Nokia’s Smart Devices Chief On Instagram, Android, Phablets & The Continued Lack Of A 41MP PureView Lumia

Nokia has added another device to its burgeoning Lumia portfolio of smartphones today, with the introduction of the Lumia 925: a sleek, PureView-branded handset that will be its first flagship on T-Mobile U.S. At today’s London launch, Nokia executive VP of smart devices, Jo Harlow, sat down with TechCrunch to field a few questions.

TC: Despite all the focus on your camera technologies with the flagship Lumia devices, Windows Phone still lacks Instagram. How much of a blocker is that, what are you doing to get round it and why is it proving so difficult to get this app? 

Harlow: Obviously our goal is to brings great apps to the Windows Phone platform. We have a huge amount of respect for Instagram and we continue to work in that direction and in particular with Microsoft, and with apps like Hipstamatic and the ability to share your pictures on Instagram. But the importance of Hipstamatic isn’t Instagram really — it is the great capabilities that Hipstamatic brings and the community that Oggl represents because they’re a community of people who love photography. And so I think in inspiring that world of consumers then that brings attration from others as well.

I would characterise the competition in Android as more of a spec race than anything else… it’s open but that doesn’t make you first.

We worked very closely with Hipstamatic and shared our portfolio with them, we’ve shared our imaging APIs with them, and that’s where we’d like to work with the developers who can bring even more greate experience to our imaging story.

TC: Are you going to be helping to usher in more new camera apps like Oggl or make more of your own new imaging apps? 

Harlow: The first thing we’ve done is make our imaging APIs accessible to developers — whether they’re developing imaging specific apps or in other ways could use the camera in their app — that they could get all the way to the performance of the camera itself. If you look at what’s happened with photography with mobile devices and just how we use pictures you see that what is today is unlikely to be just what is in the future. It’s constantly evolving — now hundreds of millions of pictures are uploaded every day just to social networks. Yes there are imaging specific apps, and there will be more imaging specific apps and communities in the future, but all communities have a deep relationship with pictures because that’s part of the social fabric of our lives these days. And I dont think that changes, that only gets bigger and bigger.

TC: Is the original 808 PureView 41MP  technology a bit of a unicorn now with the Lumias? Or are you working toward it with each iteration of the devices? Or is this something that you think you might never have because you’re going for thinner devices?

Harlow: I can’t comment about our portfolio coming in the future, but what I will say about the PureView technology that we developed that uses a 41MP sensor is that it delivers a consumer experience in terms of zooming after you’ve taken the photo. That is a phenomenal experience. That’s something that we think is very interesting to continue to pursue.

TC: So you’re not ruling it out?

Harlow: I’m not ruling it out.

TC: You talk about how you have been able to differentiate on Windows Phone — with hardware design, camera technology and so on — but why couldn’t you have done that on the Android platform? The reality is that Android is dominant, and Windows Phone is very far behind.

Harlow: The dominance of Android is led by Samsung. I think you can see the difficulty that others have in standing out from Samsung even when they have really good devices. I think first of all it comes down to partnership and the partnership that we’ve had with Microsoft in terms of bringing new experiences to the platform as well as our own differentiating experiences. We did not believe we could have that level of partnership with Android — and that’s a key difference.

TC: But Android is open. You can do what you want… 

Harlow: To a certain degree yes. But I think I would characterise the competition in Android as more of a spec race than anything else and so there is one partner who is the development partner for any new release of Android and everyone else come some time later, so it’s open but that doesn’t make you first and that doesn’t make you necessarily the most competitive.

TC: I know you can’t comment on future roadmap, but what could Nokia bring to a phablet device, i.e. a larger form factor smartphone, if it decided to play in that space?

Harlow: I think the word is ‘experiences’ because as we are investing in great experiences on our smartphone range it’s logical to think that those experiences we would look to take into other types of form factors and make them compatible with each other. Obviously what we would want in any portfolio is that there’s some consistency in the experience that consumers have of a Nokia product.