Nokia's Lumia 920: Phony Images Damage Credibility

Nokia got caught red-handed with faked video and photo samples purportedly taken with the Lumia 920. The company has issued apologies and launched an ethics investigation, but the damage has been done.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

September 10, 2012

3 Min Read

Nokia can't afford to make mistakes, and last week it made a big one. Some of the promotional videos and photos supplied as examples of how its Lumia 920 PureView device performs weren't legitimate, and Nokia was called out for it. The fallout has given the one-time market leader quite a black eye.

Last Wednesday Nokia held a press conference with Microsoft in New York City. The focus was the Lumia 920 PureView, a new Windows Phone 8 smartphone due to arrive later this year. Both Nokia and Microsoft spent the bulk of their time on stage discussing the merits of the 920's camera.

The most significant feature of the 920's camera is something called optical image stabilization, or OIS. Both the lens itself and the entire camera module are mounted on tiny springs to dampen vibrations. (Human beings, it turns out, can't hold that still no matter how hard they try, and small vibrations in the hands holding a camera can have adverse effects on the images the photographer is attempting to capture.) Nokia offered several sample videos of scenes captured using devices without OIS, and the same scenes captured using the 920. The video taken from the 920 was dramatically smoother and free of vibration.

But the video wasn't taken with the 920. Toward the end of one sample video, a reflection is clearly visible that shows a camera crew with lighting rig moving parallel to the video's subject. The camera crew isn't using a Lumia 920 to shoot the video at all; it is using a dedicated video camera.

[ Nokia's Windows Phone 8 launch underwhelms. Read more at Nokia Windows Phone 8 Devices Arrive With A Thud. ]

The faked video was pointed out by The Verge, and Nokia has been tripping over its tongue ever since.

First the company said the video was meant to demonstrate the benefits of OIS in general, not specifically the Lumia 920. Too bad the video was pitched as a sample taken from the 920. Then it back-peddled and issued a broader apology: "In an effort to demonstrate the benefits of optical image stabilization, we produced a video that simulates what we will be able to deliver with OIS. ...we should have posted a disclaimer stating this was a representation of OIS only. This was not shot with a Lumia 920. At least, not yet. We apologize for the confusion we created."

Confusion or Deception? Later, Nokia was caught--again!--with sample photos, purportedly taken with the Lumia 920, that were also faked.

All of this unfolded while Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was returning to Finland. He learned of the gaffe once he arrived on September 6 and ordered an ethics investigation.

More information about the ethics investigation unfolded today. Speaking to Bloomberg, Nokia representative Susan Sheehan said the company's ethics and compliance officer is looking into the matter. "What we understand to date is that it was nobody's intention to mislead, but there was poor judgment in the decision not to use a disclaimer," said Sheehan. Nokia has not named the video company that produced the video, but Sheehan promised that the company is "dealing with the situation quickly, fairly, and privately'".

Nokia has since provided actual video footage (below) and photos (here) that represent the capabilities of the Lumia 920's camera.

While the misrepresentation likely won't have any negative impact on sales of the Lumia 920, the damage to Nokia's credibility is severe. Why do this? It is easy to understand that a company pitching its products would want them to look as good as possible. But faking video and photos from a camera is like sticking a Porsche engine in a Chevy during the test drive--you think you're buying one thing but end up with another.

Not cool, Nokia. Not cool at all.

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About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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