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Nokia Lumia Series 4: Nokia Lumia 900

Nokia Lumia 900

Nokia and Microsoft introduce their flagship phone, but is it enough to get back in the game?

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The HSPA+ variant of Nokia’s Lumia 900 was made for Europe and the rest of the world in mind. The Lumia 900 includes a 1.4GHz CPU with 512MB RAM, an 8-megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens, and a 4.3-inch AMOLED display.

It occurred to me that the Lumia 900 review would be one of the more important critiques of a product that I write this year. For those of you who don’t know the backstory here, the new LTE-equipped, AT&T-bound smartphone represents what could be the beginning of a new era for both Microsoft and its partner Nokia in the mobile race — at least in the US. The 900 is a culmination of all of Microsoft’s work with Windows Phone 7 (now 7.5), and Nokia’s hardware design and execution, packaged in the hopes that the American consumer will suddenly notice that not only does Windows Phone exist, but it’s worth buying into.

Even AT&T has gotten into the spirit, claiming launch expectations that seem to far exceed the warranted excitement over this phone. But it is an attractive offering in many ways. Stylistically the Lumia 900 looks like nothing on the market. It offers LTE service that — where you can get it — is shockingly fast. And most importantly, the top-tier, flagship device is being offered at a wildly discounted price: just $99.99 for new subscribers.

So does the phone have what it takes to court buyers away from Android and iOS, and establish a beachhead for Microsoft and Nokia? I’ll unravel those questions in the review below.

Video Review

Hardware / design

THIS IS THE NOKIA I GREW UP WITH!

The Lumia 900 is a gorgeous device. It’s beautiful. It may be the best looking phone on the market right now. It’s a monolithic device — a slab of high-test polycarbonate with little more than a display and a handful of slit-like, silver buttons. Its smooth, matte plastic is shaped to appear rather rectangular from the front, but has subtle curves around the edges which give it a satisfying feel in your hands. The design is nearly identical to the Meego-based N9, and its predecessor Lumia 800, so even though it will be new to many, it’s not the first of its kind. Still, in a world dominated by lookalike Android phones and a single iPhone, it’s definitely a breath of fresh air.

THE LUMIA LOOKS AND FEELS LIKE NOTHING ELSE ON THE MARKET

Not only is the physical design of the phone different, but so is its coloring. I tested a bright cyan version of the phone (it comes in white and black as well), and I found the stark color extremely pleasing. In fact, it reminded me of how stale and lacking in playfulness industrial design has become in this industry.

The Lumia measures 2.7 inches across by 5.03 inches up and down, and is 0.45 inches thick (comparatively, the iPhone 4S is 0.37 inches in thickness). It’s not the smallest or thinnest device on the market, but it never comes off as oversized or chubby. There’s a small speaker along the very flat bottom of the phone, and a headphone jack, Micro USB port, and SIM door at the top. Along the right side are the device’s volume, power / sleep, and camera buttons.

I really like the design and materials on the 900, and for once I have very little to complain about. I will say that the door which needs to be popped open to insert a SIM does settle back into the top of the phone a little shakily at first, but it does eventually seem to go back to a flush line.

In all, it’s a fantastic piece of technology. It just looks and feels like nothing else on the market. It hits all the right notes for me. A little bit retro, a little bit futuristic, with just a touch of quirky humanity in its otherwise very machined design. This is the Nokia I grew up with, and it’s clear the company hasn’t lost its ability to enchant through hardware.

Internals and display

THE SPECS DON’T EXACTLY MAKE THIS DEVICE FUTURE-PROOF

Inside, the Lumia 900 packs a single-core Snapdragon system-on-a-chip clocked to 1.4GHz, 512MB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage (which is not upgradable). The device has the requisite LTE and GSM radios onboard, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR.

The display on the front of the device is a 4.3-inch, 800 x 480 AMOLED “ClearBlack” screen, fronted by Corning’s now-famous Gorilla Glass. Unlike the Lumia 800 and N9, the display is slightly raised on the phone instead of flush with the surface. There’s also a 1-megapixel camera embedded above the display, as well as an 8-megapixel shooter with a dual LED flash and Carl Zeiss optics on the back of the phone.

The specs are unremarkable, but performance on the phone was not. Just as with other Windows Phones I’ve tested, the Lumia was snappy and responsive, with few (if any) hiccups or pauses — but more on that later.

On the other hand, I’m disappointed by the display on the Lumia. Besides being lower in resolution than competitive devices (new Android phones at 1280 x 720 and the iPhone at 960 x 640), I felt colors were far too saturated. This is a pretty common problem with AMOLED screens, but the issue seems pronounced on the Lumia 900 thanks to the starkness of the Windows Phone interface. Combined with the lower resolution display (which is particularly notable with white text against that black background), the effect is jarring.

I’m not saying that the Lumia 900 is underpowered, but a single-core processor, lower resolution display, and half the RAM of its nearest competition doesn’t exactly make this device future-proof.

Camera

IT’S NOT THAT THE IMAGES WERE PARTICULARLY BAD — THEY JUST WEREN’T PARTICULARLY GOOD

Nokia has a long history of packing terrific optics into its devices, so you would expect that the Lumia would excel in this area. I’m sad to report that it does not.

On the device I tested, the rear camera was capable of producing fine photos, though generally the 900 shot somewhat grainy and very washed out images. It’s not that those images were particularly bad — they just weren’t particularly good. Though the company touts Carl Zeiss optics, I didn’t see anything in my results that belied fairly standard smartphone picture-taking capabilities. In fact, the camera software seemed to have real trouble in some settings, with white balance and exposure out of whack compared to my expectations.

Additionally, the Lumia 900 produces those dreaded, faint pink spots in the center of the display — particularly visible on bright white surfaces — that we’ve seen on countless phones. It’s not the kind of thing you’d notice in most photos, but you can definitely see a discoloration that shouldn’t be there.

Now keep in mind, my daily driver is a Galaxy Nexus, which has a relatively poor camera — so this is significant. I went into the Lumia 900 expecting an excellent photo experience, but it’s really simply mediocre. That’s too bad, because there aren’t many phones on the market that can snap great looking photos, and given Microsoft’s insistence that Windows Phone is a pro at quickly capturing important moments, this is a place where this phone could have shined.

Battery life, data, phone, and performance

THE LUMIA IS MORE THAN CAPABLE OF HANDLING ANYTHING YOU THROW AT IT

I was very pleasantly surprised by the battery life of the Lumia. Going into an LTE phone review, I tend to have fairly low expectations for battery performance, but the 900 proved itself as a viable option for a full day’s work. According to Nokia, you can expect about 7 hours of talk time on the phone. Now, I don’t really spend that much time talking, but I was happy to report that getting through a typical day of calls, lots of email, Twitter, and web browsing was no problem — even on a fairly constant LTE connection. Furthermore, in our brute force rundown test (continuous YouTube while connected to both Wi-Fi and LTE, max screen brightness, and max volume) I got 4 hours and 43 minutes. Compared to the HSPA+ One X’s 4:22, I’d say that’s pretty good.

