The Nokia Lumia 900 is the Finnish Giant’s new flagship in their Windows Phone range of devices. Probably the flagship Windows Phone 7 device right now period.
Ofcourse that brings along the question whether it’s deserving of this position, or whether it has what it takes to challenge other manufacturer flagships, like Apple’s iPhone 4S, Samsung’s Galaxy S III or HTC’s One X. And whether after Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.8 announcements, if it’s still worth taking a look at.
We’ve been using the Nokia Lumia 900 for the last two weeks to try and find out.
The Retail Box:-
You get a neat little iPhone/iPad-like pin to remove the microSIM card slot in the box. There’s the usual amount of contents, so nothing out of the ordinary.
More details in our Nokia Lumia 900 Unboxing.
While the Nokia Lumia 900 appears almost identical to it’s smaller brother, the Lumia 800, there are actually some very noticeable differences between the two. There’s no mistaking that they’re from the same family, but there’s a lot more changes in the Lumia 900 than it just being the larger of the two.
That being said, the design of the Lumia Windows Phones are different enough from the usual phone designs you see out there, that they end up being rather eye-catching. I’ve been questioned by interested folks and passers-by about the Lumia 800 and now the Lumia 900. Be prepared for that.
Like the Lumia 800, the Lumia 900 is made out of black, cyan, magenta or white colored polycarbonate. The White polycarbonate used here is similar to the HTC One X, but instead a glossy finish is applied, to prevent it from catching dirt or stains. That turned out to be a common complaint from owners of the white One X. This does however make the Glossy White Lumia 900 feel more slippery.
The non-white colored units though, have a matt finish. This ends up making the 900 feel quite nice in the hand, and different from anything else currently available in the market. The entire design is a seamless, clean, curved piece that lacks any screws or panels. I really cant stop talking about it, heh.
Moving on, at the top of the Lumia 900, you have a standard 3.5mm audio jack, nicely situated to the side, with a open microUSB port, and a microSIM card tray that’s accessed with a pin, similar to the method used on the iPhone.
Thankfully, Nokia removed the flap design that covered the port on the Lumia 800, which was a pain to open everytime you wanted to charge the phone.
On the left side, you have no ports at all. Keeping it minimal.
On the right side, you have the silver volume buttons, a power/screenlock button and a 2-stage dedicated camera key.
At the bottom, the polycarbonate shell is punctured by perforated holes to form a speaker grill.
At the back, you have the 8 Megapixel Camera, with a dual LED flash.
Coming to the main attraction, at the front you have a dominating 4.3 inch AMOLED gorilla glass screen (at 800 x 480 pixel resolution) that uses Nokia’s Clearblack technology for really deep blacks, while remaining vibrant and legible even in sunlight. It’s not curved like the Lumia 800, but it’s the same size as Samsung’s Galaxy S II.
It’s great for watching movies, looking at pictures, or even reading a book on the Amazon Kindle app. Though some folks might have a problem with the resolution. It’s thankfully not a pentile screen, like the one on the Lumia 800, so things look much better all around.
Above the huge screen, is a wide-angle one megapixel front facing camera, that can apparently record 720p HD video. It’s a wide aperture camera (even the one on the back), so video calls should be pretty high quality. Depending on the app atleast.
At the bottom of the display, are your usual three standard Windows Phone 7 buttons for back, home/Start and (Bing) Search.
Finally, at 127.8 x 58.5 x 11.5mm, the Lumia 900 is definitely in the ‘large’ phone category. There’s a lot of space around the screen which kinda makes the phone larger than it needs to be. It still slips into a pocket easily enough, but you’ll find yourself moving it around from time to time so that it’s comfortably situated.
The Nokia Lumia 900 is powered by a 1.4 Ghz Qualcomm processor, that keeps everything quick enough that you really enjoy the whole Windows Phone experience.
The phone is fast, and no slouch at running apps, and more than quick enough for your average day-to-day errands.
That might sound unbelievable since the Lumia 900 isnt part of the new quad-core fad that’s popping up in many manufacturer’s Android devices, but the windows phone platform really isnt as demanding. As such the Lumia 900 can easily handle almost any task you throw at it, from playing Angry Birds, to streaming music on Nokia Mix Radio, or typing out an email or working on a powerpoint presentation.
Scrolling through your list of apps or all your interactive live tiles is quick and simple. One thing windows phone has down pat, is glance-ability.
Quite frankly, the only thing that can slow you down, is a slow internet connection. I’ve found that the entire Windows Phone experience is more suited for a 3G or HSDPA data plan, and sort-of crawls on slow GPRS or EDGE.
Speaking of which, there’s 16GB of onboard storage for all those apps, games or your media like music, videos or photos. There’s no microSD support in windows phone yet, so while it’s ample space, it is limited. There’s online storage like Skydrive and Dropbox if needed, and music-wise there’s Nokia’s Mix Radio streaming music app (regional) which is free, along with official Spotify and Last.fm apps on the store.
Otherwise that’s pretty much it for hardware. There’s your usual bunch of connectivity options, from Bluetooth, to wifi, gps, and HSDPA upto 21 MBPS. If you get the North American Lumia 900, there’s even LTE 4G support.
If you haven’t used a Windows Phone before, it can be a bit of an interesting experience.
It’s an incredibly easy to use operating system, one that jostles for your attention, but it isn’t a grid of apps like iOS and Android, rather a collection of “tiles” with “live tiles” that act as sort-of widgets.
