Nokia’s new Lumia 800 is the company’s first entry into Microsoft’s mobile land. The highly anticipated handset is the flagship Nokia Windows Phone and will carry the company over the crucial holiday season. Nokia has backed the handset up with a multi-million pound advertising campaign, featuring adverts across the web, newspapers, TV and billboards. Nokia has also invested in important in-store advertising to help get the Lumia 800 into the hands of consumers. The Lumia 800 lacks some of Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7.5 features but does this matter? Read on to find out.
Nokia’s hardware has been an important part of its success over the years. Sturdy, reliable, well built mobile phones were the main feature of Nokia’s offerings throughout the 90s and 00s. The company lost its way in the smartphone market recently thanks to increased competition from Apple’s iPhone devices and Google’s Android operating system. Nokia attempted to fight back with a range of beautifully crafted devices but most failed to impress due to the lackluster Symbian operating system. The company teamed up with Microsoft earlier this year to use Windows Phone on its upcoming smartphone handsets. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Nokia Lumia 800 borrows its design ques from the company’s Nokia N9 device. On looks, the devices are nearly identical. On paper, they differ in a number of ways. The Lumia 800 features a 3.7-inch AMOLED clear black curved glass display. The result is a stunning screen that works well under direct sunlight thanks to the way the curved display reflects light. Nokia’s Lumia 800 features a single-piece polycarbonate body which has its advantages and disadvantages. The device feels extremely solid and the display and body do not flex at all, meaning there’s no annoying creaky sounds or opportunities for dust to gather around the display or device. The disadvantage to the tightly sealed body is the battery is not removable, this may anger some but in a modern day smartphone it’s not a biggie or a surprise.
The Lumia 800 feels great in the hand thanks to the curved body and silky smooth finish. However, the flat bottom means the edges at the base of the device can come across as a little sharp in the hand. It’s something you get used to and it’s not a big area of concern. The flat bottom has its advantages too, the device can stand up straight on a desk without assistance. Handy for office workers who typically glance at their phones during the day. Nokia’s button placement follows a similar placement on its N9 device. The power, volume and camera buttons are all on the right hand side of the device meaning the left and bottom of the Lumia 800 are clear of any features. The side placement of the power button is particularly useful during one handed operation of the Lumia 800. The top of the device features a micro-SIM slot and micro-USB port. The USB port is accessible with a push action that reveals a hinged compartment. The plastic micro-USB cover snaps into place but users will need to be careful not to bend it back too far as it’s thin and could easily break away. The micro-SIM slot is housed in the same compartment. The base of the device features a speaker that outputs all audio content from the handset. Nokia’s Lumia 800 box includes a stereo headset, fast USB charger and a soft rubber cover that matches the color of the device.
Nokia’s hardware lacks some of the new Windows Phone 7.5 features that Microsoft has introduced with its latest update. The Lumia 800 does not feature a forward facing camera, Internet Sharing or a gyroscope. Nokia is planning to address the Internet Sharing feature with a software update shortly but the missing gyroscope and forward facing camera will not be made available until other Nokia Windows Phones hit the market next year. The lack of forward facing camera may disappoint some but Microsoft and its application developers have failed to provide any real applications that make use of the support so far. Microsoft will ship its Skype Windows Phone application shortly and this is expected to include video conferencing support. The Tango video calling application will also be made available soon too. Equally, there’s not a huge amount of apps that take advantage of the gyroscope support in Windows Phone 7.5.
Unique Nokia Windows Phone features
Nokia ships its Music and Drive applications as part of the Nokia Lumia 800. The impressive pair of apps will not be made available to any other Windows Phone handset. Nokia is also shipping its Maps application in the Windows Phone Marketplace, making it available to all Windows Phone devices.
Nokia Drive is the company’s 3D satellite navigation system. The application is preloaded on the Home Screen of the Lumia 800. The app works across 95 countries and maps can be easily downloaded and stored on the device. The default map included will vary by market and is relative to the country where the Lumia 800 is purchased. Nokia Drive includes 2D and 3D maps of cities and is designed for car use in mind. I used Drive several times during my use of the Lumia 800 and it quickly became a useful application that other Windows Phones lack. Nokia’s Drive app is basic but it does what it says on the tin. The application also features a range of voices so you can pick between different languages and male and female variants. Nokia has also included 69 million places of interest within the service.
