The most recent iteration of Microsoft’s mobile operating system does something very different to both iOS and Android and has performed well on previous devices such as the Lumia 800. The 900’s big bright screen will likely prove to be a fantastic stage for the OS, but let’s not forget that under that innovative software is a handset worthy of note.
- Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 Mango
- AMOLED capacitive touchscreen
- 4.3-inch Nokia ClearBlack display
- 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
- 16GB internal storage
- 512 MB RAM
- 8 megapixel camera with Carle Zeiss optics, autofocus and LED flash
- Stereo FM radio
- Li-Ion 1830 mAh battery
Design and Build
Upon picking up the Lumia 900 it’s instantly apparent how smooth the device is. The unibody chassis found on the Lumia 800 has been continued through to the newer handset with the same rounded edges and flat ends making an appearance on the 11.5mm thick frame. Strangely, Nokia has seen fit to add a raised plastic bevel around the touchscreen which detracts from the contours of the handset and seems like an unnecessary addition that serves little or no purpose. The smooth, glossy coating felt nice in hand albeit a slippery at times, overall the look and style of the Lumia 900 is still very impressive.
Under the Hood
Processing is handled by the same 1.4GHz single-core CPU found inside the Lumia 800. Windows Phone 7 doesn’t support multi-core phones yet which limits the amount of devices able to run the OS and we find it slightly disappointing that the 900 is priced around the same mark as the HTC One X but features nowhere near the same amount of processing power. However, there’s no doubt that the Lumia is capable of running its software well and there’s no lag when navigating around the user interface. The only really noticeable delay comes when loading webpages – the Lumia is a little slower than other high-end devices but the online performance isn’t too bad overall and doesn’t really spoil the experience.
Nokia’s ClearBlack technology is an excellent feature which works really well in the 4.3-inch, 480×800 pixel AMOLED display. Even with a slightly lower ppi than its predecessor (217 ppi on the 900 compared to 252 ppi on the 800) graphics look fantastic with colours highlighted by the deep blacks of the background. The display is perfect for showing off the fantastic looks of Windows Phone 7 itself, and anything else shown on screen, such as photos or webpages, all of which look amazing.
Operating System and User Interface
Windows Phone 7 is possibly the best looking operating system around. The platform offers something different to the icon-based systems used by iOS and Android and it’s an innovative and welcome change. Perhaps realising that to go head-to-head with the mobile world’s biggest players requires something unique, the tile-based system that Microsoft has designed is a completely new experience that works even better on the Lumia 900’s large screen than it did on the slightly smaller 800.
With an aesthetic that somehow manages to be both detailed and minimal, the OS is a dream to use. Menus come alive with subtle animations as you swipe across them and everything within the UI flows together seamlessly. The Lumia is also one of the easiest to set-up phones we have ever tested – after signing in to Hotmail and Facebook, account information was automatically pulled-through by the phone and arranged into the appropriate places. Pictures from social networking galleries appeared in folders in the device’s gallery and email addresses were assigned to relevant contacts.
There are a couple of downsides to the otherwise incredible operating system though. As great as the Live Tile system is we found that tiles did end up forming a long line on the homescreen which required us to scroll up and down a lot. As the column in to which they are arranged is only two tiles wide, there’s a choice to be made between stacking up favourite, oft-used apps on the one screen, or leaving them to be accessed from an even longer list in the apps menu. Flicking through just a few favourites kept at the top of the screen is easy but as you fill the phone up with apps it becomes more difficult to navigate between them.
Flash isn’t supported by Windows Phone 7 so there are some online videos that won’t play but HTML 5, the new programming language many websites are migrating to, does work in Internet Explorer 9. The biggest downside of the Windows Phone platform, however, is the lack of apps available for it. With such a fantastic user interface it’s a shame that the support from developers isn’t anywhere near the same as it for iOS and Android and it certainly detracts from the experience of using the Lumia 900.
However, Nokia has made moves to counter this by developing several of its own, custom-built apps specifically for Windows Phone 7. These include a good Sat Nav system called Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps, which works in a similar way to Google’s well-known mapping service. Nokia has also branded the Windows Marketplace tile on the homescreen with its logo as a way of letting users know that there are apps available that are specifically designed for Nokia devices.
Camera and Video
The Finnish manufacturer has recently been making headlines with its release of the 808 PureView handset, attention coming its way as a result of the device’s massive, 41 megapixel camera. Strangely, considering the advancements that the firm has clearly made in mobile photography, the camera on the Lumia doesn’t push any boundaries despite being a reasonable effort. The 8 megapixel lens is enough to produce good quality images but there are some annoying aspects which would be better had they been ironed-out. Light sources, such as windows or lamps, cause a considerable amount of bleeding on photos and video footage recorded under artificial light can be unfocused and lack vibrancy. However, the camera performs much better under natural light, like many digital cameras, and is capable of producing crisp images with real depth to them.
Performance and Verdict
Judged solely on the hardware, the Lumia 900 does have some shortfalls. The introduction of the raised bevel around the touchscreen is a little annoying and we’d be concerned about screen strength if the handset were to fall on one of those raised edges. The lack of processing power is disappointing considering that the device’s price tag is around the same mark as that of the new quad-core devices coming out. However, when coupled with its operating system the handset comes alive and is a pleasure to use, offering an interesting, innovative and welcome alternative to the more prevalent platforms.
Windows Phone looks brilliant and works well. It’s is easy to set-up from the off and this continues with further use – it is an intuitive, well-designed and helpful OS that really has been designed with the user in mind. If you want a break from the norm and are considering making the jump to Windows Phone, the Lumia 900 is worth considering.