So I finally bit the the bullet and got myself a Windows Phone. Frankly I’ve been getting a little antsy waiting for the iPhone 5 to come out and I’ve had my current phone, the iPhone 4S, for a while. I wanted 4G LTE capability and a slightly larger screen, but I wasn’t looking to break the bank so choosing the Nokia Lumia 900 seemed like the logical choice. I got it in black and although it was a difficult decision for me to switch from my iPhone 4S, I felt it was time for a change and I figured I can try the phone out for thirty days and if I don’t like it I can always just switch back to my old phone.
The Lumia 900 is a great looking device and unlike most phones today it isn’t trying to imitate the look of the iPhone. The phone is a unibody design made from polycarbonate which is very durable and scratch resistant. The Gorilla Glass screen is also pretty scratch resistant; about the only thing that scratches easily on the phone is the silver trim around the camera lens. Even the slightest scrape against a surface will damage it which is annoying. I have higher standards for an otherwise high quality device. The phone is available in a bright blue, which Nokia calls cyan, black, and a glossy white. I got the black which is really nice, but I also liked the white. If you want to make a fashion statement then the blue model is the way to go.
Right off the bat I fell in love with the Windows Phone operating system and the gorgeous screen on the Lumia 900. Don’t get me wrong it’s no retina display and if you’re switching form the iPhone 4 or 4S you’ll immediately notice how low the resolution is on the Lumia. Resolution aside the blacks are incredibly rich and the colors look fantastic. For the most part the lack of resolution didn’t bother me, but when I was reading web pages the text didn’t look very smooth and some curved shapes had jagged edges. For a smart phone today a 480×800 pixel display isn’t going to cut it. If Windows wants their operating system to be competitive they absolutely need to support higher resolutions.
Overall I think the design of Windows Phone is far superior to iOS and Android; the live tiles are ingenious, look great, and they’re also really useful. It’s definitely a departure from the notification systems that iOS and Android use, but that’s not a bad thing. One thing I do miss from iOS is the ability to quickly see all your notifications in one spot. On the iPhone all I had to do was drag down from the top of the screen and I could see updates from social networks, new emails, missed calls, texts, and much more. Windows Phone separates these notifications into different tiles and it can be a little annoying when you just want to quickly view all your notifications at once instead of looking at multiple tiles. The benefit of doing notifications this is way is that they are very organized. When you look at a tile the information displayed on that tile is only for that application. I also love the live tile for weather; it looks cool and you can tell the temperature with just a glance. It would be nice to see a way to quickly access basic settings for things like brightness, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
Multitasking is not a strong point of Windows Phone it’s really just task switching. You can only have five apps running in the background and most apps don’t actually run in the background, rather they remain in a frozen state until you go back to them. Some apps like YouTube take up more than one app so in some instances depending on the apps you’re running you may only be able to have two or three applications running simultaneously.
Messaging on the iPhone is a breeze and to some iMessage may not seem incredibly useful at first, but I’m a fan of the delivery notifications and the ability to send messages over a wireless network is pretty handy because you can still text when there’s no service. The messaging experience on the Lumia is also a good experience and the ability to reply to Facebook messages seamlessly through the texting app is a nice touch, but often times I’m in buildings where I don’t get great service and I’m not sure I’m willing to give up the ability to send messages even when service is unavailable. I have to say though the texting app looks great and the keyboard is just as good as the iOS keyboard. Typing on the bigger screen is a pleasure and makes the iPhone keyboard feel cramped by comparison. I don’t have a ton of experience using Android keyboards so I can’t really compare it to one of those, but it’s better than the keyboard that my old Samsung Captivate had. The autocorrect isn’t as good as the autocorrect in iOS, but I like that in Windows Phone a ribbon of words appears above the keyboard while you’re typing with suggested words. It makes typing out messages more accurate and slightly faster.