Nokia Drive does not use a data connection to load the map parts of its application but will require a connection to navigate to destinations. We tested Drive in the car and with flight mode enabled (see video below) and the app fails to load without a data connection. Nokia uses the data connection to locate destination addresses and points of interest. Nokia’s choice of implementation means that Nokia Drive is a hybrid between full satellite navigation and mapping services that require data. The app will let you load on maps for when you travel abroad but with the requirement for data to locate destinations, it makes it less useful for those planning to use it whilst they’re on holiday. Nokia Drive also doesn’t feature speed cameras or any indication of an estimated time of arrival. The app simply marks your destination on a map and provides voice guidance and driving speed.
Overall the Nokia Drive application is a great, if basic, addition to the Lumia 800 and one that’s included out of the box at no extra charge. Nokia is planning to update the application to add extra functionality and features so we expect to see some interesting improvements ahead.
Nokia Music is another free out of the box application for the Lumia 800. Nokia Music uses a Wi-Fi or 3G data connection to connect and stream thousands of free music tracks. The application works as an internet radio app, similar to services such as last FM. Nokia Music users can pick between different categories of music and have a selection of music streamed to their devices within seconds. The categories of music include rock, pop and classical and a variety of other genres. The application provides bestseller versions of each category, new releases and mixes of particular decades. Like Nokia Drive, Nokia Music is a fairly basic offering. Users can’t pick their own music or create playlists and the application requires a data connection at all times. The selection of music is varied and it’s particularly useful for discovering new music. The app takes advantage of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.5 multitasking and background music features. You can listen to music whilst the device is in standby or using another application. Unlike Zune, album art will not be displayed on the lock screen but the controls to pause, skip and rewind all work.
Nokia Music users will also be able to purchase music from within the app using their Nokia Account. Prices are fairly similar to Microsoft’s Zune service and the MP3s will then be available to play across the device. Nokia Music also supports the ability to play existing Zune loaded music through its own interface. One of the downsides to the streaming service is a limit to the amount of track skipping allowed. If you skip too many songs you’re presented with a “You can’t skip any more songs for the moment,” message before you’re allowed to continue at the end of the current song.
Overall the Nokia Music application is an interesting addition to the platform and one that will allow users to discover new music. The application will not replace the Zune Music Pass or other streaming services such as Spotify but the fact it’s built in and does not require a subscription will appeal to a number of users.
Unfortunately we were unable to demo Nokia Maps as the application is not yet available pre-launch. However, Nokia representatives demonstrated the application at Nokia World and it’s designed for general mapping use outside of car navigation. The feature works in a similar way to Microsoft’s Bing local scout. Users can search for local directions and Nokia provides smart routes for walking, driving and public transport. The app will also surface places to see, eat and highlights of local areas. The navigation works step-by-step, similar to Microsoft’s own mapping equivalent. Users can also review locations and share them across their social networks. Locations can be pinned to the Home Screen for quick access to regular places of interest. We’ll update this review once Nokia Maps is fully enabled.
Nokia also ships an App Highlights application as part of its Lumia 800 out of the box experience. The application acts as a companion to Microsoft’s Windows Phone Marketplace and includes featured applications and a Starter Kit. The Starter Kit is Nokia’s recommended application list for first time Windows Phone users. Apps like Facebook, AccuWeather and Angry Birds all feature on the Starter Kit section. The application also includes a notifications system that alerts users of application updates and new applications via its pinned Live Tile. A unique part of the app is a surprise me feature. Surprise Me allows users to shake their device and find apps at random from Nokia’s Highlights app. It’s a neat addition and a fun way to find apps randomly, rather like the equivalent of Nokia Music for apps.
Nokia has also considered the average phone user in its Lumia 800 device. The Finnish handset maker ships a Contacts Transfer application as part of the Lumia 800. The application allows users to transfer their contacts from an old device via Bluetooth. It’s a simple application but one that is key for ordinary users who might not have their contacts stored in online web accounts.
