Can enhanced camera functionality alone help Nokia regain its smartphone supremacy?

It's a reflection of how much user habits have changed that Nokia used enhanced camera functionality as the main marketing plug for its latest Lumia smartphone, the 1020.

Launched at an event that had been heralded with the slogan "41 million reasons to zoom in," it came as little surprise that the new Windows Phone device boasts a 41-megapixel camera, which completely overshadows the camera efforts of other smartphone manufacturers including Apple. In fact, Nokia already features 41-megapixel technology with its 808 PureView smartphone, but that device is based on the Symbian operating system, which is being phased out.

Indeed, the launch of the 1020 must rank among one of the worst kept secrets in the mobile sector: the camera technology, device name and even images and colour of the devices had been widely dispersed before the launch. In view of some concerns raised by analysts that Nokia has weak marketing clout due to a modest budget, these "leaks" can only help to shore up any advertising campaign.

The big question remains: can this very smart device help Nokia compete in the battle for supremacy in the smartphone industry? It certainly won't hurt to have such fantastic camera capabilities. Many people now rely on their smartphone cameras to take spontaneous photos on nights out, even though many of us wish we had better quality results. My iPhone 4 certainly is pretty useless when it comes to taking photos after dark, even with a flash.

The key issue here is product differentiation: Nokia now has something that other manufacturers as yet do not offer. Even the iPhone 5 only offers an 8-megapixel camera, while the Samsung Galaxy 4 provides a 16-megapixel sensor and 10x optical zoom.

Tony Cripps, principal device analyst at Ovum, noted that Nokia is using imaging and audio functionality extremely well as a way to differentiate itself, and said the marriage of Windows Phone 8 with 41MP camera technology sets a new benchmark for high-end smartphone engineering.

However, the 1020 will not come cheap, and Nokia still suffers from the fact that consumer awareness of Windows Phone devices is generally low. As Cripps pointed out, rival devices such as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 now effectively sell themselves.

For its part, Nokia does not have a large marketing budget to help drive awareness, so it's also encouraging to see that AT&T and Microsoft have both agreed to pool resources to market the Lumia 1020. Investors are certainly not in favour of the Finnish company splashing out on a massive marketing campaign for the new device: Nokia's cash burn is already a cause for concern, and the recent acquisition of Siemens' 50 per cent stake in Nokia Siemens Networks will only exacerbate this further.

Nevertheless, the 1020 has so far had a favourable reception, and for some the camera alone could be a compelling reason to buy. "Nokia may still have work to do to convince prospective buyers to sacrifice favourite apps for superior imaging," added Cripps. "But for those who are less concerned about specific third-party apps or in need of something different, the Lumia 1020's pictures provide a thousand reasons to look again to Espoo."

The Lumia 1020 also supports LTE and NFC and comes in yellow.--Anne

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