There are two ways to review a phone.
The first is to break open the box, dive in and knock words out as quickly as possible hoping to be the early bird catching the worm. This is a more reflective look at Nokia‘s Lumia 800. I’ve used it, put it down, collected thoughts, slept on them and reflected.
My conclusion is the Lumia 800 is a great smartphone. It delivers the reboot Nokia needs and a technically successful re-entry for Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system.
It may not sell large enough numbers to rescue the two company’s reputations. Given the quality of the phone, that’s now a marketing problem, not an engineering one.
What’s to like about the Nokia Lumia 800? First, the phone is beautiful. The black version is smart enough to use in any business or social circles.
According to Nokia it has a polycarbonate unibody with a curved Gorilla Glass screen. For me the important points are it is comfortable in the hand, unscratched in the pocket and has a wonderful minimal feel. The dedicated camera button doesn’t intrude on the minimalism, sadly the USB cable socket is a flimsy touch on an otherwise solidly built phone.
It weighs around 150g and the screen is about the right size at 3.7 inches. The 480 by 800 pixel Amoled screen is sharp and bright. Blacks are true black, the display is exceptionally good with text.
Camera meets my journalist needs
The camera is fine, I’m a journalist so I sometimes need to snap scenes at conferences and the like – it meets my needs and then some. Pictures are sharp and colours are realistic, it can sometimes take a while to get ready when taking indoor shots, but like I say, it has everything I need.
Nokia says its phone has a single-core 1.4GHz processor. What this means in practice is a a smooth acting phone, I didn’t see any lag or other problems. Battery life is longer than on my current Android phone, but it still needs to be charged overnight to make sure there’s enough juice to power through a busy day.
Good voice quality
Although direct comparisons are hard, I’d say the voice quality for calls is better than may current Android phone and better than on the last iPhone I used.
Overall I can’t think of any serious negatives. Apple fans might prefer a phone with a front-facing camera, I don’t consider this important. The worst feature is the USB socket – and that’s a minor gripe. Storage is tight at 16GB – there’s not much room for music, stored docs and so on, but cloud services mean that’s less of an issue.
The Windows Phone operating system is better than Android, at least on a par with Apple’s iOS and the operating system integrates well with the hardware.
Should you buy one?
If you’re not happy with Android or Apple, this is definitely a worthy alternative. The Lumia 800 is also the best option if you and your business rely on Microsoft Windows and Office applications. At the thick end of NZ$900, the phone unlikely to win many converts from Apple’s iPhone, but I guess it can carve out a slice of Android customers looking to upgrade. As for me, well, I’m thinking about it.