The Nokia Lumia Windows Phone flashy display certainly caught my eye! Eventually with the sales promotion, I decided to give this mobile phone a go! I did had my apprehension initially as I had bad experience with an O2 Microsoft Windows Mobile based smartphone. I suppose with iPhone and Android hammering at the smartphone market, Microsoft had to redesign their mobile O/S platform from the ground up, and they sure did a good job at it this time round.
Nokia was the pioneer for the Windows Phone platform as they were given first mover advantage before Microsoft moved on to HTC and Samsung. Given that Nokia was doing very poorly with their Symbian O/S platform, they needed a more powerful operating system to tackle the smartphone market now dominated with the likes of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android partnering with Samsung, HTC, Sony, etc.
What made me decide to take a chance with Windows Phone? Well my good old poorly designed HTC Cha Cha with its minute ROM memory and poor battery performance meant that I have to upgrade my phone eventually. I could have gone on with another Android based phone, but the flashy Metro style front of Windows Phone certainly caught my eye. Besides Nokia started offering almost 40% off their initial price (well the newer models like Lumia 820 and 920 was being launched) so it was a good buy.
Being flashy is one thing, actually using it is another thing altogether. So how did it hold up? After having used it for several months now, there were indeed many pros and cons with my Nokia Lumia 800 mobile.
Some Idea on the Hardware Specs
Despite the Lumia 800 uses a single core CPU, it was still rather speedy, so the software engineers in Microsoft must have optimized their operating system platform, reducing the usual software bloat of their Microsoft products. As this was their first go at this platform, they didn’t have code for dual core, so once they have resolve this issue, their future models would be even more faster! So no problem with this for me since it was speedy despite being a single core CPU.
The storage memory stated was 16GB (with a working 512 RAM memory) though the user available memory was less. About 13GB was available. My guess, some memory was allocated for the platform software itself as well as the odd way of converting bits to gigabytes. At the same time, some of the old Windows Mobile style of allocation between app storage and content storage was still maintained. However it could only be set within the desktop Zune software.
The 3.7 inch 800 x 480 display uses AMOLED, and some blogs commented that the black was really black and you could hardly tell the difference between the device black colour and the non-displaying part of the screen. One thing for sure, the colours were really vibrant, sharp and crystal clear. Really great for viewing photos that you have taken, watching videos, and reading.
However, the standard fonts were a little wee bit tiny for my aging eyes. It would have been great if they could provide some font size adjustment. I checked the newer Lumia 820 and it too couldn’t adjust the font size (update note: actually could be adjusted, just that it was very difficult to find the settings to adjust it). Only the Lumia 920 has that option. If it weren’t for the sharp and crisp clear display, I would really be having a tough time reading SMS messages, viewing my calendar agendas and other settings.
Saving grace is that headers uses really big fonts and it was possible to adjust the display for emails and browsing sites.
Calls and some interesting features
Phone calls were reasonable. Though when compared to my HTC Cha Cha it wasn’t as loud. But it was acceptable.
There was one interesting feature for the incoming SMS messages, if you were using the handsfree headphones be it wired or bluetooth, the Lumia Windows Phone could dictate it out for you. Very handy while driving! Not even iPhone or Android has this built in feature. Tried to find an equivalent for iPhone and Android but so far there wasn’t any that could match Windows Phone SMS automatic dictating while using handsfree device.
You could also reply by saying back your message, but the transcription still needs work though. Very often I get very odd wordings and my Dad couldn’t understand my cryptic message! Simple replys like “ok”, “on the way”, “yes”, “no” is the best it could do. Longer ones would make your message come out weird!
Software and Apps still lacking
The usefulness of any smartphone is the availability of useful software apps. And this, Windows Phone is sorely lacking when compared against Apple’s iPhone and especially against Google’s Android phone.
Microsoft tried to address the app issue by target some 100,000 apps by early 2013. Unfortunately they only manage a few thousand apps. Sometimes it is not the quantity, the quality of the apps as well as the possibility of finding good usable free apps makes or breaks the mobile O/S platform.
I’m still waiting for a few of my favourites, the OliveTree Bible Reader, Instagram and Waze. Although there were alternatives, but I still kind of like to have the same version that I was using in my Android phone and my wife’s iPhone.
I do hope there those companies would allocate some developers and resource to tackle the Windows Phone platform. Until then, I just have to make do with the alternatives.
For Bible reading, I went for YouVersion Bible App; for Instagram, I opted for Lomogram, and for GPS navigation, I used the native Nokia Drive.
[update note on apps: 12/Dec/2013]
So finally Microsoft managed to convince a couple of developers to port their app over to Windows Phone, namely WAZE and INSTAGRAM. The apps are ready in December 2013. Unfortunately for Windows Phone 7 users like me, these apps will only work in Windows Phone 8 onwards. Having these 2 big guns is a boost for Microsoft and would help push their sales of Windows mobile phones.
