There’s still work to be done
Remember in our introduction when we talked about the need for a thriving ecosystem? Yeah. Open up the Marketplace (the equivalent to Apple’s App Store) on the Lumia 900 and you’ll immediately see one of the places Nokia and Microsoft still have work to do. There simply aren’t enough apps there.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not demanding apps for the sake of apps. Most of what populates Apple’s App Store is crap and we know it. We’re perfectly happy with a device that has, say, only 100 apps available for it. But they have to be the right ones. Windows Phone is still lacking too many of the basics, what we would consider ‘core’ apps. Where, for example, is Instagram, Pinterest and Google+? On the reading front, we missed The Times, Flipboard and Instapaper. On the productivity front, we longed for Dropbox, OmniFocus and Reeder – or at least comparable Windows Phone equivalents. Companies we deal with like HSBC, Starbucks and British Airways – whose apps we use regularly on our iPhone – were conspicuous by their absence from the Windows Phone Marketplace.
The other issue is that the apps that are there are not always up to scratch compared to their iOS brethren. Twitter, Foursquare and Evernote, for instance, are all present and correct but their Windows Phone versions clearly haven’t had the time and money spent on them that their iOS versions have. It’s not a big drama but each of those three apps was a bit slower, a bit less functionally rich and a bit less pleasant to use than the iOS versions. We think this is simply a reflection of where they are in their life cycles compared to more established versions on other platforms.
Other areas of disappointment?
The big one – in more ways than one – is the screen. Firstly, it’s too, eh, big. There’s just no reason why a screen needs to be any bigger than 3.5 inches. That’s bang on perfect for a phone which, lets face it, you’re supposed to use one-handed. The Lumia 900 has a 4.3 inch display. The result? The device feels too wide (it’s 68.5 mm wide) to be comfortable in your hand and using it one-handed is just a painful stretch (and that’s coming from The Prodigal Fool and his famously large, farmer-like paws.)
So, the screen is too large. It also suffers from a resolution that’s simply not high enough (800 by 480 pixels). Oh sure, a couple of years ago we may not have noticed but once you’ve lived with a Retina display, there’s just no going back. All too often we caught ourselves looking at the pixelated fonts on web pages and newspaper apps thinking how much we missed our iPhone 4S. Resolution like this is simply not acceptable in a top-of-the-range smartphone in 2012. Which is an enormous shame because in terms of colours and legibility, the Lumia 900′s AMOLED ClearBlack display is top notch.
Perhaps the only remaining part of the Lumia 900 that left us wanting was the camera. To be fair, it’s a perfectly decent shooter, with Carl Zeiss optics and 8 MP of resolution. The problem is that we were hoping to be a bit blown away on the imaging front; we were expecting something more from the company that brought us the N86 and N8 and N808. This, we reasoned, was an obvious way to steal a march on the competition. As it is, the Lumia 900′s camera is really very good. It’s just not excellent in the way we were hoping and it’s not quite as good as the iPhone 4S camera.
Other than that? There’s really not much more to complain about. If we were being picky though we’d say that Nokia and Microsoft still have some details to iron out on the overall ownership experience – and they share responsibility for that. For instance:
When you’re setting up your device, you get welcome emails from both Nokia and Microsoft. There is software from both on the device you see and you have to set up logins accordingly. It’s not a huge problem but you notice it when coming from Apple’s consistent, unified utopia.
Sometimes the Lumia 900 is too clever for its own good. We really disliked having to manualy tell it to download pictures in emails. Every time. For every email. No doubt Nokia or Microsoft is trying to protect us or their carrier partners from unnecessary data use but it’s patronising and annoying in daily use. We want the option to tell it to automatically download pictures in emails.
Similarly, in an effort to look as simple and elegant as possible, the Lumia 900 hides the indicators at the top of the screen that show you things like voice, data and Wi-Fi reception as well as battery levels when it deems that they’re not relevant to what you’re currently doing. Nice idea but, again, we’d like the option of leaving these on at all times, thanks.
We were pleasantly surprised by our time with the Lumia 900. It certainly impressed far more often than it disappointed. We’d say that anyone who really cares about navigation, music or social media integration in their smartphone should have the Lumia on their list of devices to consider.
What would hold us back is the lack of ‘core’ apps, the low res screen and the sheer size of the thing.
What’s very encouraging for Nokia and anyone – like us – who welcomes credible competition in the smartphone world is that all but one of the reservations we have about the 900 have been addressed by the forthcoming (we hear it will be available in November) Lumia 920. It’s got an incredible camera with PureView technology, Optical Image Stabilisation and Carl Zeiss lens; a high-res screen; and all the advantages of the brand new Windows Phone 8. Oh…and LTE (i.e. true 4G) connectivity just like iPhone 5 and wireless charging.
The bottom-line? Nokia’s certainly back in the game with the Lumia 900 – it’s a credible contender with some standout advantages such as navigation and music – but this is not the all-conquering device that’s going to win it for the team from Espoo. The Lumia 920 might though. It seems to address all the shortcomings of the 900 and add some further goodies to the mix.
The Prodigal Guide though, picky as ever, won’t be reaching for its Amex card until they put all the features of the Lumia 920 into a sensibly-sized body like the N9….
Nokia gets back in the game: The Lumia 900 (part III)
We were pleasantly surprised by our time with the Lumia 900. It certainly impressed far more often than it disappointed. But can it win the game for Nokia?
All photos by The Prodigal Guide
Our founder and publisher, the self-proclaimed "greatest wit, raconteur and bon vivant of our age", borders on delusional. Over the years, The Fool has squandered more money on fast cars, Swiss watches and electronic gadgetry of all kinds than he – or his bank manager – cares to remember. Come nightfall, he can invariably be found stumbling out of Dukes mumbling “just one more Martini; I could have handled just one mmmmm… [thud!]”
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