06
Sep
12

The Tiger Asks Some Hard Questions About The Lumia 900

interrogationI originally wrote this piece before the Nokia Lumia 920 was announced yesterday, so it feels weird to be writing about this phone when everyone else is shouting about the Lumia 920.

Still though, it will be a while before the Lumia 920 hits shelves so until then the Lumia 900 is still Nokia’s flagship Lumia phone, so from that perspective, this review still has a lot of merit.

We’ve gone through the preliminary reviews on the Nokia Lumia 900, we’ve put it through the first couple of paces and overall the phone has performed well.

But it’s time to take the gloves off and ask some difficult questions about the Lumia 900 because the bottom line is that Nokia has logged more than 3 billion euros in operating losses in the last 18 months and its smartphone market share has dropped to less than 10% from 50% before the iPhone arrived in 2007.

In most consumer’s minds, Nokia doesn’t feature at all when they’re considering what smartphone to buy – iPhone, Android-based phones and, despite the fact that they’re also on the ropes in a huge way, Blackberries are still top of mind for SA consumers.

 

 

Is it time people shifted their perceptions and started considering Nokia’s Windows Phones as a viable alternative to other smartphones in the market?

To answer that question, I asked myself what people want in a smartphone and came up with the following criteria:

  • Aesthetics (does it look sexy?)
  • Speed (does it hang, lag or freeze? What’s the browsing experience like?)
  • Functionality (can it navigate, take video and pics and make me coffee?)
  • Synchronicity (how well does it talk to my other devices?)
  • Apps (does it have sick apps?)
  • Finer details (is typing on the phone a pain in the ass? What’s the battery life like? What are the small things that the phone does right / wrong/)

So, keeping those criteria in mind, here’s how the Lumia 900 performed:

Aesthetics

There’s no denying the Lumia 900 is a damn sexy phone. With its 4.3in AMOLED display, colours are rich, deep and pack a lot of punch.

Its matt polycarbonate body makes the phone scratch proof and thanks to its striking colour variations, it’s the kind of phone that people take notice of when you whip it out.

 

 

I mean with a screen that’s basically 12 x 6 cms, it’s hard not to. But as mentioned before, I think the increased screen size is justified and makes viewing photos and videos on the phone a pleasure.

So on the aesthetics front, the Lumia 900 is a kickass phone, no complaints there.

Speed

Another front I cannot fault the Lumia 900 on is the speed of the device. In nearly a month of using it, the phone has not lagged or frozen once and as I mentioned in my previous post, browsing on this phone is motherflippin’ AWESOME.

To give you an idea, I read a piece on www.cracked.com recently about 5 ridiculous rockstars you would never think are secretly musical geniuses, one of which (much to my surprise) was Prince.

Later in the bar with my buddies, I wanted to share this newfound nugget of highly useful information with them so I tracked down the video below of Prince playing a solo that will melt your face off 1 000 000 times over started playing it for them.

 

 

I shit you not, the video played on my phone without buffering for even a second. That’s something not even my fixed line at work can do.

Were you able to play the video above without buffering? (Don’t answer that question if you live outside of SA. You don’t know what it’s like down here. Bandwidth is like crack in a rich, white neighbourhood – scarce and unjustifiably expensive).

So on the speed front it’s also a winner and that’s a huge plus for any phone.

Functionality

Does it navigate? Yes it does using both Nokia Maps (if you just want a quick fix on your position and a simple way to get to your destination) and Nokia Drive (if you want turn-by-turn voice navigation while you’re driving).

Both are also blisteringly fast. I have a Garmin in my car and yes, granted it’s about two years old now and I haven’t updated it recently, but by the time I’ve switched that thing on, found satellites, punched in the address where I’m going, found the place and hit “Go”, my Lumia is already at the finish line where it’s carving up a celebratory spitroast it started cooking five hours ago.

 

 

On the camera side, as I mentioned in my previous post, the Lumia 900 is a little lacking. The pics are almost always blurry unless you hold your breath while taking them and the digital zoom decimates picture quality and zooms. In. Like. This. Instead of zoominginlikethis.

I tried to do a little reading up to find out if there’s a camera app out there that fixes this, but wasn’t able to find anything.

So it’s a huge thumbs up for the awesome navigation on the phone but a bit of a disappointment on the camera / video side of things.

Synchronicity

If you are a PC man, I see no reason why you shouldn’t get this phone. It syncs so easily with a PC (provided you install Zune first) it’s scary and if you activate Office 365 on the phone, you can take your work with you wherever you go.

Excel works like a bomb, as does Word, both of which allow you to create and edit documents like you would on your PC in a comfortable, user-friendly way.

Unlike Windows Mobile, viewing and editing documents on the Lumia 900 won’t frustrate the shit out of you and make you want to throw the phone with all the force you can muster into oncoming traffic.

 

 

If your laptop got stolen / gave up the ghost, you could almost work entirely off this phone and not skip a beat.

If you aren’t a PC man, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to be using a Windows Phone so yeah… why are you reading this?

Apps

Aaaahhh, apps… the one aspect of this phone I don’t really feel comfortable writing about yet.

I haven’t dived very deep in here, right now the only apps I have running on the Lumia 900 are Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook and Twitter run pretty smoothly, but Whatsapp exits unexpectedly sometimes and has been designed in this utterly retarded way that hides the words you’re writing behind the virtual keyboard if your message is too long.

 

 

It will also show you who has just Whatsapped you and the first line of what they’ve typed along the top of the screen as soon as you get e message, but then when you go into Whatsapp to read the message, it takes a second or two to refresh the conversation before the new messages appear.