Although social networking is supposed to be the strong point of Windows Phone I’m not sure that it actually is. This is more because of problems with Windows Phone, not the Lumia 900. Twitter is one of the largest social networking sites in the world and yet its integration with Windows Phone is horrible. The Twitter app looks gorgeous and you can do most things you can do on other devices, however for some reason it has trouble loading other people tweets. I tried to look at a few people’s tweets and while it worked for some accounts for most it kept asking me to log in to view their tweets despite the fact that I was already logged in. Facebook is also gorgeous, but you can’t even post a picture to someone else’s wall. There are weird little omissions in some apps that make Windows Phone feel less polished than iOS and Android and just make life harder than it has to be. I found it very annoying that Instagram is unavailable in the Marketplace and Pinterest doesn’t even make an official app for Windows Phone.
I was a little surprised at how sparse the Marketplace was. I knew that the app store wasn’t going to be comparable to the offerings from Apple and Google, but Windows really needs to get developers to make applications for their platform. Some of the apps feel half-baked because they require you to use Internet Explorer to handle certain tasks, like the ESPN app. A polished app can handle everything within the app. For example If I want to see more information about a game I don’t want to be redirected to the mobile website to see the information, I want to view in the app. It makes it more difficult to read information and it’s very annoying waiting for pages to load. Windows Phone already has a lack of apps in comparison to iOS and Android so the apps they do have need to be top notch and many are not.
Navigation is a very strong point for the Lumia 900. The Nokia Drive app is outstanding and rivals standalone GPS units. One of the best features is that it supports full offline navigation. The Lumia 900 really nails it here and the navigation app is better than anything you can get for free on Android or iOS. The Local Scout feature is one of my favorites and I really don’t know why more phones don’t have something like it. Basically what Local Scout does is figure out where you are and then it tells you where you can eat and drink, nearby attractions, and also places to shop. From there you can get directions, a phone number, the hours of the business, access to the corresponding website, and more. If you’re in an unfamiliar place this app can be a lifesaver.
Call quality on the Nokia phone is outstanding, it absolutely embarrasses the iPhone and all the Android handsets I’ve used. Voices are crisp and people on the other end of the line had no trouble hearing me. Noise cancellation is top notch and I haven’t had one dropped call yet. The LTE connection was strong as well as blazing fast and although I rarely had issues getting service with my iPhone the Nokia seemed to get more bars than my iPhone nearly everywhere. Speakerphone quality is pretty good, however when I was playing a game while using speakerphone it started crackling. When I stopped playing the game the crackling went away. I don’t know why that happened, but I’ve never had that problem with any other phone.
The media selection available for the Lumia 900 is mostly through the Zune store which seems to be pretty well developed. I didn’t get a chance to try Zune Pass out because I didn’t want to install the software on my computer, however I wouldn’t necessarily be worried about how much content the Zune store has because you can always download your music and videos through Amazon. Nothing beats the simplicity and variety of iTunes though so if you’re someone who doesn’t like having to go to multiple sources for content I’d stick with an iPhone. My biggest problem with the Lumia 900 is that the headphone output is horrible. At the highest volume setting headphones are barely loud enough. If you like your music loud this isn’t the phone for you and this issue needs to be fixed in future versions of the device. To be quite honest I’ve never encountered a phone that handles media as well as the iPhone, so even though the media experience isn’t that great on the Lumia it’s really not any worse than other smartphones and I won’t knock it for that.
Overall I think that the Nokia Lumia 900 is an excellent phone and it really makes a strong statement for Windows Phone. In my opinion it would already be better than Android if it had a better selection of apps. The lack of variety in the Marketplace is really what is holding this operating system back and ultimately it’s why I’m returning the Lumia and going back to my iPhone 4S. In the future I would definitely consider a Windows Phone if they make the necessary improvements, but if you don’t like the iPhone or can’t afford I can’t recommend the Lumia 900 enough. If this device gets the Apollo update I can easily see it being one of the most popular phones of 2012.