The Lumia 800 represents a big bet by Nokia that it can get consumers excited about Windows Phone. And it looks like that bet has paid off. This is a seriously sleek device that pairs Microsoft's engaging and intuitive interface with a first-rate camera and a gorgeous Super AMOLED display. But Nokia hasn't just rested on its hardware laurels. The company loaded the Lumia 800 with compelling apps, such as Drive for voice-based navigation. Is all of this enough to make Nokia a major force in smartphones again?
If all Windows phones were as sleek as the Lumia 800, Apple would have a serious problem. The Lumia 800's black polycarbonate exterior blends seamlessly into the curved Gorilla Glass display. Everything is a fingerprint-resistant black, save for the chrome buttons on the right for volume, power, and camera, and an oval surrounding the camera on the back. The phone also comes in turquoise and reddish-pink.
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The top and bottom edges of the Lumia 800 are the only flat surfaces; the top has a headphone jack and covered microUSB and microSIM card slots. It's a little tricky to open both, and we can't help but think that the microUSB's cover, which pops upwards, might break off at some point.
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Measuring 4.6 x 2.4 x 0.5 inches and weighing 5 ounces, the Lumia 800 has roughly the same dimensions as the HTC Radar 4G (4.7 x 2.4 x 0.4 inches), but is thicker and heavier than that 4.8-ounce handset and the iPhone 4S (0.4 inches thin, 4.8 ounces). However, the Lumia 800's curved edges make it very comfortable to hold.
Display and Audio
Even though it's not as big as the Samsung Galaxy S II's screen, the Lumia's 3.7-inch 800 x 480-pixel AMOLED display is a real treat. At 418 lux, it's brighter than the AT&T Galaxy S II (213 lux), but not as bright as the Atrix 2 (518 lux) or the iPhone 4S' (549 lux) displays. As it uses Nokia's ClearBlack technology (which blocks incoming light), it was easier to view outdoors than other screens--except for the iPhone's Retina display.
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When we watched a high-quality trailer for the Muppets movie, the rainbow of colors--from the green of Kermit to the red of Animal's mane--was bright and saturated. However, on pages with black text on a white background, pixels were far more noticeable. When we viewed The Avengers trailer side by side with the AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II, the Lumia 800 held its own, showing the same bright colors and deep blacks.
Audio was a bit thin on the Lumia 800. Music sounded tinny, and the speakers' placement on the bottom edge meant muffled sounds when we held the phone in landscape mode.
No surprises here. The standard Windows Phone keyboard was fairly comfortable to use, but we wish the landscape keyboard was a bit larger and used the full width of the screen. Also, given that the Windows buttons--Back, Home, and Search--have haptic feedback, we wish this feature was available for the keyboard as well.
Software and Interface
Click to EnlargeThe Lumia 800 runs Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, the fruit of Nokia's new partnership with Microsoft. The new OS has grown on us considerably. The Live Tile interface, which shows updates and alerts, is attractive and informative. The apps page involves more scrolling than we'd like, but you can always pin an app to the start screen.
Another great feature is the People Hub, which consolidates contacts from multiple accounts (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and shows updates from them.
Mango is also getting into location-based apps with Local Scout, which shows events and places to eat and drink. It's well laid out: Icons in the lower two-thirds of the screen show details about each event, and a map at the top shows where they are in relation to you. Check out our Windows Phone 7.5 full review for more details.
Pre-installed Microsoft apps are the standard fare (Internet Explorer, Mobile Office, Xbox Live Games, and Zune Music and Videos), but Nokia includes a few of its own, too.
Click to EnlargeNokia Drive is the company's navigation software. Maps are a bit more spartan than what you'll find on Google Maps, but we liked the little line drawings of landmarks such as the Empire State Building. Before using the app, though, we had to download the 1.7GB install file; we recommend being connected via Wi-Fi when doing so. Nokia Drive also offers spoken turn-by-turn directions. It created a route between our office and the Empire State Building in less than 5 seconds.
