A year ago we wrote that Nokia were pinning their future on the new Symbian ^3 operating system. Well, that didn't work out so well. One year later, Symbian is dead, and Nokia are now pinning their future on the Windows Phone operating system. The Lumia 800 is the first Nokia phone to run Windows Phone, so let's take a peek and see whether Nokia + Microsoft = success.
The first thing we want to say is that we think Nokia made a good decision dropping Symbian in favour of Windows Phone. At Mobile-Phones-UK we've always liked Windows, even in the days when most people hated it :) Now that Microsoft have launched version 7.5 Mango, it's becoming quite a snazzy and refined operating system. "Easier, Faster, Funner" is Nokia's description of the phone. And even though funner isn't a real word, it's a description we can go with.
If you're used to old Nokia smartphones, you'll be used to doing battle with your phone every time you use it. It'll come as a surprise to learn that the Windows Phone operating system is actually on your side. It's working with you, not against you. There's no need to reboot your phone every few hours because Symbian crashed again. That's the "Easier" bit.
"Faster" is because the operating system isn't as greedy for resources as, say, Android. So the 1.4GHz Qualcomm processor and 512MB of RAM that Nokia have given the Lumia 800 are more than adequate. There's no need for a dual-core processor and gigabytes of RAM to make Mango run fast. The Lumia 800 also has hardware acceleration of graphics. Multi-tasking? 3D transition effects and live tiles on the home screen? No problem!
What about "Funner"? Well, this must be about the way the user interface of Mango works. It's all about tiles. Obviously, Microsoft looked at theiPhone and Android phones, with their little icons dotted around the screen, and thought, "Why waste space? Let's fill the screen with tiles." Now tiles aren't icons. They're a lot cleverer. Sometimes they behave like icons, just sitting there waiting to be pressed, but often they live busy lives of their own, displaying info, retrieving data, checking for updates. So the messaging tile updates to show when you've got new messages. The calendar tile shows you what's happening today. The people hub shows photos from your social networking contacts. And when you open a tile, there's a cool 3D effect. Hence, "Funner."
One of the features we like is that social networking is built into the heart of Windows Phone. Facebook and twitter are integrated with emails and text messaging. There are a growing number of apps available for Windows Phone, and Nokia has added some custom ones for the Lumia too. Angry Birds is here and Nokia Drive gives you turn-by-turn navigation with voice prompts. On the business side, Office is available, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. One thing missing is Flash support in the browser, but theiPhone 4S doesn't have that either. Another thing missing is Profiles, which Symbian users may miss. Overall we give a thumbs up to Windows Phone 7.5, and we look forward to see how it develops and what new apps Nokia brings to the partnership.
So much for the OS. What about the rest of the phone? Well, it's a looker. Constructed from polycarbonate, it feels tough and looks cool, with its smooth, seamless one-piece body. Although rectangular when viewed from the front, it's curved and tapered from the side, making it feel slimmer and easy to grip. We like the minimalist feel, and it comes in a choice of colours too. We think it looks great in black though, with the blackness of the screen merging with the phone's body for a very cool look. But watch out for scratches! The screen isn't the largest by any means, but it's bigger than the iPhone 4S's screen, and it's big enough. It's a capacitive AMOLED screen, so blacks are very black and colours are very colourful, and with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels, it's very sharp and detailed too. Gorilla Glass gives it much-needed protection.
The Lumia 800 comes with 16GB of built-in memory, which will be plenty for most people, but we'd have liked to see a microSD memory card option too. However, that's not the way of Windows Phone it seems.
Music is good on the phone. In addition to the Zune software that comes with all Windows Phone devices, the Lumia also has Nokia Music. This gives easy access to all your music tracks, organised by Artist, Album, Genre, Playlist, etc. It also gives access to Mix Radio, which streams music to your phone over Wi-Fi. Mix Radio lets you choose a genre, then you can listen to playlists streamed to your phone. There's also a built-in FM radio. As with most Nokias, music quality is excellent, especially when using the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The camera is excellent. It can't match the quality of the Nokia N8, but with an 8 megapixel sensor, Carl Zeiss optics, a wide f2.2 aperture, autofocus and a dual LED flash, it's got what it takes to match most of the competition. In poor lighting, it can be a bit noisy, but in daylight we can't fault it. The camera can also record video in HD 720p resolution. For a flagship phone, we'd have liked to see 1080p, but it's not the end of the world. We'd have liked a front-facing camera too, like on the HTC Radar, but that's also missing for some reason.
The Lumia 800 comes with a substantial 1450mAh battery. This is enough to power it through a day of heavy use. If you're economical with it, you might get longer.
So, we've come away liking the first Windows Phone product to be released by Nokia. Considering what a big change in direction this is for Nokia, they've done a great job in a short time, and we look forward to seeing what they'll do next. Should you buy the Lumia 800? It's an excellent phone, but not an outstanding one. We like the new operating system, we like the look and feel of the phone, we like the fact that the phone never feels stretched, however many apps you play with. But it doesn't wow us. It doesn't have a super-sized screen, it doesn't have the best camera ever, it doesn't have the number of apps that iOS andAndroid have, it doesn't even have a memory card. But it doesn't cost as much as an iPhone 4S or a Galaxy S2 either. If you like the Goldilocks appeal of being not too hot and not too cold, then you'll find yourself warming to the Lumia 800. And if you're in the market for a Windows Phone device, then choosing Nokia could turn out to be a good move, given the closeness of Nokia and Microsoft.