Of all the phones and smartphones ever released, few brands can claim to have built such a positive reputation among their users as Nokia.
Releasing solid device after solid device, the brand, to this day, is almost completely watertight. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, a reputation takes years to build, and seconds to destroy. And although the Nokia brand remains strong, it was devices like the Lumia 1020 that carried it.
Of all the phones to bear the Finnish firm’s moniker, the Lumia 1020 is surely one of the most beloved. A megapixel behemoth, it helped to redefine mobile photography, to this date possessing the best camera in the Windows Phone sphere, indeed one of the most powerful overall.
With all the love that this device has received from users, even several years after its initial release, the time might seem right for the new Microsoft Mobile to take the reins and work to redefine mobile photography once more.
Given that the device was expensive to design, manufacture, and purchase, and with limited sales, the question must be asked: will the Lumia 1020 ever see a successor?
The story of the Lumia 1020 is that of the PureView brand, as such to understand its future, its past must first be explored. Let’s dive right in.
It was back in 2008 that Nokia, then the biggest and most powerful mobile tech brand in the world, began the PureView project. Back then, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the mobile industry had failed to innovate in meaningful ways for several years.
Handsets remained expensive, however the technology contained within, aimed at the mainstream, was stagnant. Nokia, a company of engineers, saw the continued development of camera-phones as a means both by which to leapfrog the then current state of affairs, and also to increase brand awareness considerably.
And as time went by, devices like the N7 and the N8 helped to increase Nokia’s camera credentials considerably. Though hardly perfect by the standards of today, the hardware in these devices was relatively revolutionary.
However, despite innovations on Nokia’s part, the firm began a slow and inexorable decline, hobbled both by the rise of Apple and Android and a monolithic, inefficient internal structure. Despite this, the PureView dream continued.
It was in 2012, four years after the project began, that the PureView project reached its culmination, then then most advanced camera-phone ever produced, the Nokia 808 PureView.
Possessing a 1/1.2 sensor with a f2.4 aperture, a Xenon flash, a mechanical shutter and a built in Neutral-Density filter, the device certainly trumped any that came before it. Although technically impressive, none of these could match the sheer eye-grabbing potential of the key feature, the 41 megapixels built into the sensor. In 2012, when possessing an 8 megapixel sensor was the norm for flagships, this initially seemed like a typo; and then simply ridiculous, an effect that remains into the present.
Indeed, when the 808 PureView was first revealed, it turned many, many heads winning the award for “Best New Mobile Handset, Device or Tablet” at Mobile World Congress 2012. Everything seemed right for the ascent of this device, however events conspired against it.
At this point, the Symbian platform Nokia so heavily relied upon had been failing for some time. As such, the onus was placed on a shift to Windows Phone to save the platform. Among other things, such as the abandoning of Meego, this switch meant that the highly bespoke 808 PureView could not be shifted, as such it remained on Symbian.
Expensive, and on a much maligned OS, the device languished. The PureView dream certainly lost a few teeth, as Nokia began to include the branding on its other devices, while the 808 sank slowly out of sight.
This wasn’t the end however, as later in 2012, rumors abounded regarding a successor device, the Lumia 1020. As 2013 went by, the device was eventually debuted to much acclaim, though much had been sacrificed due to the hardware restrictions of Windows Phone. The sensor size had taken a hit, the ND filter was gone and there was no more removable storage or battery. Moreover, and most importantly, the dedicated co-processor included to handle the massive images produced had been removed, increasing lag significantly in comparison to the buttery smooth performance of the 808 PureView.
What stood in its place was a much more aesthetically pleasing phone, but at the expense of features; in essence it had been consumerized. This was Nokia doing everything it could to make sure the device sold while still pleasing loyalists. Unfortunately, the device still did not sell as well as it should have.
As such, the 808 PureView remains the culmination of the ‘PureView’ experience, the ultimate camera phone (though perhaps trumped in some regards by the new Panasonic CM-1). The Lumia 1020 was a last-chance of sorts to see the dream made good, to deliver a cutting-edge camera experience in a mobile phone’s housing.
With the failure of the Lumia 1020, it becomes more difficult with every passing month to see a ‘savior’ device. Although a Lumia 1030 ‘McClaren’ was rumored, this only possessed a 24MP sensor, and was throttled in its sleep by Microsoft.
As the hands have the reins have changed, so have priorities. With Microsoft continuing to lose money on every Windows Phone sold, the emphasis is on selling phones, and services, focusing on what the consumer wants, and what competitors are doing, rather than taking the ‘blue ocean’ approach of Nintendo.
The Lumia 1020 is much loved, I myself have very fond memories of the device, yet having failed to prove itself, it is unlikely that Microsoft will give the PureView dream a second chance. As mobile photography shifts to what is achievable with a tiny sensor, the photographer’s dream phone is sliding away.
Nokia’s eccentricities and whimsy were part of what made the corporation so unusually lovable at its peak, but for Microsoft this is no time for sentimentality. As its new mobile phone division continues to leak money at an alarming rate, hard questions must be asked.
As such, the answer is no: the Lumia 1020 will never receive a successor. Nokia is dead; and with it, the PureView Dream. Do you think there is still a chance at a successor device? Do you agree with me or disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Editor’s note: This is an opinion piece reflecting the views of the writer. If you disagree, provide your argument in the comments below in a civil manner.