Monday 23 July 2018

Samsung i8510 INNOV8 (2008)

Samsung i8510 INNOV8
Launched July 2008

Ten years ago – despite the iPhone being in its second generation – the most popular type of smartphone was Symbian running on a traditional “candy bar” device, much like the Nokia N95. And of course it’s Nokia that most people would immediately associate with this type of handset, but they weren’t the only players in this particular game.

Launched ten years ago this month, the Samsung i8510 (marketed under the name INNOV8) was very much a smartphone in the Nokia tradition... except of course this was not a Nokia. It was something better.

If you were a fan of the Nokia N95 and N95 8GB (and there were many of those) then you might have thought that the replacement N96 had taken a bit of a wrong turn with its emphasis on the integrated DVB-H TV receiver. The Samsung i8510 INNOV8 sat in the same segment, but instead of a TV receiver it packed in a class-leading 8 megapixel camera instead (giving the phone the “8” in “INNOV8”). It packed WiFi, GPS and 3.5G support along with an FM radio and expandable memory, plus a front-facing video calling camera.

Giving the high-end Nokia N-Series phones a run for their money, the i8510 INNOV8 was a well-built and elegant device which certainly attracted its fans. But even though Samsung could prove that they could out-Nokia Nokia, the fact remained that most Symbian fans would simply prefer a Nokia instead. It wasn’t quite the success that Samsung were looking for, and it turned out to be Samsung’s penultimate Symbian smartphone with the Omnia HD in 2009.

For collectors of esoteric Symbian devices, the i8510 isn’t very common today but typical prices seem to be £40 or so.

Thursday 12 July 2018

Nokia Lumia 1020 (2013)

Nokia Lumia 1020. Check out those megapixels.
Introduced July 2013

Let’s say that you are one of the world’s most famous brands, and you make a smartphone which easily has the best camera that any smartphone in the world has ever had, and then you add all the modern features that all the rivals have on top of it. Sounds like a recipe for success, yes? Well, in the case of the Nokia Lumia 1020… it wasn’t.

The headline feature of the Lumia 1020 was definitely the camera. Featuring a stonking 41 megapixels combined with optical image stabilisation (OIS) and a large sensor, this smartphone’s camera completely stomped on its rivals.

This remarkable “PureView” camera had first been seen in the Nokia 808 – Nokia’s very last Symbian smartphone – a bit over a year earlier. The clever folk at Nokia had tweaked it a bit in the meantime, and crucially had added OIS to make pictures even sharper. By default, the 1020 actually took 5 megapixel cameras that were vivid and sharp by using oversampling, but you could also use a Pro Camera app that could save both a 5 megapixel picture and one up to 38 megapixels at the same time. If you wanted to edit the photo and zoom into some detail later, then the higher resolution was probably for you. The Lumia 1020 could also effectively emulate an optical zoom by providing 4X near-lossless zoom with the huge megapixel count.

The rest of the hardware was no slouch either – a 4.5” 768 x 1280 pixel display, 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU, 2GB of RAM, 32 or 64GB of internal storage, NFC, 4G support and even an FM radio plus all the things that every other smartphone had. The camera could also take 1080p HD video and there was a 1.2 megapixel selfie camera on the front too. It was a bit of a big beast and it certainly wasn’t cheap, but what was there not to like?

The catch was… this was a Windows phone. Nokia had been punting Windows devices for a year and a half, and despite being critically acclaimed it turned out that consumers weren’t really that interested. The Windows 8 OS shipped with the Lumia 1020 was elegant and complemented the hardware precisely, but it simply did have whatever it needed to have to steal customers from Android and iOS. The seamless support for Office 365 did appeal to corporate customers though, and quite a few did start to migrate from BlackBerry to Windows. But it wasn’t enough.

Nokia did start on the path to produce a successor – the Lumia 1030. But by then Microsoft were in charge and they tried to drive Windows Phone sales by pursuing the value end of the market instead. Although 2015’s Lumia 950 did revisit the PureView camera with a decent enough 20 megapixel unit, Windows Phone was largely irrelevant by that point.

Today an unlocked Lumia 1020 in good condition can cost you less than £40, where the earlier Nokia 808 will cost you several times more. Today, Android devices such as the Huawei P20 Pro come close in terms of camera specifications, but no mainstream camera phone to date has topped the Lumia 1020’s 41 megapixel camera.

Image credit: Nokia

Nokia Lumia 1020: Video

Check out some more shots of this epic cameraphone in the video we made to cover its launch five years ago.

Thursday 5 July 2018

Sliced bread (1928)

Lightly toasted sliced bread circa 2009
Introduced June 1928

There’s a common phrase “the best thing since sliced bread”. But have you ever considered exactly what time period that refers to? Yes? Well, wonder no more… because sliced bread is ninety years old this month. Apparently.

It’s a product you are possibly familiar with, having been around for thousands of years, presumably with a great deal of uneven sawing and cursing along the way. Having the bread pre-sliced not only made it easier, but it made bread more popular too.

All this convenience has to be a good thing, right? No downsides and all that? Well, bizarrely in 1943 the United States made sliced bread illegal.

Of course if you eat sliced and unsliced bread you might have spotted one downside with the sliced version – it dries out more quickly. Unsliced bread is protected by the dry crust, but when you slice it you expose the moister interior to the atmosphere. To protect sliced bread from drying out, it needs to be wrapped and in 1943 that meant using waxed paper.

They take this very seriously in Chillicothe, Missouri
Claude R Wickard - head of the War Food Administration – decided that the waxed paper could be better used for something else. Aircraft carriers, tanks and atom bombs perhaps. In New York, local bigwig John F Conaboy tried to clamp down on illegal sliced bread sellers even harder. You might suspect that neither Mr Wickard nor Mr Conaboy prepared much in the way of food in their households. The ban was finally lifted in March 1943, presumably after the Manhattan Project said they were more concerned about wonky sandwiches than saving waxed paper.

The city of Chillicothe, Missouri has a website dedicated to the product launched in their town, which also appears to have been created in 1928. Today both sliced and unsliced bread are commonly available in most food stores.

A few years after the ill-advised ban on sliced bread, the Second World War also produced another kitchen helper – the microwave oven. As far as many households were concerned, that really was the best thing since sliced bread.

Image credits: