Nokia Lumia 900: Is This The Smartphone You Have Been Waiting For?

23 Apr

April 28th, 2012

On Sunday April 8, 2012 the Nokia Lumia 900 on AT&T hit the stores running. Well, sort of. Sunday April 8th happened to be Easter of course, and most AT&T stores were closed. Nice. But for those [like myself] who preordered the phone, the fun began on Monday the 9th when the phones arrived, fizzled fanfare notwithstanding.

Is this the smartphone you have been waiting for? It’s certainly the smartphone I have been waiting for. But I have to preface that with a few things:

  1. That I am a [formerly] frustrated HTC Aria Android user. Without question there is much to love about the Android experience [tons of apps, a customizable OS and GUI (i.e. HTC Sense, Samsung Touch Wiz, etc.) and a wide choice of phones] as well hate [buggy apps and a lack of cohesion in the overall experience and implementation, OS updates that are carrier-bound with no upgrade path, preinstalled bloatware that cannot be removed, sluggish UI experiences, etc.] and the latter gripes fall in line with my two year [tortuous] stint with the HTC Aria Android phone in its current and never-to-be-updated version of Android [ANDROID 2.2 ROM UPDATE | 02.25.2011] All in all, a phone experience more painful than I feel it ever should have been.
  2. That I am a mostly happy [long term] user of the Zune HD with its beautiful Metro interface from the second day of its availability through today. This, even though Microsoft announced late last year [2011] that after 5 years it was abandoning the Zune hardware. So this has given me about 5 years with the Metro interface and I have become quite used to the navigation and use of it. This also means that use of the Zune PC client software is familiar as well.

Nokia Lumia 900 with Windows Phone 7.5 Mango

So I have taken the plunge into the cool waters of the world known at Windows Phone 7, and I have to say I am loving this phone.

Nokia Lumia 900 CyanThe Lumia utilizes AT&T’s relatively fast 4G LTE network [it averages about 16 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up where I am], comes in a beautiful, eye-catching cyan as well as matte black and high-gloss white versions. The Lumia 900 has a 4.3-inch AMOLED screen using Nokia’s ClearBlack technology, has 16 gigabytes of storage [14 available], and an 8 megapixel camera with an exclusive Carl Zeiss wide-angle lens (f2.2/28mm). The camera also shoots high-res 720p/30fps video. The one megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera is perfect for video chats.

Nokia-Drive-navigationAlso of note and available for download [exclusive to the Nokia Lumia] are a few, well done [for the most part] and free apps like Nokia Maps, Drive, and Transport and Nokia Creative Studio, a slick photo editing app, Tango [a video calling app similar to Skype], as well as ESPN and CNN apps for news.

You can customize ringtones using MP3 or WMA files, view voicemails using Visual Voicemail [included in your LTE data service] and send and receive text messages using voice. Windows Phone 7 has built-in social connectivity [with varying degrees of limited integration] to services such as Facebook, Twitter and Xbox LIVE. Facebook and Messenger chat are built in [and conversations stay in threads, grouping chat and text messages], you can check-in and post pictures or video directly to Facebook, your emails are arranged in conversation view [grouped by subject] similar to GMAIL’s threaded conversations and much more. The full rundown can be found here via the Windows Phone website.

The Reviews

The reviews to date have been somewhat hilarious to say the least. I have to say that there is a rather unhelpful undercurrent of snarky naysayers who either fail to understand the platform, are evangelists for their own preferred ecosystem or who just hate the “Death Star” also known as Microsoft.

Let’s first state what the Nokia Lumia 900 is not:

  1. It’s not an iPhone – you will actually need to get an iPhone if you want the “iPhone experience.” If you have tons of apps, DRM music purchased through iTunes or are just enamored with the Apple “mystique” this phone will not sway you in the least.
  2. And it’s not an Android phone – you will actually need to get an Android phone if you want the “Android experience.” The same statement above for Apple admirers holds true for Android devotees.
  3. It’s not even a “God Phone” – it doesn’t have a Dual-Core or Quad-Core CPU, it doesn’t have an HD or Retina display, it has no NFC chipset.

But what it is, is brilliant, smooth, fun and different. Some would say “beautifully different” in fact, and I am one of them.

Celebrating the shape and design of Nokia Lumia 900

The Nokia Lumia 900 is simply a beautiful device. No wait, that’s an understatement; I think it’s a gorgeous device. In my opinion it may just be one the best looking phones on the market right now.