Data performance was pretty awesome on the Lumia 900 — when I was in range of LTE, of course. I’ve been over the moon about Verizon’s LTE service (see the ridiculous speeds I got while testing the iPad), and AT&T’s early showing suggests a match for its rival. In good coverage areas, I saw download speeds as high as 19Mbps, with upstream hovering around 3 or 4Mbps. Of course, those did fluctuate wildly, and AT&T’s network still has yet to be built out to full capacity. It probably also doesn’t hurt that almost no one is using the company’s “real” 4G network.

Phone calls were crisp and clear on the handset. I’m happy to say that during my testing, I didn’t have a single dropped call. That could be luck, but I’m hoping it’s not. The speakerphone worked well on the Lumia 900, though I thought it sounded a bit sharp for my ears, and not quite as loud as I would have liked. Compared to my annoyingly quiet Galaxy Nexus, however, it might as well have been a PA system.

As far as general performance is concerned, as I said in the hardware section, the Lumia is more than capable of handling anything you throw at it. Of course, what you throw at it is tightly bound by the Windows Phone way of doing things, which all but ensures that there’s never too much going on at once. If I had to speculate, I would say it’s the stringent methodology of this OS that allows it to seem smooth and stable during the majority of use. Quite simply, Microsoft isn’t letting these phones bite off more than they can chew.

That comes with a price, however, and it brings me to…

Software

I THINK IT’S TIME TO STOP GIVING WINDOWS PHONE A PASS

Let me just put this bluntly: I think it’s time to stop giving Windows Phone a pass. I think it’s time to stop talking about how beautifully designed it is, and what a departure it’s been for Microsoft, and how hard the company is working to add features. I am very aware of the hard work and dedication Microsoft has put into this platform, but at the end of the day, Windows Phone is just not as competitive with iOS and Android as it should be right now.

Before you cry foul, keep in mind that I went into this review wanting to fall madly in love with this phone. But like a book with a beautiful jacket and a plot full of holes, I found myself wanting more. A lot more.

The problems with Windows Phone are myriad, many small. But it’s a death by a thousand cuts. And all those little problems were once again immediately apparent to me the moment I started using the Lumia 900.

DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS

The most glaring issues also happen to be some of the oldest issues — things you think at this point would have been dealt with. Scrolling in third party apps, for instance, is still completely erratic. I would blame this on developers, but given that this platform has been around for nearly two years, I think that’s a cop out. In new Twitter apps like Carbon, lists of messages will sometimes disappear or skip weirdly when scrolling. I first complained about this in version 1 of Windows Phone, and I thought it had been squashed — it has not.

Elsewhere there are missteps. Though Microsoft has added some form of multitasking to the OS, there is nearly never a feeling that apps in the “background” are actually still waiting for you. In fact, many apps still deliver a splash screen to you when you reenter them — if this is a developer issue, then I guess most of the hardworking coders on this platform never got the memo. In short, it kind of sucks to use. Where iOS and Android at least feel responsive in packing and unpacking background apps, Windows Phone often comes across as broken and limp.

Other issues nag me. In the browser, webpages are often displayed incorrectly as IE seems incapable of rendering certain web elements properly. The Verge, for instance, lacks its colored panels in the top stories section, and TypeKit fonts aren’t properly displayed. Neither iOS nor the new Chrome browser for Android have this issue. Then there are menus to consider — in many applications, options to navigate are often hidden beneath long presses, meaning that most users will never know how to do simple things like delete a single text message from their inbox.

Microsoft offers Twitter integration, but it’s so clunky, it would almost be better to not include it at all. The phone will show you that you’ve been Tweeted at, but in order to view the actual Tweet you have to tap into your “Me” tile, swipe to your notification list, then tap on each individual message to see it. How anyone at Microsoft thought this would help you get “in, out, and back to life” is a mystery to me.

And all of this is to say nothing of the third party app offerings on the platform. Besides the fact that there is a serious dearth of good software for the OS, even in places where you would expect Windows Phone to excel, it lags. Gaming for instance.

At this point, one would think that the Xbox Live offerings would hold their own against game titles for Android or iOS, but even the most advanced games seem at least a generation behind other platforms in terms of complexity. Furthermore, there’s still slim pickings when it comes to titles, with launch offerings from October of 2010 still topping the charts in the Marketplace.

Elsewhere, software is largely a mishmash of fair-to-middling offerings. The design language of Windows Phone seems to present a real problem to developers on the platform, and most third party titles go off the rails badly. Additionally, there’s little in the way of familiar apps, though there are bright spots, like the Rdio app which now thankfully is capable of playing audio in the background (which wasn’t possible before the recent Mango update), and is actually quite a beautiful piece of software.

There’s also a new Twitter app called Rowi which is probably the best experience you can have on Windows Phone with the social networking service — it’s a really well thought out and well made application.

And it’s glimmers like that here which frustrate me. Because there is some really great DNA in this operating system, and it’s obviously possible to produce great software and great user experiences. It’s just too few and far between to have impact at this point.

Don’t misunderstand me, Windows Phone offers some very good experiences in its core apps, and it’s probably the most gorgeous and cohesive piece of software Microsoft has ever released. But after nearly two years on the market, I struggled to find a single thing this platform could do better than Android 4.0 or iOS 5.1.

The sheen has worn off of Windows Phone for me. When I put something in my pocket, it needs to be able to quickly and efficiently get things done. It needs to trump other devices in its class. It needs to be the best — and Windows Phone is far from it at this point.

I REALLY WANTED TO LOVE THIS PHONE, BUT WHILE THE HARDWARE DELIVERS, THE DEVICE AS A WHOLE DOES NOT

I’ve already said this, but it bears repeating. I really wanted to love this phone. From a design standpoint, the Lumia 900 was immediately enticing. I’d already been salivating over Nokia’s N9 and Lumia 800, so knowing that a slightly larger (but more feature packed) version of that device was headed our way was fairly encouraging. But while the hardware — at least externally — delivers, the phone as a whole does not.

I think Nokia made a lot of the right decisions, but it’s almost impossible to move beyond some of Windows Phone’s shortcomings this late in the game. Try as I might to envision the Lumia 900 as my daily driver, the math never added up. There’s just too much missing, or too much that feels unfulfilling.

I used to get upset that Android didn’t have a cohesive design language, and iOS was lacking basic functionality like copy and paste or multitasking — but most of those complaints have been put to bed. Today I might complain about a lack of widgets or a skin I don’t like, but I’m not griping about fundamental pieces of an OS. And I think that’s what’s so trying about Windows Phone.