It looks super-slick though, but for a heavy duty user like me, I’ve found it a little frustrating and cumbersome to use.

I’ll get back to apps on the Lumia 900. For now let’s just say they seem to be ok and leave it at that.

Finer Details

These are the things that can really make or break a phone. You could have the sickest phone known to man, but if you hate typing on it (for example), it’s a total deal-breaker.

Luckily typing on the Lumia 900 is a breeze thanks to the highly responsive touch screen and the fact that it starts predicting the word you’re typing and several variations of it as you’re punching it in that you can just select to save yourself the trouble of typing the whole word out.

I also like the fact that the phone doesn’t work according to a whole set of predefined profiles like previous Nokias did. You want your phone on silent? Hold the “volume down” button until the volume is on zero and bam! The phone’s on silent.

 

 

And that’s really one of the things I love the most about this phone, it’s dead simple ease-of-use. The “back” button (one of three that the phone comes with) works universally whether you’re switching between apps, browsing the internet or looking through pictures.

Navigation is quick, clean and intuitive. There isn’t one person I’ve showed the phone to that isn’t impressed by how right Microsoft have gotten the Windows Phone interface.

It also does social like a dream.

I used the N8 for many years (nearly three in total) and though it took the most amazing pics and videos you’re ever seen on a cell phone and was sturdy enough to survive at least five falls that would have shattered most other phones, the simple task of uploading a photo to Twitter was like trying to split an atom.

The Lumia series was built for social. Take a picture –> hit share –> choose medium (ie. Messaging, Google Mail, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp) –> write caption (optional) –> hit upload.

Of course the downside of such a powerful smartphone is that the battery life typically lasts one day (which is actually pretty standard for smartphones these days) on full power and two at a stretch on power saving.

 

 

If I’ve done this right, you should hopefully have a much clearer picture of the Lumia 900 having read this review and are in a better position to decide if you think it’s worth taking a chance on or not.

To put it bluntly, if you use a PC, there is no reason I can think of as to why you shouldn’t have this phone.

Will the Lumia range of Windows Phones save Nokia’s smartphone market share? Yes, I believe they will, but not until people break out of the mindset that Nokia isn’t a serious contender in the smartphone market.

All that needs to happen is for people to actually try out the Lumia range and I can almost guarantee you they will be pleasantly surprised.

-ST


3 Responses to “The Tiger Asks Some Hard Questions About The Lumia 900”


  1. 1 Seerower
    September 7, 2012 at 5:37 am

    My take on the 900 is that it is a good phone but it’s not good enough for the market Nokia is aiming at. I compared it against my current personal phone – a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. While some might say that a comparison is the wrong way to shop for a phone, I believe it is the only way so that you make sure an upgrade is to something better. It prompts you to ask the hard questions.

    The 900 is soooooo sexy but it’s too heavy and too thick to keep in a jeans pocket without getting some akward (or admiring) stares. I forgave my Lumia 800 for being a fat boy but compared to my Nexus the 900 just seems overly big.

    It’s screen is gorgeous colour-wise but even though they have ditched the pentile screen, the screen resolution is not good enough for a phone of this class. My Nexus has a pentile-matrix screen but it always seemed crisper, probably because it has almost 2.5 times the number of pixels packed into a screen about 5mm bigger.

    I prefer Windows Phone’s home screen and general feel compared to Android. It just feels slicker and easier to use. Android still kicks WP’s ass when it comes to handling email and browsing the web (with Chrome, not the standard Android browser). Email and web browsing account for 90% of my phone use (other than calls) so I am waiting with baited breath too see how much this has improved in WP8.

    The download speed may be fast but the phone’s overall processing speed leaves much to be desired. My Galaxy Nexus easily beat it in almost every test and while it wasn’t done scientifically, the margin was still clear enough.

    Another thing which I have come to appreciate is plain old USB mass storage device connectivity. I cannot afford spending the money on bandwidth to download my music collection from the cloud and I cannot afford to spend lots of time with Zune and losing the flexibility. It’s not just music – pictures, documents and general files that I have downloaded using my phone can be copied to and from any pc. This is a Windows Phone/Zune problem but it is something that you will be stuck with if you get a 900.

    In the end I spent close to an hour playing with a friend’s 900, trying to convince myself that I needed another phone. I just couldn’t justify spending flagship-phone money on a phone with just two redeeming qualities: Its design and its ease of use.

    • September 7, 2012 at 11:31 am

      Nice one Seerower! See, that’s where my review falls short, I haven’t used any of the flagship Android phones so I can’t draw a comparison between the Lumia and what else is out there.

      What’s your take on the the Lumia 920? The sharp decline in Nokia’s shareprice after the 920 was announced would seem to indicate that people weren’t very impressed by it, but a lot of people are speculating this was because Nokia didn’t confirm pricing or network carriers.

      -ST

      • 3 Seerower
        September 10, 2012 at 6:48 am

        It looks like the 920 will be everything that the 900 was supposed to be and WP8 looks very good too. Specs-wise there is a (very) short list of phones more powerful than the 920 so Nokia finally told MS to stick their hardware limitations somewhere very uncomfortable (Samsung perhaps).

        Its speculated pricing seems to be the scaring the interwebs and with good measure. Why can’t they tell us or even more worryingly, why aren’t they telling us?

        Its weight has gone up to 185g which is way too much. I have only had one phone between my 22 that was heavier and that was my very first one – a Nokia 1610 brick.

        Prince may be kooky as all hell but the man sure knows how to work a six-string.


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