Nokia's Lumia range of Windows Phone handsets launched last year with the Lumia 800. There are now four models, with the Lumia 900 as the flagship. Clove Technology, who sent us our review phone, is listing the Lumia 900 at £468 (inc. VAT; £390 ex. VAT) SIM free, while the other two models are the budget Lumia 610 at just £180 (inc. VAT; £150 ex. VAT) and the mid-range Lumia 710 at £226.80 (inc. VAT; £189 ex. VAT). The original Lumia 800 is listed by Clove at £366 (inc. VAT; £305 ex. VAT) SIM free.
The Lumia 900 looks very similar to the 800 model: both handsets share a unibody design with the battery inaccessible behind a solid polycarbon backplate that extends around the sides of the handset and into the front. The backplate has a grip-friendly matte finish. Our review sample of the Lumia 900 was black, but there are also cyan and white models available.
The rounded corners are attractive — and just as with the Lumia 800, there's a curved finish to the long edges and a squared-off one to the short edges, which makes for a distinctive appearance.
Nokia Lumia 900: a 4.3in. Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) handset
Side buttons are arranged in a similar manner to those on the Lumia 800. The left edge is clear, while the bottom carries a speaker grille. On the right edge are silver buttons for power and camera, plus a double-length volume rocker. The top has a headset jack, a Micro-USB connector and the SIM card slot.
Despite its general similarity to the Lumia 800, the 900's top edge is markedly different. The quirky cover system for the Micro-USB and SIM card slots is gone. You had to lift the Micro-USB cover to slide and then remove the SIM card caddy on the 800; on the Lumia 900 the Micro-USB card slot is not covered, and the SIM housing is accessed differently.
The product box contains a small key that pushes into a tiny hole to release the SIM card caddy. It's a slicker and neater design, but not flawless. Although an opened paper clip fits the hole, it's not an efficient alternative to the more sturdy key, so don't lose it if you think you might need to swap SIMs. The handset takes a microSIM, incidentally.
The Lumia 900 is a large phone thanks to its 4.3in. screen, which is obviously a standout feature. The display is set flat onto the front of the handset, rather than being slightly curved at the edges as on the Lumia 800. The resolution of 800 by 480 pixels is a little disappointing — at 4.3in., the screen could handle more. But Microsoft sets the rules about display resolution and Nokia has followed them.
As with the Lumia 800, the screen is made from scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, a common feature in today's smartphones. The AMOLED technology used makes for great clarity and sharpness, and Nokia's own ClearBlack technology helps ensure wide viewing angles and improves the quality of blacks. Viewing angles are certainly excellent on the Lumia 900, and video looked especially good on the large screen.
For the record, the Lumia 900 measures 68.5mm wide by 127.8mm deep by 11.5mm thick and weighs 160g. The touch controls beneath the screen will be familiar to anyone who's used a Windows Phone: the central button returns you to the Start screen, with a back button to the left and a search button to the right. Microsoft insists that its Windows Phone partners use these three — and only these three — buttons beneath the screen on their handsets.
As you'd expect from a flagship handset, Nokia has given the Lumia 900 a high-end specification. The processor a single core Qualcomm unit (APQ8055 + MDM9200) running at 1.4GHz. The CPU is supported by 512MB of RAM, which is arguably less than ideal, but the handset performed well enough during the testing period.
More annoying is the lack of memory expansion. Like many other reviewers, we've noted before that we'd like to see microSD card support in Windows Phone, and our view hasn't changed. Still, Nokia provides 16GB of internal storage, to which Microsoft adds SkyDrive access. If you're a new SkyDrive user that means 7GB of cloud storage with upgrades available for a fee; existing SkyDrive users can access 25GB of cloud storage.
HSPA+ connectivity is available at up to 21Mbps down and 5.76Mbps up, network permitting of course. Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) and GPS are all present too.
Windows Phone itself is very familiar looking, with its tile-based start screen and the ability to pin app shortcuts and live data to it as required. Microsoft's on-board services include support for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote document viewing and editing, plus integration with Office 365, SharePoint and Skydrive.
Nokia differentiates itself from other Windows Phone partners by adding a range of its own applications. Preinstalled apps on our review unit included Nokia Maps for location-based services, Nokia Drive for navigation, Nokia Music for music streaming and purchase and Tango for video calling. We like all these, with Nokia Music well worth a special mention: it lets you stream music in a wide range of categories and also supports personalised streaming lists.
Free Nokia apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace include Nokia Transport (a search tool for transport information) and Nokia Reading (an e-reader with a book store). There are more free apps in the Nokia Collection section on the Marketplace, and we expect Nokia to continue to build what's on offer here in order to try to make its Windows Phones more compelling than those on offer from other Microsoft partners.
There are two cameras on the Lumia 900. The main 8-megapixel camera at the back has a flash unit, and there's also a front-facing 1-megapixel camera for video calls. As with all Windows Phone handsets, a side button can launch the camera even when the screen is off; you can also configure the device to automatically upload images to SkyDrive for backup.
Performance & battery life
Nokia claims that the Lumia 900 has all-day battery life, quoting a detailed breakdown of estimated life for a range of scenarios: 7 hours of talk time; 300 hours standby; 60 hours of music playback; and 8 hours of video. The battery has a hefty 1,830mAh capacity, and in general use we found longevity to be above average — despite having to drive that 4.3in. screen and 1.4GHz processor.
Based on our experience, all but the most demanding users should find they can get through a working day without worrying about recharging if they start from a full battery charge.
The Nokia Lumia 900 has two standout features: a large screen and good battery life. Nokia includes a range of its own Windows Phone software — which, of course, is available on other Nokia Windows Phone handsets.
The 4.3in. Lumia 900 is not especially pocket-friendly, and not everyone will need such a large screen. If you want a Windows Phone and find the Lumia 900 too bulky and pricey, take a look at the more affordable 3.7in. Lumia 800.