The Lumia 800 is Nokia’s phoenix; set to rise from the ashes of its disastrous smartphone business with barely a scorched feather. Banking on Symbian OS was clearly a bad move and every phone brand from Apple to MyLittlePony has stolen away Nokia’s customers with iOS and Android alternatives. The funky Finnish firm still sells more basic mobile phones globally than any other brand but you can tell they were irked by their smartphone faux pas. The media hype surrounding the replacement to the X7 has been frenetic with bloggers getting nose bleeds just debating the many proposed names that Nokia’s PR department would throw like tit-bits to the madding media crowds.
. The Lumia 800 is Nokia’s phoenix; set to rise from the ashes of its disastrous smartphone business with barely a scorched feather. Banking on Symbian OS was clearly a bad move and every phone brand from Apple to MyLittlePony has stolen away Nokia’s customers with iOS and Android alternatives. The funky Finnish firm still sells more basic mobile phones globally than any other brand but you can tell they were irked by their smartphone faux pas. The media hype surrounding the replacement to the X7 has been frenetic with bloggers getting nose bleeds just debating the many proposed names that Nokia’s PR department would throw like tit-bits to the madding media crowds. Rating:8.5 out of 10
Overall: 8.5 out of 10
- 1. Style
- 2. Build
- 3. Display
- 4. Processor
- 5. Imaging
- 6. GUI
- 7. Social
- 8. Games
- 9. Music
- 10. Business
- Sweet and fruity Windows ‘Mango’ OS
- Awesome social networking tools
- Eye-searing screen image and slick scrolling
- Stylish, solid, could double as cudgel
- Only 16 GB of memory and no expansion slot
- Pants imaging (er, not literally)
- Low-res video, no front camera
- Marketplace still full of tumbleweed
The wait is over and the Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone is on the streets. It is a renewed and refreshed device, invigorated with the latest 7.5 version of Windows Phone OS, or mango for no easily explainable reason. Well if Android can have ice cream sandwiches then we are clearly all going to get on the luxury comestibles naming bandwagon.
But the natty Nokia is not going to win every game of smartphone trumps because it isn’t short of ‘if only it had’ features too. The limited 16 GB of memory and no SD card slot is worthy of a Homer Simpson ‘d’oh!’, there is no front camera and the hard-button positioning just sucks. Three days with the Lumia 800 and I managed 27 accidental photos of my own palm.
First impressions count
Straight out of the box it’s a cool looking device. Sleek, slim and darkly sexy, like Kiera Knightly in a cocktail dress. It probably weighs as much as KK as well because it is a hefty bit of kit, coming in a good few grams heavier than the iPhone 4S. Actually, outside of Columbian marching powder a few grams is nothing, so the Lumia’s perceived mass is clearly an illusion brought about by its slim figure and curvaceous back panel. In fact, this solidity combined with the sharply profiled corners would probably make for a decent self defence weapon at a push.
The full gloss 3.7in AMOLED screen looks wonderful, for the first seven seconds. After that you will have handled the phone and the gloss screen begins to accrue fingerprints like a CSI officer. Given a couple of calls you will add some ear grease as well. I am not sure why the screen seems to show up handling marks more so than, say, an iPhone 4S but a polishing cloth or screen protector sticker will be useful if you want people to see your new phone and go ‘wow’ rather than ‘yurk’.
The issue is compounded by Nokia thoughtfully allowing the camera to operate straight out of stand-by mode. If you are looking to capture that quick comedy moment on the fly it works well, being a far quicker snapper than an iPhone. But time saved on the swings of a quick snap will be lost to the roundabout of deleting loads of accidental photos of your pocket, palm or the person standing beside your ear.
In fact, the camera system itself is far from perfect. There is only one camera for a start, so any thought of video calls are out of the question irrespective of what Apps come along for Windows OS. In use the autofocus is rather slow and not the most accurate on the block which pretty much kippers the point of the shoot-from-standby feature. Pictures in broad daylight are a little over-contrasty with whites bleaching out, but colour and detail are on par with other smartphones. The LED lamp is not too shoddy in use in fact and its two stage red-eye reduction is handy. But the flash angle is considerably narrower than the wide angle of the lens leaving you with a well illuminated central portion and dim edges. A proper DSC the Lumia 800 is not.