These aren’t minor gripes I have — they speak to the foundations of this OS. My annoyances aren’t just about the color choices in the calendar, they’re about whether or not scrolling in apps functions as it should, or if I’ll get important updates in the background. Can I use IRC without breaking my connection every time I leave the app? How many steps does it take to get to the information I need? Do webpages display properly? Will the apps I need or want to use make it to this platform, and will they be any good when they get there?

In some ways, I feel like I’m reviewing a webOS device again (but with much, much nicer hardware). There are all these wonderful ideas at play, but it’s impossible to look past the nagging bugs and missing features.

Of course, there are users out there that will embrace this phone. It is generally easy and pleasant to use, and the low price point, coupled with the beautiful hardware and solid LTE service could be persuasive. But for me and most of the people I know, there’s still something missing here, and until Microsoft and Nokia figure out what that is, Windows Phone will continue to struggle upstream.

GOOD 

  • Incredible hardware design
  • OS is snappy and responsive
  • LTE data is speedy
  • Great entry price

BAD 

  • Windows Phone still has lots of issues
  • Third-party app offerings are weak
  • Specs feel last generation
  • Camera underwhelming

Specifications:

Also known as Nokia Lumia 900 RM-823

GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
SIM Micro-SIM
Announced 2012, February
Status Available. Released 2012, May
BODY Dimensions 127.8 x 68.5 x 11.5 mm, 90 cc (5.03 x 2.70 x 0.45 in)
Weight 160 g (5.64 oz)
DISPLAY Type AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 480 x 800 pixels, 4.3 inches (~217 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass
– Nokia ClearBlack display
SOUND Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
MEMORY Card slot No
Internal 16GB storage, 512 MB RAM
DATA GPRS Class 33
EDGE Class 33
Speed HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth Yes, v2.1 with A2DP, EDR
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0
CAMERA Primary 8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, dual-LED flash, check quality
Features Geo-tagging
Video Yes, 720p@30fps, video stabilization, check quality
Secondary Yes, 1 MP, VGA@15fps
FEATURES OS Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 Mango
Chipset Qualcomm APQ8055 Snapdragon
CPU 1.4 GHz Scorpion
GPU Adreno 205
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Browser HTML5
Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
Java No
Colors Black, cyan, white, magenta
– SNS integration
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+/WMA player
– MP4/H.264/H.263/WMV player
– Document viewer/editor
– Video/photo editor
– Voice memo/command/dial
– Predictive text input
BATTERY Standard battery, Li-Ion 1830 mAh (BP-6EW)
Stand-by Up to 300 h (2G) / Up to 300 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 7 h (2G) / Up to 7 h (3G)
Music play Up to 60 h
MISC SAR US 1.29 W/kg (head)     0.95 W/kg (body)
SAR EU 1.33 W/kg (head)
Price group About Rs. 31,000/-
TESTS Display Contrast ratio: Infinite (nominal) / 2.562:1 (sunlight)
Loudspeaker Voice 70dB / Noise 68dB / Ring 75dB
Camera Photo / Video
Battery life Endurance rating 38h
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Nokia Lumia Series 3: Lumia 800 Nokia’s first flagship Windows Phone device

LUMIA 800:

NOKIA’S FIRST FLAGSHIP WINDOWS PHONE DEVICE

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Reviewing the Lumia 800 is a hard and, dare I say, unprecedented task. Never before have we seen a phone like Nokia’s N9 — a benchmark setter in some design aspects, yet a complete dead end in terms of software ecosystem — and now the 800 arrives ensconced in a nearly identical physical body. How do you begin to grade a device that feels, superficially at least, like a cuckoo — a parasite occupying the shell that rightfully belongs to another? Well, you probably start by dispensing with such romantic notions and treating the Nokia Lumia 800 as what it is: a Windows Phone 7.5 handset with a competitive, if unremarkable, spec sheet and the full backing of Nokia’s engineering, development, and marketing might.

The similarities shared between Nokia’s Harmattan and Windows Phone devices aren’t actually the most pertinent topic of inquiry here. What will truly matter to end users of the Lumia 800 is how much of an upgrade this new flagship phone represents relative to previous, Symbian-powered generations of Nokia hardware and, potentially, the rest of the current Windows Phone crop. Whether you’re actively contemplating jumping aboard the good ship Microkia or just a curious onlooker, read on for all the answers.

VIDEO REVIEW

Video review

HARDWARE / DESIGN

THE EFFORTLESS GRACE OF THE N9′S DESIGN HAS BEEN REPRODUCED WITH THE LUMIA 800

Photographing the Lumia 800 is an exercise in deja vu. Except for the addition of a dedicated camera key, the relocation of the dual-LED flash, and the introduction of capacitive Windows Phone keys up front, this is the N9. I’d usually be first to protest if a company decides to recycle a design quite so flagrantly, but in this case, it’s more a matter of why wouldn’t you? My lasting impression of the N9′s case was that it was akin to Apple’s unibody MacBook Pro — so tantalizingly close to perfection as to make you wonder where future upgrades could possibly come from. Three years after its introduction, that MBP design is still going strong and Nokia should have to make no apologies for sticking with a similarly splendid piece of engineering.

The Lumia 800 / N9 design ethos is all about effortless simplicity for the user, but it’s backed by a stupefying amount of calculation, modeling, and testing behind the scenes. What you see and feel in your hand is a seamless piece of soft-touch plastic, curved on all sides and gently tapering toward flattened-out top and bottom surfaces, fronted by a curved screen. It’s natural and pleasant to the touch, with great ergonomics and weight balance — the diametric opposite of the cold and impersonal appearance of most modern technology. Being able to meld that aggressively minimalist monobody design with a fully functional smartphone is where Nokia’s manufacturing chops really shine through.

IT’S NATURAL AND PLEASANT TO THE TOUCH, WITH GREAT ERGONOMICS AND WEIGHT BALANCE

Perfection does elude the Lumia 800, however, and it’s almost entirely down to the few physical keys this phone is adorned with. Its right side plays host to a volume rocker, a power / lock button, and a dedicated camera key, neither of which does a great job of what are typically routine tasks. The volume rocker and lock button sit too close to one another and are almost flush with the phone’s side, making for difficult tactile recognition. They’re also a bit loose and generate an innocuous, though irritating, rattle when you move the 800 around. The shutter release button is better: it’s firmer and more pronounced, has more travel, and reacts to pressure without a definite click at the bottom (something that can introduce motion blur in the resulting photos). The latter is a good thing for camera results, but it’s less intuitive from a user perspective. While I’m bemoaning buttons, it’s arguable that the Windows Phone capacitive trifecta under the screen is a little too close to the touchscreen, leading to some unintentional taps.