Nokia’s Lumia 800 features an 8-megapixel Carl Zeiss rear camera. The camera features a F2.2 lens, dual LED flash and 3x digital zoom. Nokia’s camera support is fairly basic with the Lumia 800. The camera allows users to change the white balance, exposure value, ISO, contrast, saturation, focus and metering modes. Nokia has opted to ship the Focus Mode set to Macro as default, optimized for close up images. The camera shoots 8-megapixel images, providing a 3264×2448 image. The image results are what you’d expect from a smartphone camera. Daylight images came out well in our tests and the dual-LED flash more than made up for the lack of light during nighttime snaps.
One of the disappointing aspects of the camera is the lack of face tracking, panorama shot and burst shot modes with the Lumia 800. HTC’s TITAN and Radar devices both feature these technologies and they greatly improve the experience of shooting a variety of pictures. Nokia’s Lumia 800 also captures HD 720p video and the output is what you’d expect from a smartphone. Nokia has also kept the auto focus features of its devices. A half press of the camera button will allow users to auto-focus in on objects in view. Microsoft’s own Windows Phone 7.5 improvements also allow users to tap to auto-focus and take a picture instead of using the dedicated hardware button. The zoom provides average quality images but like any digital zoom, it’s often better not to use it if possible.
The results of the Nokia Lumia 800 camera can be found below using default settings on the image side and 720p for video capture. We’ve also included some comparison shots between the HTC TITAN and Lumia 800. Click on them all to see the original image.
Performance and battery life
The performance of the Nokia Lumia 800 is zippy. Nokia has packed in a 1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 processor alongside 512MB RAM. Windows Phone flys on the Lumia 800 and games perform very well. Despite the processor being slightly underclocked compared to the HTC TITAN, the performance is nearly identical. The TITAN also features a MSM8255 processor but HTC has clocked it at 1.5GHZ, likely due to the larger battery on the device. The processor in the Lumia 800 is single core but it handles tasks and Windows Phone beautifully. We tested a number of applications and games and the majority performed identical to a HTC TITAN.
Battery life is a key part of a modern day smartphone and the Nokia Lumia 800 does not disappoint. The Lumia 800 includes a 1450mAh battery, capable of a talk time of up to 9.5 hours (on 3G), standby of 335 hours and up to 55 hours of music playback and 7 hours of video. In our tests the battery life is nearly identical to the HTC TITAN. During an average days use the battery lasts just over a full day which is roughly the standard for a modern day smartphone. Microsoft has also included a battery life saver feature inside Windows Phone 7.5 that helps preserve battery life when the device reaches the low threshold. We ran the WP bench battery drain test and it took 3 hours and 10 mins to fully drain the battery at full stress. Comparitively, the HTC TITAN took 3 hours and 2 mins to fully drain the battery at full stress. Both devices were running at medium screen display during the tests.
WP Bench results, lower ms on CPU/Data tests better. Higher F/s on GPU tests better:
Nokia Lumia 800:
CPU – 14,791 ms
Data – 23,394 ms
GPU – 1208 frames, avg: 40 F/s
CPU – 13,919 ms
Data – 20,469 ms
GPU – 1234 frames, avg: 41 F/s
CPU – 20,179 ms
Data – 22,357 ms
GPU – 1098 frames, avg: 36 F/s
Overview and conclusion
Overall the Nokia Lumia 800 is the best looking Windows Phone 7.5 smartphone on the market right now. The beautifully crafted design and super bright 3.7-inch display demonstrates Nokia’s impressive hardware coupled with Microsoft’s refreshing Windows Phone operating system. The device is super fast and moving between Microsoft’s various Windows Phone hubs is a breeze. If you’re a current Windows Phone user then you’ll notice this performance jump. The size of the device is the perfect fit to make it usable two handedly or just one. The curved display also makes it a great performer during daylight, making it easier to read text and see images during direct daylight, something that is often difficult on rival devices.
The Lumia 800 marks Nokia’s first entry into the Windows Phone market and it’s certainly a compelling one. Nokia is producing three colour variants of the Lumia 800 that will appeal to the masses. The vivid colours, unique applications and solid build quality are exactly what Nokia lovers expect from such a device. Backed by a fast processor and a capable 8-megapixel camera, the Lumia 800 is a must have Windows Phone this holiday season. Will it disappoint some Windows Phone fans? Maybe, but the Lumia 800 should not be passed by. If you want the best looking Windows Phone device right now, then there’s nothing better than the Nokia Lumia 800.