Nokia Lumia 800 – 5 days of happiness

January 16, 2012

Featured, Technology

The Nokia Lumia 800 and Windows Phone Mango 7.5 make a formidable combination. Beautiful build quality, gorgeous display, immediate responsiveness and an extremely elegant operating system (clearly better in many respects than iOS5). I bought the phone 5 days ago to replace my painfully slow iPhone 3G. Despite this praise however, the phone is going back today, replaced by my shiny new iPhone 4S – “what?!” I hear you say – well read on.

Walled Garden

I own three Apple devices. Impressed by their usability and integration, I have maintained a passionate, yet tempered, perspective on new products. I am yet, for example, to find a good use-case for an Apple iPad. I am disappointed with their high profit margins, anal smugness (eg “Genius Bar”) and their ‘lollipop’ retail mentality. Their market dominance too worries me as a lever for even high profits and stiffling of healthy competition.

Microsoft & Nokia, the underdogs?

Android doesn’t impress me (generally for their reputation as being laggy), so the Windows Phone seemed the logical choice. Influenced by all the positive press about the OS (Mango, WP7.5) and having made a shortlist of applications that I couldn’t live without (only one was missing), I took the plunge. I really want to see Microsoft succeed with this platform because it’s slick, intelligent, absolutely beautful and fluid. Historically too, I was always a fan on Nokia, and I wanted to support their committment to a new platform.

Nokia Lumia 800 Review (vs iPhone 4S)

What follows is really just a hit list of things I liked and did not, however the short version is that Microsoft let it down – that, and the fact that the ‘grey market’ version of the phone (from Hong Kong) was hamfisted by its lack of Nokia Drive (one of the killer features for me), Nokia Music and few things like screen capture. In any case, what follows is a little bit of insight into a phone that I almost cried to lose.

FEATURE
I love Contact Management – contacts from all your accounts (GMail, Twitter and Facebok) are intelligently linked (can be edited) in a way that creates the ultimate merged contact list from you can do anything (SMS, email, phone, Facebook chat, Tweet.
Makes iPhone contact management look positively prehistoric
I love the phone controls – toggling ring and vibrate (whilst not a simple switch like iPhone) are brilliant – touch the volume the controls and a touch area reveals which toggles between the two simple modes
iPhone sets the standard (matched by Nokia)
I love the size and form factor – it’s thin, light and the controls are logically positioned. I wouldn’t go for a Lumia 900 because this 3.7″ is perfect
The iPhone feels heavy and much more fragile (for all it’s corners)
I love the application integration – clicking link in an email launches the browser, the browser contains a phone number (which you dial), the phone call ends, you add the phone number to your contacts — but then you want to get back to your email, right? — easy: just go back-back-back and the OS seemless steps back through your previous applications – brilliant!
So much better than iPhone’s ‘back to home’ mentality where one is forced to return to the home screen to do anything.
I like that it comes with a case – and not some crappy plastic thing, a nice snug moulded case that barely
$39 for a bumper Apple, really?
I loathe the gutter – the home screen gutter (on the rght) was always the reason I didn’t buy the phone (I guess I was hoping they’d get over it) – it’s a complete waste of space.
The iOS interface may be showing its age, but at least it used the whole screen
I dislike the GMail integration – no “send as” different email; folder navigation (except for filing). Multiple calendar support is via a hack whereby your masquerade your phone as an iPhone.
iPhone sets the standard
I loathe contact capacity – whilst phone itself can easily handle my 4500 contacts, Windows Live Contacts (with which you can sync the phone) is limited to 1000 contacts. The way I got around was to download the “Go Contact Sync Mod” which is tidy little utility that syncs your Outlook contact list to GMail – once there, Windows phone syncs your contacts to your phone and (for its adept integration of contacts), makes all these details available in the “People” title. Don’t beleive Microsoft’s suggestion that syncing contacts is completely supported.
The iPhone 4S looks after my contact quite well, though it does not even offer an option for syncing it to say GMail (perhaps at least MS deserves points for trying).
I am disappointed with Microsoft’s support for the device – the online environment supporting the phone is severely fragmented and confusion – Windows Live, windowsphone.com, XBox live, MSN live. OS updates, even on an unlocked phone, are subject to the issuing country (which is the reason I couldn’t get Nokia Drive on mine – I had to wait until Hong Kong got the update, because that was th purchased location)
iTunes may be a behemoth, but it least it manages everything in one place
I am disappointed by the Zune software – whilst it is a beautiful bit of software, there is one glaring omission and that is its inablity to sync contacts (see above).
iTunes is slow, but it works. However Zune does handle all forms for media- even stuff it doesn’t sell.
I am disappointed by SMS screen – whilst sexy as hell, being set on a dark background makes the keyboard hard to see and messages muddy as a result (it kind of reminded me of finding my way around a darkened room with a torchlight) – as a result, message seem somewhat diminutive on the page. Furthermore, after composing a few messages in low light, you actually start to suffer from retina burn. This is not true however of Email – it’s set on white, and lovely. Why couldn’t SMS be like email – gorgeous!
The SMS environment is not as sexy but much more usable.
I love the screen – whilst the whites are dull (possibly intentionally so for the starkness of typing text on a white screen in low light), the colours and blacks are breathtaking on account of the AMOLED screen.
The iPhone 4S screen is possibly the best LCD out there, but Retina Display or not, it’s showing its age.