Nokia is sticking to the three color options introduced with the N9 — black, cyan and magenta, all featuring a soft matte finish — with each of those being the hue of the actual polymer the phone is built out of. That means no matter how deeply you may scratch the Lumia 800, it’ll maintain the same consistent color. It’d actually be quite the challenge to force any nicks or scuffs to appear on this handset as that polycarbonate stuff it’s made of is deceptively strong and resistant to abrasions. The same can’t be said of the elliptical metal plate built into the center of its back — finished to a mirror sheen, that surface seems a magnet for little scrapes. Nokia bundles in a very good silicon case with the Lumia 800, however it has a cutout specifically designed to expose the reflective metal on the back, rather offsetting its protective qualities.

Minor issues aside, the Lumia 800 is exactly the sort of delight for the senses that you will have expected an N9 clone to be.

DISPLAY

THE CLEARBLACK DISPLAY LIVES UP TO ITS MARKETING BLUSTER
Sticking with the N9 lineage and a recent preference for AMOLED in its flagship phones, Nokia has installed an 800 x 480 AMOLED display inside the Lumia 800. What was a 3.9-inch panel on the N9 has shrunken to 3.7 inches (and lost 54 horizontal lines of pixels in the process) in order to accommodate the Windows Phone keys. Yes, the Pentile Matrix RGBG subpixel arrangement is present here too, though as with the N9, I have to stress that it has almost no distinguishable impact on the display’s quality. If you put your eye right up to the screen, you may notice some color fringing on white text in front of a black background, but that’s it. Pixel density at this 3.7-inch size and WVGA res feels just about right for Windows Phone and the Lumia 800 does it justice with very clear, richly saturated imagery. As usual with AMOLED, some users will find the colors rendered a little too rich, though there’s sadly no option to tone down saturation as there is on Samsung’s Galaxy S II.

One thing nobody can complain about, however, is the way the Lumia 800 renders — or doesn’t render, to be precise — blacks. It features the anti-glare polarizer that earns it Nokia’s ClearBlack Display designation, which to us simple humans just means that its screen is less reflective than most and dark shades appear truly dark. Most of the time, you’ll struggle to distinguish where the display panel ends, creating the wonderful illusion that onscreen imagery is simply suspended atop the surface of the phone — it’s a very organic appearance that lends Microsoft’s Metro tiles an extra air of sophistication.

Nokia’s spec sheets don’t list it, but a visit to Corning’s website confirmed that the Lumia 800 does indeed have a Gorilla Glass front, much like the N9, N8 and E7 before it. That should provide you with an extra sense of security when using this phone since Gorilla Glass has shown itself to be a reliably rugged screen for mobile phones.

BATTERY LIFE, RECEPTION, AND AUDIO

DISAPPOINTING TO SEE NFC AND INTERNET SHARING OMITTED FROM THE 800

From my brief time with the Lumia 800, I’d say its battery life has been marginally less impressive than the N9, though that’s not unreasonable given it’s having to power a 1.4GHz processor. Anyone coming from Nokia’s previous Symbian family — which typically sacrificed brute firepower for longer endurance — will have to adapt his or her expectations to a new reality. I got to 23 hours while subjecting the 800 to my usual routine of push email updates, web browsing, music playback, photo and video capture, and lots of idling. It’s an effort to simulate real world use, but the only thing constant about the real world is that it’s different for everyone, so take it as nothing more than an indicator. Nokia lists the Lumia 800 as offering longer talk time (13 hours on GSM / 9.5 hours over 3G) than the N9 (11 and 6.5 hours, respectively) but shorter standby time. When it comes to the Windows Phone competition, HTC’s 1.5GHz Titan lasts just about as long as the 800, though the 1GHz Radar offers a little more stamina than both.

Reception on the Lumia 800 has been consistently good, allowing for clear calls and generally speedy web connectivity. While on the subject of wireless connections, I do have to express disappointment at Nokia’s decision to disable Windows Phone’s Internet Sharing feature. That’s the facility that allows you to share your Lumia’s 3G connection with nearby Wi-Fi-capable devices, turning it into a mobile hotspot. Nokia may look to enable it in a future update, however it wasn’t deemed a top priority for launch and the company chose to focus on improving other areas of the phone experience. Also missing from the Lumia 800 is the NFC connection included on the N9. NFC is still a rarely used sideshow for the smartphones that have it, so I can definitely see why Nokia nixed it, but almost everyone is pushing for its wider adoption and its absence from the 800 casts a bit of a shadow over its long-term prospects.

What the Lumia 800 does have is Bluetooth, which is harnessed nicely by a Bluetooth Contacts Transfer app. It does what its name suggests and helps to bridge the software incompatibility that arises between Nokia’s new Windows Phone and its line of legacy devices — provided they too have Bluetooth on board, of course.

The loudspeaker at the bottom of the Lumia 800 may look identical to the one on the N9, but it’s subtly different. Whereas the N9′s speaker was impossible to muffle, the 800′s is much more susceptible to being muted by pressing something against it — that basically rules out listening to music on the phone while standing it in an upright position. Aside from such an eclectic concern, the sound produced by the Lumia 800 is very good indeed. The usual size limitations imposed by the smartphone form factor do apply, but it’s good enough that you will actually want to listen to music through it. Nokia’s bundled ear buds, on the other hand, are not. They’re quite terrible, sit loosely in the ear, and your best course of action may be to never unpack them so as to keep up the phone’s resale value.

CAMERA

THERE ARE SOME COLOR BALANCE ISSUES, BUT THE CAMERA TAKES SOME VERY DETAILED SHOTS

Yet another hand-me-down from the N9 production line, the Lumia 800′s camera is composed of the same 8-megapixel sensor and f/2.2 Carl Zeiss lens as on the MeeGo Harmattan phone. That’s generally a good thing, as the Lumia 800 is capable of filling those eight million pixels with tons of detail and Nokia’s been very frugal with its noise reduction. Nonetheless, issues of color fidelity do arise, ostensibly caused by Nokia’s post-processing which occasionally introduces an artificial green hue to pictures. This probably has to do with the camera’s automatic white balance misreading the scene; whatever the reason, it takes away from the ease of use and reliability of the Lumia 800′s camera, which are the two most paramount considerations when you’re building imaging equipment for phones.

Less critical, though still important, is the speed of operation and this is where the Lumia 800 shines. Microsoft has emphasized quick camera operation with Windows Phone from its start, and the Lumia 800 keeps up that standard beautifully. A long press of the side-mounted camera button sends you right into the camera app and tapping anywhere on the screen instructs the camera to focus and auto-expose the image based on the information in that spot. You can also half-press the physical camera key to get the camera to do the same in the center of the picture. Focusing speed isn’t sublime and there are none of the N9′s special software optimizations for speeding things up — the Lumia 800′s camera software is stock Windows Phone — but relying on Microsoft’s already strong platform isn’t a bad choice here, performance is still satisfyingly quick.