As for me, it would be quite an investment for me so to trade up for a Windows Phone 8, I would need to think about it. Version 8 did have a lot of new workable features that are lacking in version 7. Now they have build in tile for battery percentage and data monitoring usage. Additionally the text fonts could be enlarge (good for seniors who need bigger fonts!) and SMS text messages could be exported for reference and archiving (good for work related messages and keeping a copies of correspondences for future reference).
Emails, Contacts, Calendars and SkyDrive Cloud Storage
The provided email app apart from working with the Microsoft Outlook Live Hotmail, has no problem connecting to Google’s Gmail. As for Yahoo Mail, you could download the Yahoo mail app. All of them work flawlessly with POP3 or IMAP protocol.
As for contacts, it could connect and sync with Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn contacts, though for editing, you could only do it with Microsoft and Gmail only. Still not too bad since most of my contacts were stored in Gmail. Syncing with Google contacts were very good.
As for Calendar function, I’m still using my Google Calendar, and it has no problem connecting to it, adding appointments, editing it, etc including the pop up reminders too.
And for cloud storage, the SkyDrive would be the default storage for Windows Phone. Unfortunately no official apps were available for Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Ubuntu One cloud storage. Some smart programmer did come out with a bridge to read those cloud storage files but not good enough for adding, editing and organizing them though. So you would just have to do without these other cloud storage apps until such time (who knows when) when it becomes available.
One feature on the SkyDrive is the ability to backup your photo roll into SkyDrive as you shoot. So just in case your phone was damage or Heaven forbid, stolen! You could still retrieve your precious photos online. You need an internet data plan to be always connected though.
GPS and Navigation
The GPS function for Nokia Lumia 800 I could say it was really good. It could detect the GPS satellite rather quickly and even when I’m located within a building (a little wee bit slower, but still could manage it). Definitely another one up against my hopeless HTC Cha Cha GPS detection. There are many GPS software to choose from to obtain the GPS coordinate, so try a few and pick your favourite version.
As for the GPS navigation, the Nokia Drive did come in quite handy. The maps were quite updated. Once I was in Nilai town and I needed to find a bank and a restaurant. I had no problem searching for those POI (point-of-interest) location and letting the Nokia Drive navigation program guide me there.
Camera with Carl Zeiss Lens
I like photography, and the build-in 8MP megapixels 3264 x 2448 pixels photos is simply superb. The camera uses a Carl Zeiss Tessar lens, f2.2 stop, 28.0mm focal length, and minimum 10cm focus range provides lots of ability for my picture taking endeavor. (That’s why I want my Instagram!). One feature that I like is the tapping on the screen for focus and capture. So you could ensure where the camera should focus on the subject and taking the photo. Of course you could also just squeeze the camera button for taking your shots too.
For the most part, the pictures taken were rather good. It’s a little wide angled, so if you took objects too near it would get distorted. For almost macro shots, the minimum 10cm focus range was good enough for taking food blog photos.
You still need good light source to avoid blur photos from camera shake and fast moving children who can’t sit still for a photo shoot. And you still can’t take proper night time photos although that low light photography feature would come with the Lumia 920.
Other than that, I’m rather pleased with the Lumia 800 camera.
And after making those calls, messaging, reading emails, photography and navigating, how about its battery life holding out? The 1450 mAh power could just make it for the day for my kind of usage. If it was heavier usage, the battery would conked off before the sunset. But most days the battery saver would kick in close to bedtime. That’s why most people need to carry emergency battery pack but that would surely kill the battery. Some people would then carry two phones instead, including yours truly. Ouch!
Connection to Desktop
The Windows Phone uses the Zune software to communicate with the computer. You won’t get to see a storage drive when connected to the PC (unlike iPhone and Android phones). In order to retrieve your photos and other stuffs, you need to sync with Zune which in turn would dump the files into a folder in your PC. You could specify what type of files to sync between your PC and your Windows Phone, whether it would be one way or both ways syncing.
Zune is like the equivalent to Apple’s iTunes for syncing stuffs between your phone and PC. And at the same time it is also a software for playing your music and videos.
One thing lacking is the ability to connect to several PC for syncing. Apple’s iPhone allows up to 5 connection, but Zune only allows one. You would need to break the connection to your other PC if you need to sync and backup your stuff on another computer. For example I needed to upgrade the Windows Phone software to 7.8 in my office where I had a faster internet connection, I had no choice but to link with my office PC just for that instance to update the phone, and then later bring it back home and relink it back again. If you do not need to sync, you could still connect as a guest though.
As for WIFI wireless syncing, couldn’t get it too work. So looks like cable syncing is still the only option.
I’m actually rather happy with this Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone despite some shortcomings on the lack of apps and smaller fonts. Overall the Nokia Lumia 800 phone could handle almost all of my mobile requirement. However if I needed to do more functions, my best bet is still to stick back with an Android phone.