It’s the slickest Windows Phone 7 smartphone yet, but sadly Nokia’s Lumia 900 has a limited future.
The old Windows Mobile handsets were clunky beasts which only business users tolerated, but Microsoft made a clean break with the touch-friendly Windows Phone 7 to create a worthy competitor to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android army. Windows Phone 7 is still playing catch up in terms of apps and accessories, but it offers a slick user experience and shows a lot of potential.
The difference between Apple’s iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7 isn’t so much in what they can do, but in how they go about it. The Windows Phone 7 interface is built around the concept of widgets known as “live tiles” which focus on tasks rather than apps. You can also “pin” extra items to your home page. Admittedly Android phones can perform many of these tricks, but it’s a major change from Apple’s way of doing things.
With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has tried to strike a compromise between Apple’s draconian rule over the iPhone and Google’s hands-off approach to Android. But unfortunately Microsoft has been overly-conservative when enforcing hardware restrictions. For example, even flagship Windows Phone 7 handsets like this new $699 Lumia 900 can only feature single-core processors and a low 480×800 screen resolution.
Such hardware limitations might seem laughable alongside the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S III, but you shouldn’t judge a smartphone on the spec sheet alone. The Lumia 900 looks and feels great, plus it has more than enough grunt for day-to-day tasks. It’s based on a beautiful polycarbonate unibody design with curved edges, which looks great and feels fantastic. The design is solid but certainly not cumbersome and it sits comfortably in your hand — even though it’s bulkier than the wafer-thin Galaxy S III.
Nokia’s 4.3-inch Lumia 900 is a worthy successor to the old 3.7-inch Lumia 800. The biggest change is the leap to a 4.3-inch AMOLED ClearBlack display, which should somewhat satisfy those jealous of Android’s generous screen real estate. Even with Microsoft’s mandated 480×800 screen resolution the Lumia 900 doesn’t look blurry. Admittedly you can see the difference when switching from a supersharp Apple or Android rival, but it’s not striking enough to cross Windows Phone 7 off your shopping list. The same goes for the processor — you’ll notice the performance difference in side-by-side comparisons with other phones but, on its own, this new Lumia doesn’t feel sluggish.
Despite the extra screen real estate, the Lumia 900 is only 12 gm heavier than the old 800 and somehow manages to be 0.6mm thinner. Nokia has added a VGA front camera to complement the 8-megapixel rear camera and you’ve still got 16GB of onboard storage (but no micro-SD slot for expansion due to Microsoft’s restrictions). The Lumia 900 still can’t tap into Australia’s new high-speed LTE mobile broadband networks, but it does offer a speed boost thanks to quad-band 21 Mbps HSDPA. Such numbers are theoretical speeds, but the inclusion of Dual-Cell HSDPA allows Telstra customers in the city to pull down up to a respectable 20 Mbps in real-world conditions.
Little separates the various Windows Phone 7 handsets in terms of software, but Nokia sweetens the deal by pre-installing Nokia Drive and Maps — not just trials but full versions with free map updates. You’ve got access to Microsoft’s ZunePass subscription music service, as well as integration with other Microsoft apps and services such as Xbox Live, Windows Live (Hotmail), Office, Office 365, Sharepoint and SkyDrive.
The Lumia 900 has a lot going for it and deserves the title of Windows Phone 7 flagship. But it’s worth noting that Windows Phone 8 is just around the corner and the current range of Windows Phone 7 smartphones won’t be able to make the leap. Even top-of-the-line Windows Phone 7 handsets which are only just hitting the shelves, such as this Lumia 900, will only get revamped versions of Windows Phone 7.
Nokia’s Lumia 900 is still a great phone in its own right, but it’s a shame that Microsoft couldn’t relax the hardware restrictions in anticipation of Windows Phone 8 so the Lumia 900 could come along for the ride.