MOTION BLUR DETRACTS FROM WHAT’S OTHERWISE VERY HIGH QUALITY 720P VIDEO

The dual-LED flash works very well on nearby objects and avoids washing out scenes when it’s called into action. It’s intelligent enough to recognize how much light it needs to provide, so if you focus on your hand in a dark room, it’ll light it accurately, but if you focus on the black phone in your hand, it’ll readjust for the phone and over-expose your hand. That may not sound ideal, but the good aspect of it is that it works predictably and reliably.

Video recording, much like stills, benefits from some really nice detail, however motion blur is exhibited a bit too readily for my liking. If the Galaxy S II was capable of handling motion perfectly at 1080p resolution back in April, your new flagship phone should be able to do the same at 720p without bother. Nokia doesn’t live up to that standard with the Lumia 800, unfortunately. Another way in which this phone falls short on the imaging front is in its omission of a front-facing camera. Sure, most people consider them gimmicky and video conversations aren’t exactly threatening to overtake regular voice calls, but front-facing cameras have become essentially standard equipment nowadays and it’s odd to see Nokia skimping on one here.

SOFTWARE

Nokia’s historic move to a new mobile operating system is finally complete. Gone are the days of trudging through outdated Symbian menu systems, no longer will you be laughed at by your trendy app-loving peers. Nokia’s latest handset runs Windows Phone, a truly up-to-date OS with a future bright enough to justify the Lumia branding.

So why does it feel so underwhelming?

WINDOWS PHONE

The first issue is one of familiarity. We’ve seen both Windows Phone 7.5 and the Lumia 800′s chiseled physique already, so combining the two is like making yourself a banana sandwich, new and potentially tasty, but not an altogether unpredictable combination. The Lumia 800 is a device embodying all of Nokia’s phone manufacturing nous and relies on Microsoft’s best mobile software to date, but what it doesn’t do is create something new and altogether better out of those components. The two parts are welded together, whereas what the world really wanted to see was for them to melt into one spectacular new juggernaut that would do battle with iOS and Android. Windows Phone isn’t there yet and if any one phone will push it into that stratosphere, the Lumia 800 won’t be it. The Lumia 800 equipped with all of the N9′s software bells and whistles might have been that hero device, but alas, time constraints have forced Nokia to serve up a very ordinary helping of Mango with almost no improvements of its own.

Nokia has been consistent in saying that it’ll endeavor to bring the swipe gestures, the double-tap-to-wake, and everything else that was good about the N9′s UI over to Windows Phone, but the fact remains that those goodies are not present in the Lumia 800 today. What you get are sadly superficial tweaks: Nokia alerts, ringtones, wallpapers, and a “Nokia blue” theme are scattered around the phone, while the Metro tiles, email client, calendar, and all other native apps are left untouched. There aren’t obvious ways to improve on them, mind you, as Microsoft has done a really stellar job of refining the basic Windows Phone user experience. Still, it would have been nice to see Nokia implement the awesome onscreen keyboard of the N9, along with its terrific haptic feedback, in the Lumia phone that’s probably being built on the exact same manufacturing line.

Nokia Drive and Nokia Music are the two big additions on launch day. Drive provides offline navigation with voice turn-by-turn instructions and Music includes a Mix Radio streaming service that’s loaded up with genre-based playlists of free music. Both are actually very good at what they do and are sure to figure in your long-term use of the Lumia 800. The Mix Radio library is being built out continually, so there’ll be more and more content for you to access in the future, while the Music app also pulls in the venues for upcoming gigs near you. I still would’ve liked to see Nokia do more than just throw in some added apps, although unlike HTC’s underwhelming Hub for WP7, Nokia’s additions offer real added value for the user. Moreover, Nokia Maps — the new name for Ovi Maps — will be available for the Lumia 800 and all Windows Phones within the next couple of weeks, so we can at least say that the Microsoft-Nokia partnership is headed in the right direction.

ECOSYSTEM

Perhaps the main reason for Nokia’s abandonment of MeeGo and embrace of Microsoft was the need to have a thriving software ecosystem to empower its handsets with. The Windows Phone Marketplace isn’t quite up to that standard yet, however Microsoft is putting good tools in developers’ hands and Nokia’s presence adds extra clout and credibility to the platform. Stephen Elop’s vision of Windows Phone as “the third ecosystem” behind Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android looks set to indeed materialize, meaning that prospective Lumia 800 owners should have plenty to look forward to. Skype’s absence from the Marketplace, for example, will soon be rectified by the folks working in Microsoft’s freshly inaugurated Skype Division.

The gravitational pull of Microsoft and Nokia’s collective determination can reasonably be expected to produce the critical mass of good apps for Windows Phone to truly compete with the best — it’s just that at this particular moment in time, it continues to lag. While closing the gap on Android and iOS, Windows Phone doesn’t improve on them in any dramatic way. Its multitasking overview is good, the live tiles offer information more quickly and easily, and its calendar is arguably the best of the bunch, but those are small advantages. iOS still wins when I want to browse the web or check out a new app and Android is still the best platform for users of Google services.

THE GRAVITATIONAL PULL OF MICROSOFT AND NOKIA’S COLLECTIVE DETERMINATION SHOULD ATTRACT PLENTY OF DEV TALENT

I’ve been using the Lumia 800 alongside an Android handset and an iPhone 4S recently and one thing’s abundantly clear: all three platforms are getting the basics right. Push email is arriving at more or less the same time, calendar alerts are going off simultaneously, notifications are mostly unobtrusive, pinch-to-zoom is smooth, web browsers are rendering pages correctly, and email conversations are threaded. What will make the difference going forward are things like the extra layer of polish that iOS can offer, and Windows Phone, as the new entrant to this competition, will need to beat the others to such new features and improvements if it wants to attract defectors to its cause.

An honorable mention is earned by Microsoft’s windowsphone.com website. As the name suggests, it’s the web portal unto your ownership of a Windows Phone, and allows you to browse the Marketplace and send apps directly to your device. There are also guides for novices as well as a pretty comprehensive My Windows Phone menu. The latter allows you to find your phone (with disturbing accuracy), ring it, lock it up with a password and a message for its lock screen, or even wipe it completely. In a classy little touch, Microsoft has also made the color theme of the website match the theme of your phone, which can actually be useful if you’re managing multiple Windows Phones and need a visual way to distinguish between them online. Everything on the site worked exactly as advertised, and though the functionality it offers isn’t unique, it’s a great extra to have and a wonderful base from which to build and expand the WP web ecosystem.