The design is striking and unusual, with the back and sides molded from a unibody piece of hard, smooth, matte polycarbonate. The edges are comfortably rounded and entirely uninterrupted by seams, flaps or screws. In a world dominated by lookalike Androids and iPhones, it’s definitely a breath of fresh air.

The screen is a 4.3-inch [resolution is 800 by 480] AMOLED display which just looks amazing. Colors are rich, bright, and vivid, and the screen is adequately usable even in direct sunlight.

The camera is a Carl Zeiss optics 8-megapixel unit, with dual LED “flash” on the back, and a 1-megapixel camera on the front. It has GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and is 4G LTE capable. It has a single-core Snapdragon system-on-a-chip clocked to 1.4GHz, 512MB of RAM and comes in one size 16GB [about 14 gigabytes of available storage] but has no external memory card slot, and like the iPhone has a nonremovable battery and lacks the ability to play Flash videos online.

So how does it work?

Simply put, I just love this phone. The OS is beautiful with its “glide” scrolling, fly in-and-out animations, snappy response, quick info via Live Tiles and enough customization to satisfy my needs. The app selection is more than adequate and I don’t find myself wanting for anything other than the occasional blockbuster, such as the missing Angry Birds Space, although it has been rumored that the game will eventually appear.

The multitasking [called fast app switching] works well and is for the most part intuitive to use.

Windows Phone 7 Multitasking Demo

I gave the phone a full workout [and myself no less] on a recent hike where I tested out three hiking GPS apps while listening to music through the Zune music player, checked and responded to a few emails, received and replied to text messages, took pictures and manipulated them with Nokia’s free Creative Suite photo app and the Apict app.

Overall, I found switching back and forth between apps to be well executed and easy. You will have to keep in mind that the maximum number of apps you can send to the background [by pressing the Windows Home button] is five. I ran into this issue after playing with the aforementioned photo apps, failing to shut down the ones I was finished with, which ended up shutting down my GPS tracker. To quit an app you long press the back button, select the app screen you want to close, then press the back button out of the app. Lesson learned.

App, music, pictures and video syncing are all easily accomplished with the Zune software client which is now rumored to be destined for the garbage heap and replaced with a new client code-named “Woodstock.”

The camera bears some in-depth examination [because of how good the iPhone 4s and a few Android cameras are] and I plan on covering it in a future post. I will say that the camera, while adequate, left me scratching my head at times. Mostly with image noise [both luminance and color] as well as rather frustrating focusing issues, particularly when attempting close up [macro setting] shots. But as I said, this will be fodder for a future post.

What others are saying:

This Nokia phone and its Microsoft operating system are truly lovely — more beautiful than the iPhone or Android software, and, for most functions, just as powerful. ~ David Pogue, NY Times, 2 Underdogs Produce, but in Time?

Among the many things we heard at Mobile World Congress, one reoccurring sentiment was a wish for another company to come along and challenge the status quo. Smartphone vendors and carriers want a third mobile operating system to balance the power of Android and iOS. Although WP7 is off to a slow start, we think it’s in a good position to be that alternative option.

Before the year’s end, Microsoft wants to be within reach of the number two spot, behind either Android or iOS. Even though the company’s WP7 faces a long road to more mainstream acceptance, we think that it’s a solid operating system with a lot to like. The user interface is clean and easy to navigate. Contact integration is solid, and the Bing services are useful on a day-to-day basis.

A few months ago, Microsoft started shipping 25 000 WP7-based smartphones to developers in the hopes of increasing dedication to WP7. With a little luck, this will result in the availability of new apps later this year. ~ Andrew Ku, Toms Hardware, The Windows Phone 7.5 Review, A Month-Long Experience

"I surmise that Microsoft hired someone from Apple and put money into having a role in the UI and appearance of some key apps. I also surmised that Steve Jobs might have been reincarnated at MS due to a lot of what I see and feel with this phone making me think of a lot of great Apple things." ~ Steve Wozniak, The Verge,  Windows Phone is more beautiful and intuitive than Android, it’s ‘no contest’

I have high hopes for this platform. Indeed to such extent that I have downloaded Microsoft’s Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone and intend to play around with app development for a bit just so I can get my fingers a little deeper into the OS.

As with all things digital, quirks, problems, nagging issues and shortfalls tend to pop their ugly heads up over time. I am on day 20 with this phone and will post my thoughts over the next few weeks and months.

"Think Different" was an advertising slogan created for Apple Computer (Apple Inc. as of 2007) back in 1997. I have always rooted for Apple as the perennial underdog. It’s ironic to me that Apple has now become “the man” [in the mobile arena] with Microsoft as the “upstart” challenger.



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