Evidence of different screen resolution for Nokia’s concept Windows Phone 7 (or a new chassis)

With the help of advanced CSI forensics (a.k.a. fixed ratio marquee in Photoshop), I have found evidence to suggest the oddities of the home screen tiles on Nokia’s concept Windows Phone 7 is not a mistake.

Looking back at the catalog of Nokia smartphones, one commonality stood out – many of them have the screen resolution of 640×360. In fact, Nokia coined this resolution “nHD” and as far as I know is not used by any other brand on the market.

Now, using the ratio of that resolution which is 1.77 (or more commonly known as 16:9), placing it over the Windows Phone 7 home screen yields an interesting but not unfamiliar result – four tiles plus a bit.

What might be happening here is that Nokia, who like all other OEMs, are trying to minimize costs in adding a new model to their product line. It’s common for them to utilize existing components such as a screen and display sensors and. It would not be surprising if Nokia is reusing nHD as they’re familiar with the technology and its manufacturing process.

In response to criticism that these images are “rough designs”, I would say for a CAD model as polished and as detailed as Nokia’s to be shown to the public at a press event, it’s extremely unlikely the designer would base it off “hunches”. To that effect, the designer simply don’t add and place elements as they wish, instead, they would be given quite specific if not scientific measurements on all the elements that make up the hardware’s exterior.

Having said everything about the Nokia concept device, let me be very clear, there is nothing wrong with this phone. In fact, I quite like the bold colors and clean lines on the industrial design. However, it’s specifications can have ripple-like impact on the rest of the ecosystem which up and till now was evangelized to be consistent.

We’ll have to see when the specifications of this device is revealed if it’ll stay that way.

Update: Commenter “Juan Camargo V.” also raises an interesting point that this might be part of a hardware specifications refresh from Microsoft coming at Mobile World Congress 2011. iPhone 4’s qHD (960×540) also has an aspect ratio of 1.77 which makes it a contender for a future-proof resolution. Nevermind that, iPhone 4 has a 960×640 (ratio of 1.5) screen.

Update 2 (16/02): At the Mobile World Congress 2011 financial analyst briefing, Microsoft’s Andy Lees, SVP of Mobile Communications Business, said in response to how quickly OEMs can design a WP7 device,

It varies a lot by OEM. If you were to start completely from scratch, it takes a while, 18 months. But, you don’t often need to start from scratch. If you’re asking specifically with Nokia, Nokia has lots of components that they can use in order to get a much faster start.

36 insightful thoughts

    1. Yes. If you have extra long fingers. Seriously the ratio shouldn’t be changed. The original ratio does make a lot of sense and why should WP7 adopt a ratio from a dying system?

  1. Damn!

    On one had Nokia make fantastic, reliable hardware. It’s sturdy and there are plenty of features: How many different phones come with 32gb of internal memory expandable up to 48gb with a MircoSD card?, Or come with FM transmitters?

    The N8 was also the first announced phone to come with pentband radio (But the iPhone 4 beat it to the market), but they all come with trade offs often in the form of RAM, CPU power and screen resolution.

    I realised Microsoft had minimum specifications for WP7, and I wondered how Nokia would work around this. If they complied with Microsoft’s instructions, then I figured the quality would slide (I suspect there’s a reason we haven’t seen a 1ghz Nokia yet, either heat or space…..) but continuing their own way might make Nokia phones less powerful then their HTC and Samsung counter parts.

    It’s a tough trade off

  2. I heard Microsoft was going to unveil a new chassis soon. With the new trend being moving towards qHD (960×540) to somewhat match the iPhone 4, I think that is the new chassis; since it has a 16:9 aspect ratio, maybe that is what Nokia is planning on using.

    1. The second chasis that MS had always planned was 480×320. May be they will add a 3rd chasis for Nokia. You’ll never know, anything could change after this deal.

      1. 854*480 seems indeed more likely. Compatibility with previous applications would be really tricky with a reduced width.

  3. Its disappointing but i’m not entirely shocked…consistency inside this space is a shiny object…once everyone has one, it’s not as shiny so…time to create a new shiny object :)

  4. Ok I give up. you dont have me completely convinced but I am about 50/50 on if this is just a rough copy and paste mockup (hell it could be old nokia conceptual phone artwork they had lying around they shopped windows buttons and a homescreen onto) or if it was intentional as you suggest.
    Also who is to say windows phone wont fragment as they take on new features and raise the bar for what OEMs can do with it. Higher resolutions, faster processors, better graphics, 3D, NFC, its all up in the air. Thats the challenge right?
    Also one of the engadget guys did point out that when nokia chose WP7 they basically threw away their chance at a low end smartphone, because with WP7 there is only the high end. Android (and as the rumors go iPhone nano) have low end market options. Who is to say MS wont fragment out the OS as to compete with that market and stay relevant? HP/Palm thought enough of that low end market they came up with the Veer webos phone. so small it needs magnetic dongles for headphones and usb.

  5. Really? Well this would be a royal pain in the backside for both everyone involved with WP7, whether it’s developers, designers, or end-users. Very unfriendly.

  6. Really, is it that hard to just let this go? They made a concept render that didn’t comply with WP7’s resolution. Does this really warrant two separate posts that are essentially “I am right about this”?

    1. Well I’m not right about this because honestly I don’t know. All I’m doing is putting together evidence that confirms a theory.

    2. Fred: if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Simple as that. I for one am interested in any and all details about the Nokia/MS deal, and Long is doing some fine investigative work here.

      1. It’s not about the concept – it’s about what the switch in ratio means for the future of Windows Phone 7.

  7. If they made the final decision on last Thursday night and they want to launch the first phones this year, it’s clear they can’t change the preordered LCD/OLED panels!

    You can’t change the specifications of, let’s say, 20 million, already ordered pieces, six months before shipping from the panel manufacturer.

    So the screen ratio is going to be 1.77, I see it almost as a given thing. Nokia is going to keep its screen ration for the first (at least) devices. The same decision made Apple with iPhone 4 with a new screen and iPad for example. But we still can hope for the better resolution, 480-pixels wide, I think. It’s reasonably probable.

  8. It makes no sense to go low when all manufacturers are moving to bigger screens and they demand even higher resolutions, and Nokia has always been in favor of the 1.77 ratio.

  9. On the issue of fragmentation, I can see Long’s point, but conceptually, fragmentation is always a fact of life. iOS is fragmented – it has 320×480, 640×960, and 1024×768 (iPad). A rumored, smaller device is coming out, and I’d bet it would introduce another resolution. Some units have GPS, some don’t. Some units have a compass, some have forward cameras, some have OGLES 2.x versus 1.x, some have 3G, etc. There are some models that can’t upgrade to the latest OS and are forever stuck at 3.x while others get 4.x.

    Why isn’t anyone screaming bloody murder, then? That platform is *certainly* fragmented. And yet iOS developers just keep pumping out code.

    That’s because iOS provides a reasonable way to deal with those issues, and I suspect WP7 will follow suit. Microsoft *needs* the flexibility to adapt to better hardware if it’s to ever succeed. It’s just plainly unreasonable to expect no hardware changes. The specs were the minimum, not some self-inflicted handcuffs.

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