WRAP-UP

WINDOWS PHONE PROVIDES A MODERN AND ATTRACTIVE UI AND THE LUMIA 800′S HARDWARE MAINTAINS NOKIA’S REPUTATION FOR HIGH BUILD QUALITY

The Lumia 800 is exactly what it looked like when it was first announced at Nokia World: it is an N9 running Windows Phone. Ironically, in moving from the wildly imaginative Harmattan to the more straight-laced Windows Phone OS, this smartphone has undergone the reverse of the transition Stephen Elop wants to see Nokia make. He wants the company to stop being known for unexciting reliability and to start inspiring greater emotional attachment in its users. The N9 was that irrationally loved device, and no matter how hard the Lumia 800 tries, it simply isn’t as thrilling. For anyone still stuck on one of Nokia’s Symbian devices, the 800 is an obvious upgrade. It lacks the N8′s superb camera, but otherwise it easily trumps anything and everything in the company’s recent portfolio. Windows Phone provides a modern and attractive user interface and the Lumia 800′s hardware maintains Nokia’s reputation for attention to detail and insistence on high build quality. The picture is less clear for those considering alternative Windows Phones, as the Lumia 800 actually falls behind by not including a front-facing camera or mobile hotspot capabilities. Choosing your favorite there will depend on how much you love the Lumia 800′s sterling physical design and how much faith you place in Nokia’s ability to execute on its ambitious plans for software differentiation. The Lumia 800 has the potential to be great, but today it’s merely good.

GOOD 

  • Excellent design
  • Attractive display
  • Brightest future of any recent Nokia phone

BAD 

  • No Internet Sharing
  • Fiddly volume rocker and lock key
  • No front-facing camera

REPORTED PROBLEMS

  • On-screen keyboard is disappearing during typing. Nokia has addressed the problem with a software fix in the update 8107.
  • Nokia Lumia 800 is claimed to have “sound quality problems” when using low impedance headphones like the supplied ones. Nokia has acknowledged the issue and is working on a fix.
  • Battery life. In December 2011, Nokia confirmed that some Lumia 800 devices do not use the full capacity of their battery. They also state that “only a charger with an output of 1000mA will fully charge your Lumia 800 battery.” During 19–20 January 2012, two updates were made available—battery related software update and another of Windows Phone 7.5 Mango build 8107. Nokia has stated that reported issues are fixed with the update and it triples the battery life.
  • Problems with camera focus in certain conditions. Nokia has confirmed this and is working on a fix.
  • Daily Mobile reports an issue with screen flickering.
  • Multiple reports of trouble turning device on.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Also known as Nokia Sea Ray

GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 – RM-819
HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 – For Canada
HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100 – RM-801 CV
SIM Micro-SIM
Announced 2011, October
Status Available. Released 2011, November
BODY Dimensions 116.5 x 61.2 x 12.1 mm, 76.1 cc (4.59 x 2.41 x 0.48 in)
Weight 142 g (5.01 oz)
– Touch-sensitive controls
DISPLAY Type AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 480 x 800 pixels, 3.7 inches (~252 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass
– Nokia ClearBlack display
SOUND Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
MEMORY Card slot No
Internal 16 GB storage, 512 MB RAM
DATA GPRS Class 33
EDGE Class 33
Speed HSDPA 14.4 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth Yes, v2.1 with A2DP, EDR
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0
CAMERA Primary 8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, dual-LED flash, check quality
Features Geo-tagging
Video Yes, 720p@30fps, check quality
Secondary No
FEATURES OS Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 Mango
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon
CPU 1.4 GHz Scorpion
GPU Adreno 205
Sensors Accelerometer, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Browser WAP 2.0/xHTML, HTML5, RSS feeds
Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support
Java No
Colors Black, Cyan, Magenta, White
– SNS integration
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+/WMA player
– MP4/H.264/H.263/WMV player
– Document viewer/editor
– Video/photo editor
– Voice memo/command/dial
– Predictive text input
BATTERY Standard battery, Li-Ion 1450 mAh (BV-5JW)
Stand-by Up to 265 h (2G) / Up to 335 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 13 h (2G) / Up to 9 h 30 min (3G)
Music play Up to 55 h
MISC SAR US 1.27 W/kg (head)     1.08 W/kg (body)
SAR EU 0.94 W/kg (head)
Price group  Rs. 22,000/-
TESTS Display Contrast ratio: Infinite (nominal)
Loudspeaker Voice 60dB / Noise 59dB / Ring 61dB
Audio quality Noise -87.3dB / Crosstalk -87.8dB
Camera Photo / Video
Battery life Endurance rating 35h

Android Phone Vs Windows Phone Vs i-Phone

Android Phone Vs Windows Phone Vs i-Phone

 

Smooth Experience And Fresh Design
Windows Phone comes with a design that has been made from scratch, called the Metro UI. This fresh new interface consists of tiles, rather than the icon-based design that has been, dare we may say, copied by everyone from the iPhone. The tiles are “live”, meaning that they actually show the updated status of the applications they are meant for. The animation effects are also different, and the overall user experience is very smooth. Part of the reason for this is that Microsoft has put stringent hardware requirements for devices to qualify for this platform, which effectively protects against fragmentation that has been experienced by other mobile platforms such as Android.

Deep Social Networking Integration And Web Browsing
TechTree Blog: 5 Reasons Why Windows Phone Will SucceedOne of the first things that you will notice when you start using a WP smartphone is the amount of social network integration that has been built into this platform. You can log into FacebookTwitterWindows LiveLinkedIn, and a host of other social networks and get instant status updates on the home screen through the People tile. The phone’s contact list automatically gets populated with your friends’ details, from the networks you have signed into. In addition to the above, users can also sign into email services of their choice and contacts saved over there are also downloaded automatically to the device, while a live tile for the mail service is made available on the home screen for quick and easy access. Last but not the least, we have to mention that WP devices provide one of the fastest and smoothest internet browsing experience in the current crop of mobile phones, and the credit for this goes to its Internet Explorer browser that uses the same core and rendering engine as IE9 for desktop.

An Increasingly Attractive Application Store
TechTree Blog: 5 Reasons Why Windows Phone Will SucceedSmartphones these days are not just about making phone calls, as more and more users want to use applications for different tasks and the success of a platform depends on its app ecosystem. WP has its own Marketplace application store that distributes free and paid apps. The number of apps is nowhere near that of competing stores, but it is definitely increasing, with the current number now standing at over 80,000. The quality of apps is generally good and Microsoft exercises a strict policy of not allowing “socially unacceptable” programs, possibly with the aim to protect young users against the “evils of the online world”. One of the good things about this app store is that even if it is a paid app, you can still download and try it out before deciding if you would want to buy.

