Nokia’s Jo Harlow: Computational imaging and dual-SIMs in future Lumia smartphones


Nokia is laser-focused on imaging as a USP for its Lumia range of smartphones. Every senior Nokia executive I met at the Lumia 925 launch in London last week emphasized on imaging. Yes, Nokia has the best music store out there (you get an annual all you can eat music subscription with the phone) and it has the best offline maps, and yet they kept emphasizing on the camera technology. It was only after sitting with Jo Harlow, Nokia’s executive vice president for smartphone business, did I realize why. Nokia is not content with cramming 41-megapixel cameras into its phones, it is planning to do something insane.

It was only on asking Harlow about the next big challenge for Nokia when it came to smartphone photography did I realize what Nokia’s engineers are attempting to do. “If you look at where imaging is going, computational imaging is an area of exploration. Being able to capture even more data — data you cannot even see with the human eye that you can only see by actually going back to the picture and being able to do things with them,” she said.

In other words, we are talking about Lytro-like light field photography where users can click a photo without focussing on anything in particular and later play around with the photographs by being able to focus on any part. In other words, photos remain alive long after they have been clicked.

“I think that is a key challenge to bring to a smartphone because computational imaging or computational photography requires computational power. That was one of the limitations in bringing that kind of experiences on a smartphone. Changes in the processing capabilities of smartphones opens it up as an area of exploration,” Harlow explained.

While it might sound audacious, Nokia is going full-steam ahead with its ambition of bringing computational photography to its Lumia smartphones. Nokia has announced it has invested in Pelican Imaging, which has the technology to bring light field cameras into a relatively slimmer smartphone form factor. Even on the chipset front, Qualcomm’s silicon with Adreno 320 GPU already has the capability to support such features.

On the other end of the spectrum, Nokia is also looking closely at India for its Lumia smartphones. “One of the things that we have done with an eye on India is to build out the portfolio and to have flagship devices that create aspiration but to really pay off that aspiration is to have lower end devices. The Lumia 520 is a great example of that. We will continue to push the boundaries of how low we can take Lumia. That’s one thing. Then, of course, there are things that are currently missing. Dual-SIM is an important one and to be really successful in the Indian market. And that’s something on our radar to bring to the portfolio,” Harlow admitted.

You can read my complete interview with Jo Harlow in today’s DNA here.

Disclosure: Nokia sponsored my travel and stay to attend the Lumia 925 launch event.

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