HMD Global and Zeiss on Thursday announced that they had signed an agreement under which upcoming Nokia-branded smartphones will use Zeiss-branded optics exclusively. The companies said that they would co-develop imaging capabilities of future handsets, but did not elaborate when to expect actual devices on the market.

The collaboration announcement between HMD and Zeiss has a number of layers, all of which seem to be significant. First off, Nokia’s future phones will use optics co-developed with a renowned designer of lenses. The important upshot here is that HMD is actually investing in the development of custom capabilities for its Nokia phones. Second, the two companies are talking about “advancing the quality of the total imaging experience”, involving optics, display quality, software, and services, but do not elaborate. From the announcement, it looks like HMD will put R&D efforts not only into optics but will design its own software enhancements to improve imaging capabilities beyond those offered by vanilla Android. A good news here is that certain future phones carrying the Nokia brand are not going to rely completely on off-the-shelf hardware, software, and reference designs. Third, HMD announced that imaging is one of the areas that it considers important for its future smartphones. Finally, Zeiss will be used on Nokia-branded devices exclusively, which means that future halo smartphones from Microsoft (if the company decides to launch them) will have to rely on other optics.

Nokia started to work with Zeiss (which was called Carl Zeiss then) more than 10 years ago. The first handset to use Zeiss optics was the N90 released in 2005, which set some standards for smartphone imaging capabilities for a long time. The two companies collaborated for a long time and introduced a number of smartphones with advanced cameras. The culminations of their work were the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 phones released in 2012 and 2013 (respectively) and featuring a 41 MP sensor along with an oversized Carl Zeiss-branded optics assembly and providing features like lossless digital zoom and pixel oversampling. After the acquisition of Nokia’s smartphone business by Microsoft in 2013, the latter released a number of handsets featuring Zeiss Tessar four-element lenses as well, but eventually, Microsoft lost interest in smartphones in general and decided not to prolong its agreement with Zeiss. As a result, Microsoft’s latest Lumia 650 smartphone does not use Zeiss-branded optics.

HMD and Zeiss aim to co-develop “standard-defining imaging capabilities” for smartphones, but they do not disclose when the first Android-based Nokia handsets with Zeiss optics are to arrive in the market. Keep in mind that the agreement between HMD and Microsoft does not cover the PureView (imaging) IP nor the ClearBlack (display enhancements) IP that remain at Microsoft. Therefore HMD will have to develop its image processing technology and LCD screen filters to match features of previous-gen Nokia smartphones when it comes to photography and display quality. It is unclear how much time this work will take, but the good news here is that the works are either underway or about to start.

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Source: HMD Global

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  • tuxfool - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    why would they? They never did in the past.
  • philehidiot - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    Remember though, this is not the Nokia of old. It's merely a company leveraging the brand. Nokia as we knew it is dead.
  • lilmoe - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    I've seen a teardown of one of the new Nokias. Not bad honestly. Very close to the old quality of Nokia, and better than those under Microsoft.
  • melgross - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Unless you’re an expert in these matters, there is little you can tell from a tear down. What are you looking for? Would you recognize different part quality? I doubt it.
  • hemedans - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    yes you can see
    -instead of glue everything they used screw
    -you cant bend them easly like iphone
    -most reviewers agreed they have never tested durable phone like Nokia 6 in recent years

    check them
  • Samus - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    Not entirely true. They engulfed the majority of engineering talent from Nokia. Even the recent announcements state they had direct input from Nokia proper.

    But this could become reminiscent of Lenovo buying IBM. It was a good start but eventually the quality faded and selling based on price alone caused IT departments to leverage their employers to switch to Dell and HP, both of which have gained market share since last year at Lenovo's expense.

    Frankly, I'm surprised it took as long as it did. Lenovo has been making genuinely shitty laptops for years. I don't think I need to name models, because let's face it, half the crap with the Thinkpad nameplate on it these days is entirely undeserving. Rarely do models even bother meeting a single MIL-STD 810G specification where HP's Elitebook generally meet at least 8. Then there is the support, or lack there of, with Lenovo telling customers to go fuck themselves when their Thinkpad Yoga turns itself off when you put pressure on a certain part of the chassis or Thinkpad T400/T500 series USB ports literally cracking off inside the plug because they couldn't be bothered to use thermoplastic injection or or test the tolerances of the plug tension.
  • lilmoe - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Anecdotal much? We're specifically discussing the current Nokia products. They're extremely affordable yet are built on very high standards. This discussion has nothing to do with Lenovo. Or is it because they're both Chinese? I've also never heard of the usb thing on the t series. I know the thinkpad edge series sucks, but t series?? Hmmmm.
  • Gunbuster - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    "extremely affordable" is a stretch don't you think? A similar BLU VIVO 5 is $160 compared to a Nokia 6 at $180. They probably roll out of the same Foxcon factory... ODM: Write a check get a phone.
  • ajp_anton - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Neither Nokia nor HMD are chinese, so I don't know who your "both" is including besides Lenovo.
  • melgross - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Again, how do you know what standards these are using? They are smartphones that are about as good as other smartphones in their price class, nothing more, nothing less.

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