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Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Nokia set the tech world abuzz back in February with the announcement of its partnership with Microsoft. Pundits and the buying public have had to wait until now for Nokia's first Windows Phone handset to appear. The Lumia 800 runs Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) and it will be widely available across the key operators in the UK as well as available SIM free.
Our review sample from Nokia was not quite the final version you'll see at retail, and there are likely to be some software tweaks to come.
This is a solidly made handset designed to withstand the rigours of mobile life. The screen is made from the popular Gorilla Glass and is scratch resistant. The polycarbonate unibody chassis is also solid and tough. We'd expect this handset to survive drops onto hard surfaces — and, as Nokia was quick to point out to us, a polycarbonate chassis doesn't have the same negative effect on antenna gain as metal ones can. There's a rubbery finish to the chassis, which helps with grip. Nokia also provides a flexible rubbery slipover shell that can be used to further protect the chassis from scratches and bumps.
The chassis tapers slightly at its top and bottom edges, which is visually rather attractive. The Lumia 800 also feels more comfortable in the hand than its dimensions of 61.2mm wide by 116.5mm deep by 12.1mm thick might suggest. Its weight of 142g is not excessive.
The Lumia 800 is reminiscent of the Meego-based N9, and comes in the same three colours
You may recognise the Lumia 800's chassis design from the Nokia N9. Indeed, the Lumia 800 will come in the same black, cyan and magenta colours as the N9. There has been a screen size reduction though (from 3.9in. on the N9 to 3.7in. on the Lumia 800), making the Windows Phone handset easier to grip and use one-handed.
There are three narrow silver buttons on the right edge for volume, power on/off and camera control. There's no front-facing camera, but the back has an 8-megapixel camera with a dual LED flash. This sports Carl Zeiss optics, and is one of the Nokia 'signature' features that helps to differentiate the Lumia 800 from the Windows Phone competition.
The top edge has two covered connectors, and you can't open the right-hand one without first opening the one on the left. Nokia must realise this is a design fault, as new devices have stickers on the covers explaining that you first have to push a raised pimple on the left-hand cover to reveal a Micro-USB connector. Only then can you slide the right-hand cover to pull out the micro-SIM caddy. Admittedly you're unlikely to need to access the micro-SIM that often, but the design is a little obtuse nonetheless.
The headset jack is on the top, at the far left. The left edge is clear, while the bottom edge has a speaker grille.
The screen measures 3.7in. across the diagonal and has a resolution of 480 by 800 pixels. The resolution is a standard Windows Phone feature and you won't find other handsets deviating from it — although screen sizes do vary.
Nokia has chosen AMOLED technology for the screen and the result is a sharp and bright display that looks particularly good with a dark background. Windows Phone offers just dark (black) and light (white) background choices, while Nokia has added its own 'Nokia Blue' accent colour range. This is very close to the blue that comes as standard with Windows Phone, so there's little room for true personalisation as far as look and feel is concerned.
The Lumia 800 has some high-end specifications. The processor is single core, but it's a cutting-edge 1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM8255. Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth (2.1+EDR), HSPA (14.4Mbps down, 5.76Mbps up) and GPS are all supported. It's a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone.
There is 512MB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage — and no microSD card slot for adding more, as Windows Phone does not support external storage. That means all external data has to reach the handset over the air or via a wired connection.
Zune caters for wired synchronisation of music, videos, podcasts, photos and other media, while contacts and calendar data need to come over the air via services like Microsoft Exchange or Windows Live. Windows Live users get 25GB of online storage (called SkyDrive), which can be used to store automatically synchronised photos and Excel, PowerPoint, Word and OneNote data. Anyone looking for wired synchronisation of calendar and contacts — as they used to get with Windows Mobile — will be disappointed.
When Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) it claimed 500 software updates and changes. Notable enhancements include speech recognition for text creation and web searching, custom ringtones, contact groups, native Twitter and LinkedIn support, Local Scout (via Bing) for finding nearby venues, picture tagging and Office 365 support.
However, there's no change to either the basic ethos of how the OS functions or its look and feel.
The Start Screen user interface is still based around 'tiles' that sit in a vertically scrolling array. Some can carry live data, and you can 'pin' things like map locations to the Start screen for easy access. Once you're beyond the Start Screen, horizontal scrolling is the order of the day, with data and services often accessed via a series of connected screens.
The ethos of Windows Phone is based around users and actions rather than applications. To take just one example, tapping the People tile on the Start Screen takes you individual contacts and their social media streams, to a contact log, and to a series of communications-based services that bring together social media feeds, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Outlook (Exchange and Office 365), Windows Live and Google.
To contact someone you don't have to run an app, you just choose them from the contacts list and then select the action required. If they are on Facebook then you're offered the option to write on their wall. If not, the option isn't offered.
If you need to use your smartphone for productive work, we're pleased to report that text entry is fast and easy. The soft keyboard is responsive and surprisingly efficient to use, even in portrait mode.
The integration of Microsoft Office components — OneNote, Excel, PowerPoint and Word, plus support for Office 365 and SharePoint — are all advantages for professional users. Synchronising with our own SkyDrive worked perfectly. The first time we went into the Office area of the Lumia 800 it found documents we'd synchronised to SkyDrive with another Windows Phone, and we were able to continue working on them without a hitch.
Nokia Drive provides free point-to-navigation
Windows Phone does not support personalisation by third-party partners, so the UI has a standardised look and feel. However, Nokia has added a couple of tricks of its own to help entice prospective customers.
These include Nokia Drive, a satnav application that provides free point-to-point navigation, and Nokia Music, a service offering free playlists streamed or for download, and a music store. This was sparsely populated at the time of writing, but may become a great resource for music fans. Although Nokia Music was limited when we tried it, we really liked it.
Performance & battery life
The battery in the Nokia Lumia 800 is not removable. Nokia says it's good for up to 13 hours of talk and 335 hours on standby. Our review sample was not the final build, so our battery life experience is not a perfect guide. Nevertheless, we were able to get through a working day from a fully charged battery without curtailing our activity too much.
Windows Phone 7.5 still lacks support for Flash, and its rigid and unskinnable user interface won't appeal to everyone. Microsoft's app store is growing, but still has some important omissions — the BBC's iPlayer, for example.
Nokia has delivered some personalisation features for both professional and personal users, and the reuse of the N9 chassis design is a good move. The result is a solid smartphone that may help to increase the appeal of Windows Phone.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Caption by: Sandra Vogel