What’s unique to the Lumia Windows Phones though, is that Nokia has worked with Microsoft to create numerous apps that add to the experience. It’s an ever-expanding list of apps, from Nokia Drive (turn-by-turn voice guided navigation), Nokia Maps (close to Google Maps in terms of POIs if not better), Nokia Music (free streaming music), Nokia Transport (check public transport routes), Nokia Trailers (view movie trailers and info), Nokia Creative Studio (creative image effects), Nokia City Lens (Augmented Reality), Tango Video Calling, yada yada.
Browsing the Internet is an easy enough operation too, with Internet Explorer (sigh).
There’s also now the ability to tether right out of the box, so you can use Your phone’s internet connection and turn it into a wifi hotspot for your computer or iPad.
The elephant in the room though, is that the Lumia 900 (and other current Lumia windows phones) will not get an update to Windows Phone 8. Instead owners will get a Windows Phone 7.8 update that will bring most or some of the features of WP8 down to your phone. Unfortunately though, neither Microsoft nor Nokia have commented on what exactly will be coming in WP7.8, apart from the new start screen.
I had this review all written up and ready to publish a day before the wp8 announcement, but chose to wait instead to hear what would happen to the current lumia phones. The fact that they will not be getting the WP8 update, puts Nokia in a tough spot. Considering the price of the 900 outside of the USA, how can anyone recommend a brand new phone in this day and age, knowing that it won’t get updated to the latest software.
It’s a pity, because before the announcement I very honestly went around telling my friends about the lumia 900 and proudly showing it off. Today, I’d be rather embarrassed to do so. Even though Nokia might try to bring as much of the WP8 experience as possible down to WP7.5, it still won’t be WP8. There are some awesome apps and games coming, that run on the WP8 kernel and will not be backwards compatible with WP7.5. Which in-turn means you’ll be left out. You will get the new Start Screen though, for what it’s worth. Engadget managed to get a picture of a Lumia 900 with WP7.8 and here’s how it’d look:
Now if future apps and games aren’t a problem though, and all you’re looking for is deep social networking integration with a nice, quick, fresh new UI (possibly why you’re considering a windows phone in the first place), there’s no reason you shouldn’t pick up a lumia 900. It’s still the best current windows phone after all. Though that statement might not weigh as much.
The Lumia 900 features a Carl Zeiss 8 megapixel f/2.2 camera, just like the lumia 800, with a dual led flash.
The two-stage dedicated camera key on the rightside gives the phone a proper camera-like feel compared to most phones. And like the lumia 800, you half press to focus and then press harder to take the picture.
You’ll get some pretty decent results from the camera, but it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The more light, the better the picture, but indoors or with the flash, there’s a lot of noise introduced.
Pretty much the same experience as the lumia 800, and other windows phones. Might just be an issue with the platform.
Coming to video, you can record upto 720p HD at 30 fps. Results are again, okay and slightly above average.
There’s also a front facing camera for video calls over Skype or Tango video.
The Battery life:-
Just like the Lumia 800, for the first two days the battery life on the Lumia 900 wasn’t all too great. I barely got half a day of moderate usage out of it, with HSDPA on.
After that period though, the battery seemed to have fixed itself, because day three onwards it easily lasted us an entire day. Still need to charge it every night though.
From 8am to midnight, with about maybe 30 mins of GPS using sportstracker, receiving emails and checking notifications & whatsapp throughout the day, about 40 minutes of commute-driven music listening, an hour or two worth of calls, and around 10 mins of music streaming on Nokia Music. Not too bad, eh?
I still can’t get why the battery barely coped for the first two days though. I’ve had terribly luck with battery life on windows phones until the lumia 900. Only with a recent software update, was my lumia 800 able to keep up.
The Video Overview:-
Here’s a quick video overview of the Nokia Lumia 900. Just to give you a better idea:
Soooo. Should you buy a Nokia Lumia 900?
If you’re in the U.S.A. where it’s just $99 on contract with AT&T, then hells yeah it’s a great phone.
If you’re in any other part of the planet though. Well, I’ll put it this way.
– If you’re adamant about getting a windows phone right now, this would be the best choice. If you’re thinking of getting the Lumia 800, get the Lumia 900 instead. Bigger screen, front facing camera, internet tethering, better battery, yada yada. But it is much bigger, and probably wont be for everyone.
– If you’re just considering getting a windows phone though, I’d say wait. Wait until Nokia World in September, to see what the new Windows Phone 8 devices bring to the table. The current Windows Phones will get an update to WP7.8 and all, but you’re going to miss out on some seriously awesome games and apps that will come along, that wont be backwards compatible with WP7.
– If you’re considering Windows phone versus and Android phone or iPhone, well that’s a whole different story. The platform is still the quickest of the three, even on a single core processor, but it’s lacking in apps in comparison. And for the same price you could get an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S that will get iOS 6 and still have access to the latest apps. Similarly with Android, the Lumia 900’s price tag puts it in the Galaxy S II and Sony Xperia S categories, both of which are faster, more powerful phones with more to offer.
At the end of the day, you either like Windows Phone, or you dont. It’s merits are clear, and Nokia has done the best they can to make the most out of WP7 with the Lumia 900. But while it’s a viable alternative to the other two eco-systems, I can only really see it competing against their mid-range devices. But currently it’s priced way too high to be mid-range right now.
Sigh. It’s a pity, because it really is a lovely device.