Nokia Maps is a bit more colorful than Nokia Drive's maps, and you can switch between a traditional map, a satellite view, and one showing public transportation. However, on the latter, a few PATH train stations were missing, and the various subway lines were identified only by color, not letter. It doesn't offer spoken turn-by-turn directions like Nokia Drive, but we enjoyed that it incorporates nearby attractions and eateries, much like Local Scout.
The Windows Marketplace may not be as populated as Apple or Google's stores, but that doesn't mean finding apps is any less difficult, which is why we also appreciated App Highlights, an app that suggests apps to download. The app breaks down recommendations into categories such as Addictive, Foodies, Health+, and Starter Kit, and you can even shake the phone to have it suggest a random app.
The 1.4-GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 single-core processor in the Lumia 800 isn't the fastest, but it gets the job done. On the CPU portion of the Benchmark Free app, it scored 6.3, the same as the Focus Flash (which also has a 1.4-GHz CPU) and above the Radar's score of 4.7.
Apps opened quickly, and zooming in and out of web pages and photos was smooth and seamless. However, we did notice ghosting--especially with text--as we scrolled down a web page. Even when we were listening to music in the background, though, web pages and apps were responsive and quick to open.
Camera and Camcorder
Click to EnlargeA Carl Zeiss Tessar lens on an 8-megapixel sensor gives the Lumia 800 the best camera of any Windows Phone yet. It captured shots of trees in Madison Square Park in all their autumnal beauty, and did an excellent job of freezing water in mid-air in a photo of the fountain at Columbus Circle. However, the iPhone 4S edged this device out, as its photos were slightly more detailed, and it was better able to compensate for lighting variations courtesy of its HDR feature. The Lumia 800 has the iPhone 4S beat in one area, though: You can share photos to Facebook directly from the camera app.
Video shot at the Lumia 800's max resolution of 1280 x 720 also had deep colors and strong details. When played back on our computer, we didn't notice any artifacts or pixelation. Still, this too is a step below the 1080p video capabilities of the iPhone 4S and Android devices such as the Droid RAZR.
Music and Multimedia
The Zune player may be dead, but its software lives on in Windows Phone devices. We like the interface, but still find it annoying that we have to connect the phone to a computer in order to sync music; the iPhone lets you sync your connection wirelessly. Consumers can also purchase a Zune Pass subscription for $9.99 per month, which gives you unlimited access to music and videos, which can be downloaded not just to the phone but to a PC or Xbox 360. Other Zune Pass features include Mixview and Smart DJ, which offer music recommendations based on what you've listened to.
Nokia includes its own app, called Nokia Music, which shows not only your music, but local concerts. However, this requires signing up for a Nokia account, which gets tedious after having to register for Windows Live ID and Zune. Nokia Music will also include 100 pre-programmed music stations as well as MixRadio, which will generate a playlist of songs based on the music stored on the phone. However, neither feature was available on our review unit of the Lumia 800.
As the Lumia 800 comes unlocked, we used it with a microSIM from AT&T. When we measured speeds using the BandWidth app, downloads averaged 1.02 Mbps, and upload speeds averaged 0.14 Mbps. The phone was fairly fast to load web pages, though. In Internet Explorer, ESPN's mobile site loaded in an average of 6 seconds, and the full sites for The New York Times and LAPTOP loaded in 19 and 18 seconds, respectively.
Call Quality and Battery Life
When we made a call to a landline, our caller knew right away that we were on a cellphone, and said we sounded "tunnelly." However, we could her clearly, and detected no static.
Nokia rates the 1450 mAh battery in the Lumia 800 for about 9.5 hours of talk time or 7 hours of video playback time. We were able to make it through a whole day surfing the web and taking pictures and videos without needing to look for a charger.
If Nokia is looking to get back into the U.S. market, the Lumia 800 is a great device to crack the door open. Its sophisticated yet understated design is one of the most attractive we've seen, and it's matched by the sleekness of Windows Phone 7.5. If you don't mind buying unlocked phones, this is the Windows Phone to get. The problem is that this device isn't available through U.S. carriers yet, though something similar from Nokia should arrive early next year, presumably with 4G LTE support. If the Lumia 800 is a sign of things to come, Nokia's future will be be bright.