Our friends at Three sent us the Nokia Lumia 800 to review, a phone I’ve been dying to try as my ‘main device’ ever I first held one in my hand. The Lumia 800 was first announced back in October 2011 a mere 8 months after the strategic partnership with Microsoft was confirmed the February before.
I’ve always loved Nokia hardware, almost as much as I’ve always steered clear of the Symbian OS that it used to run its phones. Many people love it, but I couldn’t get on with the clunky, inconsistent interface that was Symbian. So this could well be the perfect combination, certainly Nokia are banking on it after they confirmed all production phones would move over to using Windows Phone OS. Of course the $250 million payment from Microsoft to Nokia probably didn’t hurt either.
The Lumia 800 is breath taking to look at, and even better to hold and use. It’s not the best looking phone ever made, but to date it definitely the best looking *Windows* Phone. Constructed from a single polycarbonate chassis in either black, cyan, magenta or a recently announced white, it has beautifully rounded edges and is extremely comfortable to hold in your hand.
I’m personally not a fan of the trend toward larger screens, my iPhone 3.5″ is fine for me, and the Lumia 800 with its 800 x 480 AMOLED display at 3.7″ is just fine, and not ‘too small’ – a criticism held by others. Sporting Nokia’s ClearBlack Display the 800 is far less reflective than many other phones, black appears as truly black, and the Gorilla Glass helps protect the display “providing exceptional damage resistance“.
Inside a Qualcomm MSM8255 1400 MHz CPU powers the Lumia 800 along, with 512MB SDRAM and 16GB storage; and sadly like most other Windows Phones this isn’t expandable due to the omission of a MicroSD slot. Talking of power, the battery is a BV-5JW 3.7V 1450mAh and is non-replaceable. This equates to a claimed 3G talktime of 9.5 h and 3G standby time of 335h. In practice the Lumia 800 would make it comfortably through my average day, but unless a phone is at around the 50% mark when I go to bed, its likely to get charged overnight anyway, and it certainly performs better than my HTC HD7 with its 4.3″ display.
The 800’s dimensions are 116.5 mm H x 61.2 mm W x 12.1 mm D – a mere 2.8mm thicker than the legendary iPhone4. Because of the manageable 3.7” display using the Lumia 800 one handed is simple, my thumb is able reach from top to bottom and side to side without any stretching and risk of dropping. It is typically minimalist with a headphone socket and concealed SIM and MicroUSB ports on the top of the phone (with quite a convoluted ‘flip and slide’ action to access the SIM slot) and the only buttons are on the right side consisting of the volume keys, power button, and camera button. The buttons are functional, but are very flush with the case making them hard to locate by feel alone. The bottom of the phone only has a loudspeaker grill and the left side is completely barren.
The rear has the only camera – a Carl Zeiss f/2.2 lens with a 8MP sensor camera, which has a quick shot-to-shot action producing pretty good photos when you compare it to any other Windows Phone camera. The software is left to that natively supplied by Microsoft but it does its job well, and the dedicated camera button, with a half-press to focus, helps produce steady shots. Because there is no front facing camera, vidoe chats using the soon to be made available Skype client are out, leaving you with voice only, unless you’re holding the phone in reverse, and consequently unable to see who you’re talking to!
Since the Mango update, Windows Phone 7.5 is so much more usable, with a heavy focus on integrated services, allowing you to sign in to Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail, Linked In and Nokia Mail directly within Windows Phone for easy access to the various services throughout the various hubs.
The keyboard I found nice and easy to use, functionally on a par with the iOS keyboard and about the same width given the similar screen sizes. If you struggled with an iPhone keyboard, you probably will with this to, and should seek out a larger screen’d Windows Phone handset. The web browser has improved with the Mango update – the browser interface has changed slightly to show you more of the page on screen, hiding tabs and other features until you need them which the smaller screen of the Lumia 800 really benefits from.
Nokia has added a few minor tweaks to the OS such as custom ringtones and wallpapers, but where it really shines is its Apps that will, certainly for now, only be available on Nokia Windows Phone devices.
Nokia Drive and Nokia Music are the 2 main exclusive Apps. Nokia Drive is Nokia’s free voice guided turn-bu-turn Sat Nav App, a simple but effective App that will guide you to your destination for free. I tested the App on a few journeys and while it may lack some of the more sophisticated features of fuller features Apps like only having limited offline routing and customisable POI’s but it does the job competently and was totally accurate. There are some nice logical touches like Nokia Drive automatically disabling the screen shut-off when running.
Nokia Music is a service offering free music streaming (MixRadio) from millions of tracks at up to 14.5 hours of music at any one time, or you can purchase and download tracks directly from the store to your handset. Nokia plans to improve the streaming service, allowing customised channels similar to Spotify. Also part of Nokia Music is Gigfinder, allowing you to search for live local music in your area and see ticket availability and pricing.
Three have also included their standard App to give you access to their your account details, giving you details on inclusive minutes and texts and letting you top-up your PAYG balance as required.
So, deciding if the Lumia 800 is right for you really comes down to if Windows Phone is right for you. If you’re bored of iOS’s 5 year old interface, and Android is too complicated for you then Windows Phone might be the sort of alternative you’re looking for. And if it is, then the Nokia Lumia 800 is definitely the best current Windows Phone handset available, in my opinion.
The hardware brings Windows Phone into the stylish contemporary space it really should have launched with, leaving the initial run of black slabs in its wake. If you’re hankering for a larger screen, hang on for the Lumia 910 that should be launching soon with much the same design but a larger 4.3” display and even better 12MP camera.