Nokia expected to take smartphone cameras to new heights with 41-megapixel Lumia

The successor to Nokia's previous 41-megapixel model, the 808 PureView, is expected on July 11

Nokia is expected to launch a follow-up to its 41-megapixel 808 PureView running Windows Phone on July 11, a move that will give the struggling phone vendor a much needed boost, according to one analyst.

The smartphone, now rumoured to be named the Lumia 1020, has been a long time coming. It has been expected since February last year, when Nokia introduced the 808, a smartphone running its now-abandoned Symbian OS. But it now looks highly likely that a Windows Phone device with a similarly high-resolution image sensor will finally see the light of day at a Nokia event in New York on July 11: The invitation said "there are 41 million reasons to attend" or follow the event.

The yet-to-be-launched smartphone has until recently been referred to as the EOS, but calling it the Lumia 1020 would follow Nokia's naming conventions, which gives higher numbers to more advanced phones. The last two digits would mimic the name of other new members of the Lumia product line, including the recent Lumia 820, 720, 620 and 520.

In addition to a 41-megapixel sensor, the smartphone is expected to have 4.5-inch screen with a 1280 x 768 pixel resolution; a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, and 32GB of integrated storage.

With specifications like that, the camera is of course the most important part. Since the launch of the 808 PureView, Nokia has had time to adapt the underlying technology for Windows Phone, and to add functions such as optical image stabilization. That is already a key feature of Nokia's current high-end Lumia devices, which makes it a likely addition and should, in combination with the sensor, result in hitherto unseen image quality for a smartphone according to Malik Saadi, analyst with market research company Informa Telecoms & Media.

Another rumored camera feature is the ability to take a full resolution image and a 5-megapixel image at the same time, allowing users to save one in optimum quality and use the other one for online sharing.

The device comes at an important time for Nokia, which bet its future on abandoning Symbian for its smartphones and switching to Windows Phone. The company sold just 5.6 million Windows phones during the first quarter of the year, a step in the right direction, but not enough according to analysts. The Lumia 1020 needs to sell better than its predecessors for Nokia's future to be secured.

"I think it will have a significant impact on Lumia sales if it is priced right, simply because the audience that wants a two-in-one device with a good smartphone and a good camera is quite big," Saadi said.

However, having a good product isn't enough in today's cutthroat smartphone market: Successful marketing and help from operators also play an important role -- and it looks as though Nokia will get more help from mobile carriers, according to Roberta Cozza , research director at Gartner.

"It has become clear that more and more carriers are becoming a bit uncomfortable with the Android-iOS smartphone duopoly," Cozza said.

Nokia has been working more closely with operators recently. Last week, Telefónica said it will spend more on marketing to help sell Nokia's Windows Phone 8 devices in the U.K., Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Chile for at least one year. In the U.S., the Lumia 1020 will at first be exclusive to AT&T in the U.S., according to reports.

This year has seen Nokia as well as other phone manufacturers like HTC and Samsung Electronics focus more on the camera, with improved hardware and software. HTC bet big on the One's Ultrapixel camera, and recently Samsung added a model to its Galaxy S4 line-up with an optical zoom.

For the phone manufacturers this is all about trying to differentiate their products from the competition, and a camera that stands out gives salespeople a hook. This trend isn't going to go away anytime soon, according to Saadi. Sony is, for example, rumored to be working on a smartphone code-named Honami, which has a 20-megapixel camera.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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