Nokia Does Phontography, Droid Doesn’t

When I decided to dump my Symbian-powered smartphones and pick up the Nexus One, I knew there would be some sacrifices involved. One of the biggest things that I knew I would be giving up is a solid phontography experience. If you don’t know, ‘phontography‘ is photography using phones. I’m a huge fan of phontography, and really don’t see the need for a stand-alone camera, specifically with the great selection of solid cameraphones and the connectivity they offer. However, I didn’t realize just how big of a sacrifice this would be until I started using my Nexus One. There are two parts to the phontography experience – hardware and software (much like any other phone use-case-scenario these days).


This one’s tough to complain about with the Nexus One, for a few reasons. For starters, I knew ahead of time that the phone lacked a dedicated camera button and decent flash. I also knew that it only has a 5 megapixel camera, and that reviewers had discovered it took rather poor photos. Unfortunately, there are precious few manufacturers building GSM Android-powered smartphones with support for AT&T’s 3G network, much less ones with decent cameras. This is a major reason that I want Nokia to build a few Android-powered smartphones– they dominate in the camera arena, and that’s a niche in the Android ecosystem that’s currently not being addressed at all.

Of course, there are Android-powered smartphones that bring the megapixel count to the table – that’s easy. What the other manufacturers are missing is the various other hardware improvements that Nokia has been focusing on with newer devices like the Nokia N86 8MP and the upcoming Nokia N8. Nokia’s lead camera guy, Damian Dinning, recently posted an exhaustive FAQ on the Nokia Conversations blog, detailing the behind-the-scenes hardware (and software) improvements that the company has focused on with the Nokia N8. Most of Nokia’s cameraphones feature Carl Zeiss optics, and they’re experimenting with larger sensors and different types of lenses to really produce a solid camera experience. As far as I know, no other manufacturer is taking such pains to produce a fantastic phontography experience.


Software, however, is something that could be easily addressed, but isn’t. While I don’t expect a cameraphone to replace a DSLR (though some probably could), I have gotten used to my phones having a certain level of options while snapping photos. Things like burst mode (great for stop-motion vids), scene settings, and more are options that I’m used to having on my Symbian-powered phones but are missing in even the latest version of Android (v2.2 ‘FroYo’).  While the latest version of Android has updated the camera app from what I used on my HTC Eris with Android v2.1, it still doesn’t hold a candle to my Symbian-powered handsets.

Nexus One Camera App

As for sharing, I’d say that it’s a wash. Using Pixelpipe and Share Online on my Symbian-powered smartphones from Nokia, I had no trouble uploading to Facebook, Twitter, and pretty much anywhere else I’d want to share my photos. Luckily, Pixelpipe is also available on Android, so I didn’t have to sacrifice any capabilities there. One complaint that I actually have about Android is that tons of apps support media uploads. While this is obviously a good thing, it can really junk up the ‘Share’ button found in the gallery – in fact, in landscape mode, I can’t see my Pixelpipe option for all the other junk in this list. I’d love to have the ability to choose what does and doesn’t show up in my Share list on my Nexus One.

Nexus One Sharing

Now, it’s important to be fair – there are newer Android-powered devices that do have a dedicated camera button and a custom camera applications to make the experience better. Unfortunately, these are custom jobs – they’re specific to a handset or manufacturer, and not part of the default Android experience. I really hope that future Android devices pay more attention to the phontography experience by default.

Is the Nexus One a horrid phontography device? Not entirely. While I have to make do with no hardware button to launch the camera, I am able to use the trackball to actually snap photos – which isn’t much different than what I was used to on my Symbian-powered smartphones. The quality of photos obviously lacks on the Nexus One, but there are software improvements that can help that, and newer Android devices such as those from Motorola do have some better features, including a dual-LED flash and dedicated camera button. When taking pictures and video, though, I still miss my Nokia’s – it’s one reason the upcoming Nokia N8 still tempts me to switch back. Nokia, despite their struggles, continues to produce what I consider to be the absolute best content-creation devices on the market.

Published by rcadden

Just a dude with a phone.

8 thoughts on “Nokia Does Phontography, Droid Doesn’t

  1. Imaging was my biggest disappointment when I was an N1 owner. The video capture was pretty lame, the photos all looked like upscaled 3 MP shots and the screen, though sharp and vivid, was crazy in terms of colour accuracy.I'm looking forward to the N8, but there's is so much resting on it now.

  2. imaging is definitely my biggest disappointment, as well. However, the rest of the experience is so nice, I'm (currently) willing to sacrifice. I just wish the N8 had a freakin snapdragon.

  3. I feel you totally Ricky. I've got a Captivate, Vibrant, and Intercept in my possession right now and the experience in this area is definitely a downgrade. Personally, I'm not sure that I could live with a device that's not as stout in the imaging department. It means that much to the rest of the use experience.Side comment: what are you using for screenshots (am looking for an app, but one that doesn't require me to root the device)?

  4. the app is called 'Shoot Me', and it requires root. I don't know of any screenshot apps for Android that don't require root. However, there is, apparently, a way to take screenshots if you have the Android SDK installed on a computer, but it obviously requires your phone to be tethered to your computer – quite silly, if you ask me.

  5. I have followed you for years now and I really enjoy your blog posts, very informative and helpful. I to am at the point of going away from symbian as I have had 8 high end phones including samsung, and nokia's. I have ported the rom of the android 2.2 over on my wifes Hd2 and have played with it for days now and its really interesting and it has alot more options than does my i8910 as far as eye candy etc, but as you just posted, that is the reason I got my phone is for the video and photo capability. Thanks for the post as it shed some light on what I thought as well. I have pre ordered the N8 and I almost canceled it since I have messed with the android 2.2 system. Let me know your thoughts, i use tmobile here in Ks so not having 3g isnt a big thing for me since I import most of my phones anyway 🙂 Its tough letting go of my beloved symbian but if droid doesnt come out with anything before the N8 rolls out I will have a symbian phone for another 6 months to a year. 🙂

  6. Agreed Ricky – I was a longtime Nokia owner turned iphone owner-in-waiting. But then I was charmed instead by the Android proposition, including the App Creator. However, Google's dropping of the N1 makes it appear that there won't actually be an unskinned (Sense etc) phone in the Android retail model anymore, which takes away some of the appeal for me. When I look at my priorities, the camera is very high on the list. It looks like it's the N8 for me, at least until the Android phones catch up in the camera area.

  7. Symbian-guru and my N82 introduced me to the world of Phontography, and I've not bought a stand-alone camera since. It's probably the main reason that keeps me with Nokia devices.I'm also intrigued by projects like Stanford's “Frankencamera” where they have recently released an API framework for the N900 for all sorts of possibilities. It would be even better if this could be a common API that could then be ported to Android and make both OS's superior phontography platforms.

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