Microsoft Applications Integration
TechTree Blog: 5 Reasons Why Windows Phone Will SucceedWP devices come with integrated Microsoft applications. The Xbox Live tile grants users access to some Xbox 360 features via the “Games hub”. Users can log into the phone using the same credentials as that for the console and purchase games, set their avatar in a 3D fashion, and also play several multiplayer games right from their handset, even as they are on the move. WP phones also come with free Microsoft Office Mobile to let you open, create, or edit MS Office documents including WordExcelPowerPoint,OneNote, and SharePoint. Files can be saved either locally or to SkyDrive and Office 365so that they can be accessed later through cloud servers.

Timely Updates For OS And Apps
TechTree Blog: 5 Reasons Why Windows Phone Will SucceedMicrosoft seems to have taken cue from the negative feedback for its previous mobile OS and made sure that WP devices receive timely updates for the OS as well as for the apps thus far. Updating has been made very easy with the possibility of downloading and installing OTA (over the air) or by connecting the phone to a computer. Similar to the updates for its desktop OS, these WP updates iron out bugs and plug holes in an effort to deliver a better user experience.

Windows Phone smartphones are still awaiting widespread adoption, but we think that its popularity will increase if Microsoft continues to make sure that it does not waver from the above advantages that are currently offered by this platform.

There are certain perks to working as a tech journalist: coffee is free and plentiful, trade shows are equal parts fun and frantic, and most of all, we get the chance to play with lots and lots of new toys. I’ve personally had the luck to be able to swap handsets pretty much bi-weekly for the last couple of months, and find it kind of a bummer that Windows Phone 7 hasn’t really been embraced as the solid mobile platform that it is (I said it’s a bummer, I didn’t say we didn’t see it coming).

Regardless of the numbers, WP7 is one of our favorite mobile platforms, outshining Android in almost every aspect. Don’t believe me? Well, allow me to try and change your mind.

Streamlined User Interface

Android’s are different depending on the SKU of the handset. In other words, the UI you’ll be dealing with when using, say, a Motorola handset, will be radically different than one from Samsung or HTC. The ambiguity can be disconcerting. With WP7, you know what kind of interface you’re going to be working with, regardless of the handset manufacturer. We’d imagine that an un-tweaked user interface would also make lives easier for developers, as well. We love some Android user interfaces, but loathe others. With WP7, at least you know what user interface to expect, regardless of the handset maker. Speaking of which…

WP7 Has An Easier-To-Use Interface

It really does. And look, we get it. An Android is a power user’s phone, and we know that if you’re really looking for power-use, you’ve got to be willing to learn some things. But we’re the geeky minority here, and you’ve got to keep in mind that most people are looking for a phone that makes it easiest to do their day-to-day tasks. Keeping that in mind, WP7’s “tile” system is simply easier to organize and find the things you need to throughout the day. It looks cooler too; way cooler, actually.

WP7 Has Apps That Aren’t Crap

Open-source is good, and it’s a compelling reason to support Android as a mobile platform, but let’s face it: You’ve got to sift through some real $#@t in the Android Marketplace to find apps that are worth downloading, much less buying. Most people fail to realize that the Windows Mobile SDK has been around for quite some time now, and it shows in the Marketplace, especially on the gaming side of the spectrum. Many of the games we played featured awesome 3D graphics and a level of polish simply not(yet)-to-be-found in the Android hemisphere. Microsoft has a far stricter criteria set than Google about which apps and games can populate their respective marketplace. Oh, and now that we’re on the topic of gaming…

Microsoft LIVE Integration Is Bad Ass

If you’re achievement junkies like we are (you know who you are), then a WP7 handset is a must-have. Have a game on Xbox or PC that you love playing? Pop over to the Windows app store; chances are there’s a mobile version of that same game, where you can continue earning points and unlocking achievements with your handset. You can also keep tabs on your buddies’ achievements, and tweak and enhance your Xbox Live avatar. Granted, this integration is still in an infancy stage, but we’d be willing to bet that we’ll be seeing deeper and more intuitive connections between gaming and phones in the near-future. Forward progress is good progress.

Microsoft Mobile Office Integration

We were actually blown away by how deep this rabbit-hole goes. Microsoft Word Mobile Edition, by way of an example, is actually a very intuitive little program, allowing you remote access documents using SharePoint Server 2010, you can use the “find” tool to look for particular words or phrases, and you can even email documents directly from the program.

We’ve had the pleasure of testing some Android phones that can dock with workstations to function as a laptop; imagine how crazy it would be if Windows launched a similar product with a full-fledged Office Suite. That’d be one step closer to a true fusion between phones and computers, and we’re all for that.

Microsoft Isn’t Constantly Getting Sued by Apple

Whether targeting HTC a year ago or Motorola last fall or even Samsung (which is remarkable seeing how they are a flat out key supplier of Apple’s hardware components) just a few days ago, Apple has been regularly suing the hell out of Android handset makers; mostly in regards to hardware and software patents. So why is Apple seemingly ignoring WP7 in the courts? Well, there could be numerous reasons: Optimistically, it could be because the software and hardware developments on WP7 are truly original and innovative, meaning Apple can’t accuse Microsoft of lifting their ideas. A more realistic reasoning? Apple doesn’t see WP7 as that big of a threat…yet.

Stability

This is speaking from personal experience with various handsets across both platforms, but to put it simply, WP7 has just been a more stable experience. Apps like Facebook and Netflix simply run the way they were meant to with far less of the hiccups and crashes found on the Android platform. This runs parallel with the overall theme behind WP7 mobile devices: Simplicity. Granted, WP7 had to forgo some of the more complex actions Androids are capable of (i.e. lack of tethering support, lack of ability to capture screenshots, no multi-tasking), but to us, that’s a worthy trade for a phone that will do what you want it do, every step of the way.

Zune is a Native Client, and it’s Not Pay-Per-Song

We like Zune as a service—you pay a monthly fee and can download as many songs as you want, as opposed to being pigeonholed into paying per song, like with Apple and Android. Also, we really enjoy the fact that Zune is a native client that comes fresh out-the-box with WP7—setting up music services on an Android involves downloading various apps (like Google Music, which then has to synch to your Google Wallet, which then has to synch to your Google Music Server, which then needs a Gauntlet from Moredore to unlock your songs, which then needs…well, you get the point) that is just sort of a hassle, and glitchy to boot. Again, simplicity reigns supreme.

Snappier Keyboard

All right, we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty, and this is a minor nit to pick, but for the most part (with the exception of the Android Sprint Galaxy, which actually featured a physical slide-out QWERTY keyboard), Windows Phone 7 had a snappier, and more importantly, a more consistent keyboard that was snappy and accurate, regardless of the device. And, though Droid offered a few keyboard-contenders with the Galaxy S2 and the Incredible, others were really bad, (ahem, Droid X2, cough).

No Ad-Ware!

That’s right, there is nary a pop up ad to be found, whether you’re in the Windows Marketplace, or playing a game. There is nothing more irritating when using an Android that having to manually close pop-up adds, many of which appear mid game. There are, indeed, advantages to more stringent app restrictions, and WP7 seems to have found a perfect balance.