There are few more likes and gripes, like the size of the send button in Email/SMS and the flimsy charger port (mini USB will not stand daily plugging-in and out), but I think I’ve covered the main issues.  I put this review together mainly because the other reviews out there seem not to have fully committed to the phone for a few days testing – that is, they haven’t actually surrendered their old phone and tried to migrate their life across – as such, they miss some of the crucial issues.

Conclusion

If you’ve got less than 1,000 contacts and your country’s version of the phone comes with Nokia Drive, do it – you will not be disappointed. I am genuinely sad (almost regretful) to have to return this phone, but I am sticking the iPhone only until the either iPhone 5 changes the game or the next version of Windows Phone addressed the issues I have outlined above – Microsoft! I want to come back – please get your act together.

If you’re looking for a more technical review, I highly recommend the 8 page in depth technical review from Anandtech.

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About Justin Moss

An information and engineering technologist. Unabashedly opinionated, open-minded and an oft overthinker. Born Sydney Australia, home of the 'Southerly Buster'

View all posts by Justin Moss

6 Responses to “Nokia Lumia 800 – 5 days of happiness”

  1. Mohamed Says:

    Hi Justin,
    Very Fair review. Respect your thoughts & opinion. Please be advised that nokia Drive is available in the Nokia Marketplace for all handsets…
    I know my Lumia did not have it at launch, however it appeared a few weeks ago in the Nokia Marketplace…

    :-)

  2. Justin Moss Says:

    Thank you Mohamed – and d’ohh – if only the organisation I bought it from had told me that. Mind you .. I did look in the MarketPlace and it was not there – I think the Market Place does some sort of check on the version or source of the phone (and hides it, if not released in that region). Nokia HK are vague about when they will allow the HK sourced devices to upgrade to Nokia Drive.

  3. Danish Says:

    You can change the colour of your background if you don’t like black background. In phone settings go to theme and change background to light. That changes background settings OS wide. There’s no option for selective change only for SMS app though.

  4. Scotty Says:

    I had to send an LG e900 windows phone back after 2 months as it developed a problem with the screen. Got a full refund after sending it back (including shipping) as they couldn’t source a replacement.

    I know exactly how you feel when you mention being close to tears… it was absolutely gut wrenching after 2 months having to go back to crusty old Android Gingerbread :(

    The only good thing is I’ve now effectively had a 2 month “try-b4-u-buy” on WP7.5 and the refund effectively makes my upcoming Lumia 800 purchase a few hundred bucks cheaper than otherwise :)

  5. wguru Says:

    Regarding the Hong Kong N8′s not having NokiaDrive and NokiaMusic preloaded, am I correct in assuming that you somehow did get those two apps installed and working here in the US (mapping included free with lifetime updates), likely a simple flash file or some other method of getting the phone to upload or preload of these two apps, but maybe you had to send the phone somewhere to get it flashed?

    Sorry if I missed any comments pertaining to my asking, but should I find my new N8 may not have those apps, I just didn’t see if you elaborated at all on how your apparently got them on your N8.

  6. Justin Moss Says:

    Hi Wguru,

    Mine was not an N8, though I am guessing you mean the Lumia 800. In that case, I understand that NokiaDrive and NokiaMusic was subsequently made available on the the Hong Kong Windows Phone Apps store, though it was some weeks later. The moral of the story is that apps for Windows Phone will (or may, subject to Chinese law) eventually make it on their apps store AND that the release country of the phone decides what app store you use – this is an important point, no matter where you physically live or where you Live/MS/Lumia account is based, it is PERMANENTLY tied to the intended country of use (or seemingly so – there was no option to change the location of the phone).

    Thank you for the comment,
    Justin

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