I’m not overly impressed with video ability either. Its 720-line resolution is not as peachy as the full fat 1080 line High Definition video recording found on the iPhone 4S and Galaxy. Being the sceptical sort I would guess this is for two reasons. The first being the Lumia 800’s fixed 16GB of memory not being capable of holding much data-heavy 1080 line video, and secondly so the next Lumia model, destined to launch next year, has something to shout about. Still, video recordings are reasonably sharp as long as there is not too much going on in the scene.
A feast of firmware
My eyes, my eyes! Hit the power button and the screen boots to life with an eye-searing brightness. Colours are rich and punchy and the contrast between brightly lit areas and the black background will have iPhone fan-boys weeping for AMOLED on the iPhone5. The blacks are so black you can’t see where the edge of the screen ends, and icons, tiles and images have a real leapt out factor. The touch-scrolling is seamless both horizontally and vertically and not once did it freeze and release mid-scroll Andrios-style. Damn, that screen is good. Which is a very pleasing reaction considering that at 480×800 pixels it’s resolution is a long way from the iPhone 4S’s 640×960 pixel screen.
The Lumia 800 squeezes plenty of business and productivity juice from the promised Windows Phone OS ‘mango’ functionality too. The home page is rather different from the usual smartphone fodder, comprising large coloured tiles for each major function or hub of similar functions. It works well and is easy to get used to although strangely there is a default ‘me’ tile. This intermittently brings up your own facebook picture, presumably in case you forget who you are. Needless to say all the tiles can be tweaked, modded and placed where you like and you can change the tiles that are pinned to the home screen. Delve deeper and a swift scroll to the left brings up all your apps and functions in one scrolling list rather than the page based navigation of other smartphones.
The default section of tiles is the obvious selection of phone, messaging, email and news with a single hub entitled ‘people’. This mashes together Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, your Outlook addresses etc into one place to replace what would otherwise be called ‘contacts’. It even pulls content live back to the home page presenting you with an ever changing collage of pictures of your facebook friends. Ye gadz, that can be scary. You can update a profile database for each person, bundle people into groups that can be messaged or emailed on mass, and keep a scrolling list of messages as an amalgamated feed from your social media accounts, SMS and emails. The other way round, SMS, tweets, emails, and posts from any one friend can be displayed in one seamless string of messages on one scrolling page.
It’s very slick, but I just don’t get it. Maybe if I was 15 years old this would be fine but as more mature member of the proletariat I like to keep friends and freaks from Facebook a long way away from my business contacts – both physically and as accessible lists on my devices. Bundled together like this I always worry that one small slip might mean one’s boss Jane might just get a message intended for Janet from loosedating.com.
Other embedded functionality includes Nokia Drive, a turn by turn GPS device with maps of all Europe as far as I could tell. It has 2D or 3D map display and location finder of what, back in the day, were called points of interest. Out on the road and side-by-side with an iPhone 4S the Lumia 800’s navigation gave a good account of itself being quicker to operate and easier to read that the Apple. It seemed a damn site more accurate too as when I leapt out for snacks and supplies it indicates I was still on the right road whereas the iPhone decided I had gone for a ramble in a nearby field.
That’s entertainment, or not
Apparently you can also use the Lumia 800 to make phone calls too. I tried this and it worked exceptionally well, pulling a three-bar Vodafone signal right beside an iPhone 4S showing two bars. A drive by test through the local signal backstop village did drop a call but only between the bakery and the post office before the signal was found again. By comparison the iPhone 4 simply couldn’t find a signal in the same county and the 4S is only marginally better.
So does this phoenix get airborne enough to save it from a baked backside? Well, yes it just about does. The screen is superb despite the resolution and the mango favoured Windows OS is very sweet indeed. The MS Office suite will certainly appeal to those who live and die by the PowerPoint slide or Excel spreadsheet and the Nokia add-ons work a treat. If you are the sort of person seriously into social networking the People hub is an exciting way of bringing a number of social steams together in one place at one time.
On the downside it’s not cheap, close to the same prices as the more powerful processor and better screen equipped iPhone 4S. Moreover, the button positioning is a serious issue for me, the Lumia’s imaging ability is a long way from living up to its Carl Zeiss billing and the limited memory is just rubbish. With 100 GB of music sat on my PC even a 64 GB iPhone 4S is a bit limiting, making the Lumia 800’s 16 GB and lack of expansion a deal breaker for me.
So there you are. If you a crusty-old, non-gaming, music junkie who spends a lot of time in phone signal wilderness with a decent DSC in your back pocket, the Lumia 800 is not for you. If on the other hand you love social networking, games and streaming media, it is serious contender against models from Apple, Samsung and HTC.