The Brief Verdict:

So to get you started, here’s a quick primer on iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone (sorry, no BlackBerry considered in the race), and a smattering of the most common questions about smartphone OSes I’ve received from you.

iPhone 4S in a nutshell

  • Runs Apple’s iOS 5 operating system
  • Available on three carriers: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
  • Available on three storage sizes: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
  • Easiest compatibility with iTunes, Apple ecosystem, and products
  • Form factor: One 3.5-inch screen (on the smaller size by today’s standards)
  • Interface: Approachable, but not very customizable. Some hidden features
  • Key features: Excellent 8-megapixel camera, front-facing camera, colorful Siri voice assistant
  • Next big release: iPhone 5, release date unknown, but speculated for summer 2012

Android in a nutshell

  • Google’s mobile operating system
  • Form factor: Available on all carriers, all shapes, all sizes
  • All capabilities: Range from budget to super premium
  • Not all Android phones are created equal in capability: some have excellent cameras, screens, etc. Some don’t.
  • Easiest compatibility with Google services, Google Music, other Android devices
  • Interface: Varies by manufacturers, has a small learning curve for some features
  • Key features: Free voice navigation with turn-by-turn directions, very customizable, voice actions
  • Next big phone release: Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, Verizon release date unknown, but probably December
  • Next big operating system release: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Released with Galaxy Nexus, coming to existing handsets starting “early 2012”

Windows Phone in a nutshell

  • Microsoft’s mobile operating system
  • Form factor: Available on all carriers, all shapes, all sizes.
  • AT&T has the largest and best selection
  • All capabilities: Mostly midrange, solid performers. Minimum 5-megapixel camera
  • Easiest compatibility with Zune, Xbox Live, Microsoft services like Microsoft Office, SkyDrive online storage
  • Interface: Very straightforward, but some hidden capabilities
  • Key features: Clean interface, built-in barcode-scanning and music identification, Xbox Live integration, voice actions
  • Next big phone release: Nokia Lumia 800 or similar for U.S. markets, probably January
  • Next big operating system release: Unknown. Version 7.5 Mango released in September

Android FAQ

Question:Why there is delay on update for Android devices, and will Ice Cream Sandwich bring the solution for this problem?
With Android phones, we’re at the mercy of manufacturers and carriers who need to test the new OS with the additional skins, overlays, or additional software these phones might have. My colleague Bonnie Cha wrote a great story explaining how OS updates work. So the answer is no, Ice Cream Sandwich (or ICS) won’t fix this. However, back in May, Google and several key manufacturing partners agreed to work together to bring phones released within 18 months of a new OS updated to the latest OS version. Unfortunately, neither Google nor other manufacturers have been forthcoming with how this is playing out in practice. For now, the surest bet to get the latest Android OS is to get the Galaxy Nexus or Samsung Nexus S phone (available for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint).

Q: I am looking forward to buying the Galaxy Nexus. However, which phone would you select between it, the Motorola Droid Razr, and the HTC Rezound?
If it’s specs you’re wondering about, check out my former colleague Nicole Lee’s helpful chart comparing the three. If it’s the overall look and feel, well, that’s just a question I can’t answer for you. What do you value most: the camera, the speed, the price, the way it feels in your hand? They’re all fast, they’re all premium, and they all run on Verizon’s phenomenal 4G LTE network.

The Droid Razr and Galaxy Nexus are thin, but the Galaxy Nexus and Rezound have better screens. The Galaxy Nexus has a 5-megapixel camera, but the Droid Razr’s isn’t my absolute favorite on the market, either. The Droid Razr is more stylish. The Rezound comes with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and a music algorithm, but the Galaxy Nexus is the first to have the powerful Ice Cream Sandwich OS (the other two will get it as well, but you’ll have to wait until early 2012.) Yet, the Galaxy Nexus isn’t even available yet, while the other two are. I recommend getting yourself to a Verizon store and getting your hands on the other two devices to see how much you connect with them, then go from there.

iPhone FAQ

Q: With the iPhone 4S out, would it be better to wait for the iPhone 5? My 2-year contract renewal is up in 2012. I am hearing possibly summer 2012 for iPhone 5.
If you’re still riding out a contract, keep waiting. The iPhone 4S is a great device, but it’s not worth breaking a contract for or buying fresh unless you need Siri or a better camera.

Windows Phone FAQ

Q: Which is easier to use: Windows Phone, iOS 5, or Android 4.0?
Windows Phone has the cleanest OS of the three and is the easiest for getting in and out, at least as far as the main screens go. With only two home screens to toggle between, it’s hard to get lost. However, the edgy “metro” look may not be for everyone, and the apps look completely different. There are also a few tricks you need to know about to fully use the OS, like pressing and holding on “live tiles” to pin, unpin, and get more options, and using your finger to pull down the signal strength meter and battery meter while you’re on the Start screen (these otherwise disappear from view.) There are other tricks, too–tools in Bing you may not think to look for, and actions when you press and hold the Home and Back buttons.

The iPhone and Android have their own quirks as well, and I don’t consider the other two particularly hard to learn, though with its large icons and limit to two screens, it’s easier to navigate Windows Phone.

Do you know if WP7.5 is limited to single-core processors and how that would impact the performance of the devices?
Right now all Windows phones are single-core, and I can’t complain about performance issues. With the way that the OS handles tasks and task-switching, dual-core processing may not be strictly necessary. That said, as all phones join the processor race, I’m sure we’ll eventually see dual-core Windows Phones with much larger screens and many more features advanced as well.

Q: Do you think Windows will have the kind of app choice that iOS or Android do? I have not heard much about what Microsoft is doing to bring in developers or how they will play the app market.
Windows Phone is really ramping up its app presence. In a few months’ time, the population of the app Marketplace has shot from 18,000 to 40,000, and is growing. While they need to keep wooing developers to create interesting apps, there’s also the danger of choking on too much unnecessary app sludge, an argument one could levy against iOS (500+K apps) and even Android (300K).

Battery life

With battery life being one of the biggest issues, does any one of the operating systems seem to handle that better than the others? If so, which and why?
How a phone’s operating system handles resources is part of the equation, but not as key a factor in our opinion as the hardware and the capacity of the battery. If it seems that Android phones experience faster battery draining than the iPhone, that’s likely because there’s so much variance among different hardware specs and manufacturers. To be fair, the recently launched iPhone 4S has purportedly shorter battery life than several Android phones as well. There are also some Android phones with better battery life than others.

The real question is when we can stop wondering if our smartphones will last longer than a day before needing a recharge. Here’s some good news we still have to wait to see: researchers are redesigning the lithium ion battery to charge faster and hold charges longer, up to three days. I, for one, am relieved to know that smart chemists are hard at work, and that a fix is coming.

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