The short and bittersweet conclusion is this: Nokia has produced the greatest cameraphone ever and saddled it with the most antiquated and frustrating OS it could find. You’ll be as astonished by the 808 PureView’s image quality as you will be by Nokia’s audacity in shipping a phone with a dead end operating system that should have been retired from duty years ago.
A careful reading of this review will reveal that I haven’t once referred to the 808 PureView as a smartphone. Smartphones are supposed to let you take your email and web browsing on the move with you, whereas the 808 does the first of those things poorly and the second atrociously. Lacking in compelling apps, staring into an abyss of negligible future support, and being fundamentally unpleasant to use, Symbian in 2012 is a sick joke played at the user’s expense.
And yet, the one standout feature on the 808 PureView is so vastly ahead of anything we’ve seen before as to almost drown out the software complaints. Not only does this phone have the best image quality at 5 megapixels, it can even produce good results at 38 megapixels. You won’t understand the thrill of exploring such enormously detailed pictures until you’ve tried it out for yourself. For my part, I can say that the 808 PureView delighted and surprised me in a way that I’ve not enjoyed since the time I moved from a 17-inch SXGA monitor to a 22-inch 1080p panel. The technological leap here is nothing short of exhilarating.
Even as it reaches terminal velocity in its descent from the cellphone market mountaintop, Nokia retains its signature ability to produce truly iconic devices. The 808 PureView raises the bar for cameraphones, but comes with a great many flaws as well, with the end result being a mediocre product. Still, it’s one that we’re unlikely to forget for years to come.