|Nokia’s Lumia 900: ‘Handset of the Future,’ ‘Mixed Bag,’ Say Reviews; Will It Fuel Comeback?|
By Tiernan Ray
The reviews are in: Nokia‘s (NOK) Lumia 900, running Microsoft‘s (MSFT) “Windows Phone 7,” goes on sale exclusively at AT&T (T) next Monday and those reviewers who’ve been granted a unit were unleashed last night to write what they thought. I’ll have my own review later this week, but for now, let’s see what they said.
Wall Street Journal: It’s a “mixed bag.” “Provides the best home yet for the attractive Windows Phone software, but still doesn’t measure up to rival smartphones.”
Engadget: It’s “yet another decent offering” in AT&T’s lineup of 4G phones, but “too plain, too ordinary,” to really be a flagship phone for Nokia.
USA Today: The competition is formidable, but at $99, and with a fresh operating system, “Nokia may be well on the way to crafting a compelling comeback story.”
Gizmodo: “A phone that every single person should consider owning. It’s so quick and elegant […] Sure, the apps could be better, and there are occasional imaging inaccuracies and overblown colors. Let them overblow. You’re holding a pixel feat.”
Ars Technica: “Deserves to be taken seriously,” and much better than most Android phones in the same price range. May lure first-time buyers, although the subtlety of the UI may get to them over time. For those looking for the best phone at any price, “As of right now, it’s still a little too much form over function to beat [iOS and Android] at the game they invented.”
The Verge:“I really wanted to love this phone [...] But while the hardware — at least externally — delivers, the phone as a whole does not.” Nokia “hasn’t lost its ability to enchant through hardware.” But “after nearly two years on the market, I struggled to find a single thing this platform [Windows Phone] could do better than Android 4.0 or iOS 5.1 […] The sheen has worn off of Windows Phone for me.”
Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal: Despite the 900's larger size, it was comfortable to hold. The LTE connection got 10 megabits to 15 megabits per second on the download, which Mossberg describes as being faster than most home Wifi connections. Mossberg was “underwhelmed” by the battery life, the browser, and its photo-taking ability. Regarding the camera, “despite having the same resolution as the new iPhone, took notably worse pictures of the same scenes in my tests. To my eye, colors were oversaturated, and details were less sharp.” The “ecosystem” for content is weak, with no ability to download TV shows and movies, and fewer magazine and newspaper apps. The Metro UI, however, is “refreshing.” The biggest issue for Mossberg was that on WiFi, the Web browser stalled sometimes when loading pages, something other phones didn’t do and that Nokia couldn’t explain. The screen resolution of 800 x 480 was not as sharp as the iPhone, he notes, and the polarizing filter for making the screen more readable in direct sunlight delivered only modest improvement.
Joseph Volpe, Engadget: He’s a mite disappointed that the smooth contour of the 900's predecessor has been degraded somewhat by having the screen rise a hair above the polycarbonate frame of the device, rather than being flush with the body, as with the 800. Still, the solid construction and some fine details such as the carving of the speaker grill are pleasing. Althoug the phone is generally zippy in terms of the Windows UI, it actually scores not as well on some benchmarks. More to the point, the operating takes its own leisurely time strolling through its animations, rather than the snappy feel of some other phones, including the 800. Battery life was decent, perhaps giving real-world use of as much as 72 hours on a charge, despite the machine having a 4G LTE connection. Volpe praises the 8-megapixel camera, writing that it “displays a knack for depth of field, crisp replication of detail and balanced color.” LTE speeds on average ranged from 17 to 20 megabits per second.
Ed Baig, USA Today: He likes the software, he likes the hardware. Images with the camera were “all over the map.” Windows Phone is “fresh and different from iOS and Android and offers a strong alternative to the status quo.” he notes the weight of 5.6 means it’s not the lightest among smartphones. He got through a day of “mixed usage” with a single battery charge. The 70,000 apps available in Microsoft’s “Marketplace” store is “respectable.” Despite the single-core apps processor from Qualcomm, the phone’s performance “never felt like a laggard.”
Sam Biddle, Gizmodo: The Lumia is “a beautiful object,” a “handset of the future” given the “spaceship hardware” and “super-futuristic Metro vibe.” There’s too much to enjoy to worry about the specs, he writes. Nokia has managed to take the best design aspects of the 800 and “broaden” them. He tried tossing it in the air in a muddy field, and it turned out fine. The LTE connections were “swift,” around 10 megabits per second, on average. Photos were “sharp and vidid” on the screen and it was a pleasure to swipe through the UI. Internet Explorer was “on the slow side.” The top-tier apps for the phone “need polish.” The camera is “okay-I-guess,” with pictures “often over-saturated, washed out, or underexposed.”
Casey Johnson, Ars Technica: The operating system has some maturing to do and although power users will find things to like, they “may not be won over.” The “screen margins and casing” make it “feel bigger than you might expect,” but the “velvety” texture makes it easy to hold. Call quality is “fine,” no different from the iPhone, while the speaker is “pretty quiet.” Taking pictures is “cumbersome” because the shutter release is tied to the tap-to-focus gesture. The camera maintains better focus than the iPhone at different distances. Johnson was a little “dismayed” at first by how the pictures looked on the camera screen, but found they can stand up to the iPhone’s. “In closeups and dim scenarios” the camera “stumbles.” The screen is a magnet for fingerprints and the lack of “oleophobic” capability is “glaring.” Windows Phone is easier to use out of the box as far as its integration of Twitter and Facebook. And threaded messages between text and Facebook preserve one of the best aspects of Palm’s webOS’s messaging function. Some erroneous interpretations of swipe gestures are annoying, as is hiding the status bar at the top of the screen, but they are “minor points.” Windows Phone “needs to play catchup” with other alerts systems such as iPhone’s “Notification Center.” The browser is one of the weak spots, sometimes three times slower than other browsers, and a bit “janky” in rendering text. In general Windows has two problems, writes Casey, the overly “subtle” hiding of clues or cues, relying too much on intuitive touch; and the overly dense arrangement of some information, as “Often apps split too much between too many menus, requiring several swipes to access all of the options.” The battery delivered “pretty healthy performance,” with about 12 hours of “stop and go” use on a single charge.
Joshua Topolsky, The Verge: The hardware design is “gorgeous,” “beautiful,” “it may be the best looking phone on the market right now,” and a “breath of fresh air.” Topolsky had “very little to complain” about as far as the design and materials. Despite unremarkable specs, the Lumia was “snappy and responsive, with few (if any) hiccups or pauses.” The display was a disappointment, being overly saturated in addition to being lower resolution. Despite Nokia’s long history of great optics, the phone does not excel in the camera department. The rear camera pictures “just weren’t particularly good […] it’s really simply mediocre.” Topolsky was “pleasantly surprised” by battery life. There was “no problem” getting through a day of calls, email, Twitter and browsing on LTE on a single charge. Data speed was “pretty awesome,” with downloads as high as 19 megabits per second. There were no dropped calls, and quality was “crisp and clear.” Topolsky’s main beef is with Windows Phone, and he says it’s time to “stop giving the software a pass.” “At the end of the day, Windows Phone is just not as competitive with iOS and Android as it should be right now.” The software is “death by a thousands cuts,” including erratic scrolling in third-party apps, and despite multitasking, it doesn’t actually feel like apps are waiting. Internet Explorer seems “incapable of rendering certain web elements properly.”
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company