook integration, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and lots more. Just as I purchased my Canary, other manufacturers began to push cameraphones out to the masses.

"If your phone’s so good, why doesn't it have a camera?" That stung. My inelegant solution was to take images with my sweet Kodak EasyShare and plug in the SD card to view them on the Canary’s glorious 2-inch display. Just one of very many compromises I had to make: being on the cutting edge of ludicrous technology often comes at the expense of convenience.

The cutting edge of ludicrous technology has its downsides

The Canary is one of my many flirtations with the unusual: Haier introduced me to a tiny, pen-like phone. It offered literally nothing, apart from being unreasonably small and looking slightly like a pen. Unsurprisingly, it was nigh-impossible to use and after a couple of hours was as low on battery life as I was on dignity. I could say the same about devices I've bought from Samsung, Sharp, Motorola, and, again, HTC.

At the risk of this turning into a dissertation on ridiculous technological decisions I've made in the past, I'm going to get the point: I love phones that are different. I love phones that put everything into doing one thing, and doing it well, whether it be a novel form factor, new technology, laser-etched Batman logo, or an insane 41-megapixel camera. I love it when a company spends millions to do the tech equivalent of a commenter writing "FIRST" at the end of a news article. Every company that's made one of these "FIRST" devices (Haier excluded) has earned my respect, money, and usually, a ton of market success down the road. Without these leaps of faith, technology wouldn't advance. Even something as dull as an iPhone was once the harbinger of a new era of finger-based touch input.

Without these leaps of faith, technology wouldn't advance

We all know these "FIRST" devices are occasionally ridiculous, often impractical, and nearly always horribly flawed. But that's irrelevant to me. The 808 offers a simply stunning camera, and I want very little else from it. Its PureView sensor is the first of its kind and, although Nokia claims it’s bringing the technology to Windows Phone 8, I believe we’re unlikely to ever see it in such magnificent form.

There’s little chance you’ll see the 41-megapixel PureView in even a reasonably-thin phone anytime soon: the sensor is around 10mm thick without a lens in front of it. It’s not clear how Nokia intends to shrink its processes down without degrading image quality. The megapixel count is unimportant, but a smaller sensor would capture less light, which invariably results in worse photos. Because of that, and bearing Nokia’s dire financial straits in mind, I find it hard to believe that another phone camera will come even remotely close to matching the 808 PureView. It sets the benchmark for others to aspire to, however, and that’s why it’s so important. That’s also why I have to get it in its raw initial form.

So, while you're ridiculing my legendary, memorable, downright ballsy inch-thick Symbian phone, I’ll be capturing your callous taunts in pixel-perfect clarity, before watching my phone crash as I attempt to share a video to Twitter.

Aaron Souppouris unfortunately saw his pre-order cancelled by a pesky online retailer, but will be embracing all things Symbian very shortly. He intends to use it alongside iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices as a traveling photographic companion, and wants to make clear that owning a Symbian phone in 2012 is not for the faint-hearted.