Did you look at the "high-res" photo of Mars that Curiosity shot and wonder how many gigahertz and megapixels it took to get that photo? We advise you to sit down, because the 2,000-pound rover's guts are pretty weak compared to today's powerful smartphones and tablets.
"There's a popular belief that projects like this are going to be very advanced but there are things that mitigate against that. These designs were proposed in 2004, and you don't get to propose one specification and then go off and develop something else. 2MP with 8GB of flash [memory] didn't sound too bad in 2004. But it doesn't compare well to what you get in an iPhone today."
Revine also said that data transmission and reliabiltity were two other important factors at play:
"The UHF antenna transmits to two spacecraft orbiting Mars, which relay the results back to Earth. That's where most of the data is coming from. It gives us on the order of 250 megabits per day, and that's got to be shared between a bunch of instruments, so there's not much bandwidth for the cameras."
Naturally, it would take longer to transmit larger photos back to Earth. But honestly, as Ravine says, who cares? Curiosity is sending photos of Mars, for crying out loud. You get to see Mars and tweet about it during your lunch break. How spoiled are you!
You might also remember that James Cameron announced that he was working with NASA to trick out the Curiosity with 3D cameras for breathtaking footage. Yeah, that didn't pan out either because of time and budget contraints.
More sad news for hardware buffs is that Curiosity only has a 200MHz processor and 256MB of RAM. Compared to the 1GHz+ dual-core/quad-core processors and 512MB/1GB of RAM most mobile devices pack today, Curiosity just seems downright underpowered on paper.
So for now, at least until another breakthrough, the Curiosity's "puny" specs will have to do and you can take pride in knowing how great you've got it with that 8-megapixel, dual-core processor computer in your pocket. See, gadgets in space are nowhere near as awesome as sci-fi movies make them out to be. How lame.