While at the CES this year we had a quick play with the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone. Even in that short period of time, we were very impressed with the mobile operating system that Microsoft had developed, and were eager to get a unit for an in-depth look. The Lumia 800 will be available in Australia for the first time in March. (for more coverage from the Consumer Electronics Show, see our CES section here.)
As we’ve mentioned previously, Window 8 will be the real beginning for Microsoft’s foray into the mobile ecosystem, and if Windows Mobile 7.5 is any indication, it will be a strong contender against Android and Apple, if the total solution is executed well. By that I mean the hardware, embedded OS and app market support. (For our thoughts on what CES may lead to this year, click here.)
For now we have the Lumia 800 to build that case for Windows Smartphone. Here’s what we thought of the phone in our video segment:
There was a lot to like about the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone. The physical shape and weight were very comfortable, and I thought the inclusion of the rubber form-fitting case was a nice touch. I actually wouldn’t use the phone without it as it doesn’t take away from the look and does add grip to the daily use.
At 800 x 480 pixels, the 3.7” screen is certainly not the highest resolution, but being AMOLED what was on the screen was easily readable. The Gorilla Glass added further confidence in the robustness of the display.
We also liked the layout of the buttons – all on the right hand side and intuitive once used a few times. The magnetic cover for the charging and connecting port seemed to be a little finicky, but the cover added to the overall design. The use of Micro SIM might make it easy for iPhone users to switch over without the need for a new SIM card. Perhaps that was one consideration when building this phone’s hardware specs.
Instead of widgets, each tile has a dynamic status attached and will display social updates, unopened or unanswered communication, and other software/hardware statuses like Wi-Fi.
Complete customisation can be achieved and would be the key to a successful home screen on the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone. All apps can be pinned to the home screen and arranged in whatever order you need them in.
One of the biggest hooks for users will be the People Hub. This is where it all comes together and makes your phone the social aggregator of all your networking tendrils, helping to group people according to their relationship with you and displaying updated feeds for each group that you create.
Microsoft’s search engine Bing will be ramped up further by its inclusion in the Windows OS. They’ve made it easy to access from the lock screen and different methods of search are instantly available: voice, text or music snippets. Barcodes and QR codes can also be read using the Bing search.
It was refreshing to use this Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone. The responsiveness of the OS and the absolute ease of use, along with the social focus, put this phone and the Windows Phone OS in high regard over here.
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It’s by no means perfect yet, and after using it on a daily basis for a short period, there were a few characteristics we found that hopefully will be refined with updates down the track. Being an evolutionary product by nature, the OS is sure to improve over time and with user feedback.
There aren’t any native shortcuts for regularly used settings, like a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi toggle switch. I did find an app on the Microsoft Marketplace though,which was free and seems to work quite well. There also doesn’t seem to be support for a simple thing such as a screenshot at the moment, which I find myself using all the time.
One of the most noticeable omissions right now is the lack of a function to convert your phone into a personal hotspot so you can connect other internet devices. And Flash has not been deployed on the mobile browser either, although not a huge issue with HMTL5 taking over and the world of plug-ins fading fast.
Over the air updates aren’t active on Nokia Lumia 800 Windows mobile phone yet, either. There is actually an alert that comes to you over the air, but that is only a notice for you to install and use the Zune software on a PC to apply any OS update. Given both Android and iOS both apply updates OTA, this takes a point away from Windows.
These aren’t hardware restrictions, and could all be addressed through system updates. Given that these features would probably be expected on a decent smartphone in 2012, I’m keen to see how quickly Nokia and Microsoft address these omissions.
As a first iteration, it’s the strongest Windows Smartphone offering yet. The focus on the relationship-based groups and social network integration is extremely compelling, and the intuitive and well-designed mobile environment makes it a true competitor in the battle of the ecosystems this year.
Apple and Android, meet your match. Microsoft might be a little late to the party, but they’ve bought a big bag of goodies along to make friends.
How entrenched are you in the ecosystem you currently use? Is the feature set of this Windows Phone convincing enough to move you across? Let us know your thoughts in the comments area below.