I’ve had some play time with the Nokia Lumia 800 and I was very curious about the new design (which is very close to the Nokia’s N9, with minor differences). Upon getting the Nokia Lumia 800 in your hand, the first (and most important) thing that you would notice is the new design. I did not have the opportunity to play with the N9, so this was my first contact with Nokia’s new design based on a seamless, injection-molded body in which all the components are added, with the display closing on top of everything else. The Lumia 800’s body is amazingly smooth and -surprisingly- doesn’t feel like “plastic”, although it is. The Lumia 800 has more of a “premium feel” than one could ever imagine by just looking at it. Nokia does need to put this in people’s hands.
At 125g or so, it is noticeably lighter than the iPhone 4/4S, but it is a bit heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S2. I have used both those phones, and the best way to describe it is that the Nokia Lumia 800 feels like the iPhone 4S when it comes to the shape and volume, but without any of the rougher edges typical to the iPhone 4S design. Also, I’m not sure how the 800’s polycarbonate skin will hold up to scratches, but I think that it would be less prone to small damage and drops (!) than the iPhone 4S. The Galaxy S2 feels bigger -because it is- and some users may find it more “comfy” to use, as the 3.7″ display of the Lumia 800 is closer (in size) to the iPhone 4S’ 3.5″ display. Personally, I wouldn’t mind having a 4.3″ display version :)
Talking about the display, the AMOLED display and the curved Gorilla Glass do wonders. The display looks great and feels great to the touch. I think that Nokia could have gotten away with using a standard flat glass, but I’m glad that they chosed to feature a curved one. In terms of image quality, AMOLED does very well too: the contrast is amazing (isn’t always the case with AMOLED?) and the colors seemed a bit closer to reality than on Samsung phones, but I will need to check this again with a side by side comparison. We are not in the best setting for color comparison.
I won’t go over all the new features of Windows Phone 7.5 -aka Mango- here, but Mango is a great WP7 update, and I was particularly interested by Nokia Drive (a free app), which is a personal navigation (PN) application that is unique in the Windows Phone world. It is a real personal navigation app that provides clear maps where all the street names are visible, most of the time (which is not the case with Bing maps, or with many navigation software). Plus the Maps scrolling and refresh rate is higher than Bing Maps (or Google Maps). The maps are completely vectorized (no bitmaps), and stored locally, which is great for map performance, and world travelers who don’t always have access to 3G data will appreciate it even more.
When you’re not driving, you can choose between Bing Maps, or Nokia Maps (this one was not actually on the device, but it should come very soon).
Nokia also announced a free and unlimited radio service that would not require an account and log-in. The service would also let users stream or download music. Unfortunately, Nokia is still negotiating the music rights for the USA, and each country will require its own set of deals.
Finally, you may have noticed that Nokia is using the Qualcomm SnapDragon S2 processor, which is a single-core product. It is obvious that Nokia is going to take some heat for that, but the fact is that Windows Phone 7 is not multi-core ready , yet.
That said, Windows Phone 7 has also consistently been the platform where the user interface is extremely fluid, and that’s true with the Lumia 800 too. For most users, the experience will be extremely fluid, and performance should not be an issue, except for games, and fancy photo processing. While some will undoubtedly complain about the processing power, I don’t feel like it will make or break the Lumia 800. On the other hand, the single-core chip may yield a better battery life…
I’ve teased Nokia with their “thick” designs for years, and I’m honestly impressed with what they have come up with. The Lumia 800 design is truly original, seamless and just well thought out. If this doesn’t work for Nokia, I don’t know what will.
For Microsoft, I’ve recently said that Windows Phone 7 needs a “sexy design”, and this is pretty much it. This is the best shot that both companies have to take significant market share in 2012, but will they? It’s too early to tell.
Finally, the Nokia Lumia 800 will be available in the US only in “Early” 2012, but it will be available in Europe sometime next month. It has been confirmed to us that both CDMA/LTE and HSPA+ versions will be available. Nokia is not commenting on carrier deals, but I would expect Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile to get the devices (if they want to).
What do you think?