Being a staunch iPhone fan for a number of years, it was with caution that I approached Nokias new handset, the Lumia 800. This phone is perhaps the most important device the Swedish giant has ever released. The company have been slow to adapt to changes in the mobile OS market, sticking with their native software rather than adopting Android. Their patience has resulted in a close-knit tie up with Microsofts fledging OS, Windows Phone 7 (slowly being now known as simply Windows Phone). So, has playing the waiting game paid off for Nokia or have they left it too late?
There’s no doubt that the Lumia 800 is a good looking phone. It has a simple matt black design which appears to be made from one ‘unibody’ plastic shell. The screen has a curved glossy finish which gives the impression that it is larger than merely 3.7 inches. Indeed, when compared to the iPhone, its familiar shape begins to look dated. Nokia have also decided to do without a removable battery in a bid to emanate Apple’s design prowess. Although this is definitely an aesthetic positive it does mean that you should keep an eye on your battery meter as carrying a spare is a no-go. On that note, battery life is average, lasting about a day when used moderately. However a rumoured update to be released in December aims to improve power issues.
The Lumia 800 has three physical buttons along its right side; volume, lock and a dedicated camera shutter button. Switching the lock button to the side of the device is a bold move in the smartphone arena, but proves more ergonomic as it is placed just under where your thumb sits when holding the phone. Beneath the screen, there are three capacitative buttons, as per usual for Windows Phone.
Along the top of the device is a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB port and a slightly flimsy micro SIM slot. Yes, sadly Nokia has decided that unless you have an iPhone 4, your traditional SIM is looking portly and needs trimming down. This seems all the more pointless when you put the smaller SIM into a plastic tray which is the size of a traditional SIM. C’est la vie.
Probably the most notable feature on the Lumia 800 is the introduction of Windows Phone. The phones ships with the 7.5 Mango update as standard so basic features such as copy and paste which were notably missing from the first iteration are now present. Despite being viewed by many as being late to the party, Windows Phone has clearly been built with social in mind. The People app takes the place of a more traditional ‘contact’ app. When viewing each of your pals, you can instantly mention them on Twitter or write on their Facebook wall. This approach is continued on the ‘messaging’ app. Your Facebook chats and text conversations are combined in one thread, so if you find yourself texting someone you were previously speaking to on Facebook you can pick up where you left off. You quickly find yourself taking the interface for granted – always a sign that something has been implemented well. When going back to iOS, it’s clear that social has been tacked on to an existing system. The advent of Windows Phone means the Cupertino based system needs a re-haul.
Timesaving tips are implemented throughout. When the phone is locked, the lock screen displays upcoming events for that day. These are pulled through from both your social network calendars as well as events from your email service. You can respond to invitations from within the OS, without having to use a third party app.
When it comes to interacting with your computer, the Lumia isn’t afraid of a Mac. Simply head to the Mac App store and download Windows Phone Connector 7 which then syncs with iTunes. The interface has clearly borrowed a lot visually from Apples staple software, but the imitation is not just skin deep. I didn’t run into any problems getting my content onto the Lumia 800. The one pitfall came when trying to upload pdf files. The phone was not recognised as a USB storage device so you’re limited to the proprietary software to control what is on your phone.
A huge barrier to embracing Windows phone is deserting the plethora of iOS apps you may have acquired over the last few years. From checking your bank balance to finding out the route home, the App Store certainly has a vast selection to choose from. However, you often find that you end up using just a core nucleus of applications rather than exploring the raft that are available.
During my short time using the Lumia, I’ve only been disappointed once when visiting the Windows Marketplace. For most day to day tasks, you’ll find the app you’re after. Here’s a selection that I’d recommend downloading…you can find more here.
Far surpassing anything found on the App Store, this travel app quickly helps you get around London. Not only does it show travel status, provide a route planner and a bus route map but also displays your Oyster card balance. Priceless.
Next Gen Reader
Being in the small minority of people who regularly use RSS readers, I was convinced there wouldn’t be an adequate replacement for Reeder. However, after some research I found Next Gen Reader, an app whose development you can read about on the NGReader blog. You can even get in touch to try the beta if you’re that way inclined. The app is frequently updated and has an excellent, simple interface.
One key downside of using a Microsoft based operating system is their refusal to embrace Google. Despite their best efforts, Bing is in no way a suitable substitute, least of all in its Maps iteration. Bingle Maps lets find you way around using Google Maps.
The Guardian news apps are miles ahead of the competition on all platforms and Windows Phone is no exception. Sharing articles is slightly more difficult than on iOS, although pinning various news sections to your home screen as ‘live tiles’ is a nice touch.
After apprehension, I’m surprised that I find myself really enjoying the Nokia Lumia 800. The Windows Phone interface is refreshing, as is the design. Whilst the camera isn’t market leading, the phone is acts as a great advocate for the fledging OS in the mobile market. It offers a joined-up simplicity which I always find lacking with Android, whilst confidently showing that iOS requires an overhaul.
The Nokia Lumia 800 is available from Three from £30 a month