A blogger I love, Andrew Kim, recently reviewed a couple mobile phones. Andrew is a very different person than I am. I’m design-picky, for sure, but I’m far more obsessed with pragmatism, ergonomics, and comfort than with aesthetics, minimalism, and polish. We have different careers and backstories that inform our different values, and I’m WAY less savvy about photography than he is. I’ve been reading his blog (thanks to Grant) for a couple years, and I find his tech reviews the most fascinating of all his content, because I’ve never read anyone whose love of design tips the scales so heavily. I respect it even if I don’t get it.
Andrew recently reviewed the Nokia Lumia 1020, and he praised it highly. VERY highly. Especially the photography. So I was very eager to check out one of these devices. 1 A few weeks ago, when some strangers at a nighttime event asked me to take a pic of them using their Nokia Lumia 1020, I was stoked to check it out.
My impression of that phone was colored by Andrew’s glowing review, and I was immediately disappointed. I was surprised by how heavy yet cheap the chassis felt. That camera bump was AWFUL. The gal who owned the phone kept explaining to me that you touch anywhere on the screen to take a pic, which I understood but I guess I seemed like I didn’t get it as I spent too long analyzing her phone, because I was inspecting the device and I think she was like ‘WTF is wrong with this chick,’ haha. So: press anywhere. Nice feature! 2
But the pics SUCKED; or rather, the ones I could see sucked. The phone took forever to actually shoot after my press, and it kept jumping around in regards to focus and lighting and color while it was trying to shoot. After this awkward jumpy delay cycle, the shots it ended on each time were distinctly green-tinged and didn’t look all that high res at all. Maybe the Nokia’s screen just isn’t as amazing as Apple’s retina screen, because the exported Nokia pics Andrew posts in his 5s review definitely look higher-res and crisper. This was not at all apparent on the device’s screen. They were grainy, greenish, barely-in-focus shots that took several seconds for the phone to render. It felt incredibly backwards and laggy and shoddy given that Andrew set my expectations sky-high. Granted, this is one low-light, biased encounter. But still.
Yet when I see the output from Andrew’s shooting, the Nokia fares indisputably better when it comes to graininess (definitely) and focus (I think). In his iPhone 5s review, Andrew shows a number of side by sides, which I’m not posting here outright because I feel like he’s the kind of blogger who would strongly prefer that I not do so, even if I linked back to him. You’ll just have to go read his full post. He does point out that, while the iPhone 5s seems to incorrectly over-warm shots when the flash is used, the Lumia 1020 seems to over-cool them so neither choice is perfect. But I’ll be damned if nearly every Lumia shot doesn’t look better the way he presents them (his captions indicate the settings).
I wish I could follow up with those Night Market stranger girls and ask to see the output of those photos, you know, the enormous high-res versions that I’m pretty sure you have to use a cable to transfer off your phone. That would be, pardon the pun, ilLUMI(a)nating. (I’m so sorry. Please feel free to remove me from your RSS reader.) But I can’t; all I can say is that for much more casual photographers like myself, the 5s felt like a more natural photography experience.
I’d love to toy around with a Nokia Lumia 1020 more. Heck, I’d love to have a shoot-off with Andrew himself, though I’m sure he has many more interesting social and press-ish requests. As a lazy photographer consumer, I’ve been obsessed with having a great camera on my phone for many years now, because it drastically affects the number and the quality of photos I take. (I was one of those people who came home from a vacation with nothing to show until about the 3GS.) I’ve never had a natural talent or affinity for photography, but I sure feel more competent with a powerful cell phone in my purse or pocket. I can totally see gravitating to whatever hardware has the best camera in a decade, when all operating systems are totally different than the current weirdly forked Apple/Android/Windows marketplace. That’s what it feels like Andrew was doing, but prematurely, since the market in my eyes is still so much more favorable to Apple customers.
Andrew makes a very good point about how emotional we get in relation to our phones:
Phones are fascinating. They live closer to our body than any other device other than the watch. And if your job doesn’t involve working on a PC, you probably use it more than any other “computer”. Because of our intimate relationship to these glowing bricks, we seem to become very emotional about what device we chose. I don’t think I’ve gotten more dramatic responses than when I praised Windows Phone or bought an iPhone 5S.
I’m not declaring war between platforms or saying that one approach is superior to the other. Android, iOS, and Windows Phone all have their strengths and weaknesses. We seem to get carried away trying to pick a singular winner. To be honest, it really doesn’t matter what you – or I – use at the end of the day. It’s just a window into services or information you’re looking for.
He’s so right. I wouldn’t be moved to write this long-ass post or deeply examine a stranger’s device if these things weren’t increasingly important in our lives, you know? There are fewer more vitriolic debates amongst the tech geeks these days. It’s no longer “I’m a Mac; I’m a PC;” it’s all about the respective choices in our pockets (or, in the case of Glass or that watch, worn on our bodies).
In parting, I’ll point out that Andrew is annoyed by a few aspects of the iPhone 5s leather case, but he doesn’t seem bothered by any of the same frustrations that bother me. As I said before; very different perspectives. I agree that the 5s battery life is surprisingly meh, but I use the CRAP out of that thing so I’m hardly surprised.
- I had briefly played with some hTC Windows phone when a sidewalk spammer approached me to demo one. (That’s what I call them. They’re probably called Foot Traffic Ambassadors or something.) This sidewalker (?) showed me a demo last year when the operating system first came out. I was really interested in many of the features, such as Local Scout, but I was frustrated that whatever she showed me was unsurprisingly a demo and not really on par with the operating system in the wild. This poor girl was super duper helpful; I told her straight out that I was wildly hostile to most sidewalk marketing people, that I was a die-hard iPhoner, and that I was a picky as hell software tester about to ask her a bunch of frustrating questions. She was totally game. ↩
- It’s worth mentioning that it wasn’t in any way likely that I’d accidentally take the shot; something about the Nokia’s bezel prevented this. ↩