With the Lumia 900, a Windows Phone is finally worthy of gdgt recommendation. Here's why.
By our measure, Windows Phone has been held back (at least in the US) by lacking a great flagship device with a few key features, namely: original, thoughtful industrial design to match Windows Phone's surprising level of polish; some meaningful technological edge that could help differentiate it from other mid-range smartphones (like the iPhone 4, which is still a serious contender); and perhaps most importantly, an affordable (carrier-subsidized) price.
Although it's not perfect, the Lumia brings all the key ingredients necessary to compete to be your next smartphone, from a refined look and feel, to true 4G that won't run out of juice by noon despite the hefty battery requirements of LTE networks, to a $99 price point. We've had a Lumia 900 in the lab for a couple of weeks and done the research on other critics' findings, and there was no question that this is a phone that we'd recommend to first-time smartphone owners and first-adopters alike.
The Galaxy Nexus, with its big, beautiful display, Verizon 4G, and Ice Cream Sandwich, remains a fantastic device and for the moment still holds 2nd place in gdgt recommended cellphones. In fact, a recent price drop to $80 (on Amazon and Wirefly, with two year contract) gave us occasion to give the Galaxy Nexus's gdgt score a bump from 90 to 92. There's no doubt, a sub $100 Galaxy Nexus is a great deal.
The iPhone 4S remains our top recommended cellphone for just about everyone. By most metrics, from basic user experience, to the greatest quantity of really high quality apps, to available accessories, neither Android nor Windows Phone can be our first pick -- but we also know that tastes and needs vary. Still, at the $199 and $99 price points, the 4S and 4, respectively, simply can't be ignored.
Geeks that care about the latest specs and apps might appreciate the comments of Mossberg and Josh. I'm a self professed geek but have, up to now, had no desire to use Instagram or other "must have" apps despite it being a sort of litmus test by numerous gadget reviewers. For the average person that is doing web/email/texting/facebook and an occasional app or two (believe it or not I think that's the vast majority of the smartphone users - they don't show up on these tech blogs because they are too busy on FB or Pinterest) the Lumia 900 is going to be excellent IMO, That's not to say it won't be good for geeks that prefer its UI/UX (the reality is there are numerous great apps for Windows Phone), but for the vast majority of the smart phone using population I think it will be an excellent choice.
Case in point - my wife has the HTC Trophy and has 0 complaints. She has admitted it is the first phone she has no complaints about and is so much happier with it than the OG Droid before it. She uses it for the purposes I stated above and I have no problem recommending the phone to others, with the obvious disclaimer that the app ecosystem isn't what it is on Apple.
All that being said, for the spec wh0res, I'm looking forward to seeing what Apollo brings.
I have no idea when AT&T plans on lighting Seattle up with LTE - I honestly would have figured it would have been one of the early cities, but I don't even see it on the timeline as of yet. So things like the Lumia 900, and the AT&T iPad (3rd generation) aren't able to be used to their fullest potential here. Aside from the LTE, though, I just generally like the smaller 3.7-inch display over the 4.3-inch. Since the resolutions are so close, it makes the smaller screen end up looking a little sharper.
Regarding the Lumia 900 and WP7+, this is a very compelling combination. I've been using an HTC HD7 for well over a year now and am still happy with it. My only complaints are the crummy camera, at least for indoor shots, and there are a few apps for the iPhone or Android that aren't on WP7. Thats not to say that there aren't equivalent apps on WP7 but when you want to play Words with Friends I guess it doesn't matter; you need WWF. I've also convinced my non tech savvy friends and family that WP7 is the way to go and they never call with questions or complain, but they aren't tech bloggers so...
The products we recommend here is the stuff I would encourage a real life friend or family member to buy, and often is the stuff I would and do buy for myself. So I would try to steer them to an iPhone first, but if for some reason they didn't want that or a Galaxy Nexus, I would be very comfortable with them buying a Lumia 900.
Granted, our recommendations certainly aren't representative of ONLY my opinion, but my bigger point is that they aren't theoretical recommendations, and we don't hide behind a highly diluted "editor's choice" that hundreds of products receive. At a certain level I assume people will come personally harass Marc, myself, and the team on gdgt and Twitter if we steer them wrong.
EDIT - In November 2011, The Verge gave the "Software" a ranking of 8 and the "Ecosystem" a ranking of 6 on the Lumia 800. However, six months later with 35,000 more apps in the marketplace and running the exact same software, they give the "Software" a 5 and the "Ecosystem" a 4 for the Lumia 900? One of the "Bad" things listed for the software for the Lumia 800 was "No internet sharing," but the Lumia 900 added internet sharing and they still dropped the software score 3 points?
Give me a break.
The Lumia 900 is substantially improved over the 800 (as originally tested) and now includes tethering, full offline mapping, better camera software and greatly improved battery life.
Although the game has moved on and WP has not had any significant updates since the 800 launch that much is also true of the majority of Android devices and iOS over the same time period.
I think the only negative comparisons from the 800 to the 900 is the move to a conventional flat screen and the fact that resolution remains unchanged and therefore slightly lower quality on the 900's larger screen.
I have a Lumia 800 and I would miss the curved screen, but most US owners will not be able to make that comparison because the 800 and N9 were not ranged in their stores.
I think that rather that being Apple fanboys, many US tech journos are smitten with ICS and that can make WP look a little feature-poor.
That said, WP is more about everyday ease of use than out-and-out tech wizardry. Thus the Lumia is less of a device for advanced users and more suited to the masses.
I'm an ex-Symbian user (a difficult and clunky OS, but still.as technically adept as Android in most respects) and let me.tell you: Windows Phone on the Lumia 800 is like a breath of fresh air :-)
Combine that with the app interoperability that MS has confirmed between Windows Phone and Windows 8, the ecosystem is far from stagnant, and may just explode when W8 and Apollo are available to the public. While some argue that 'future features' aren't a reason to adopt a platform, it certainly works for Google TV, Apple TV and Siri, so why can't that apply to MS, and let's face it, native phone/PC app interoperability is HUGE.
As another bit of anecdotal evidence: During his defense in the VergeCast he also said that you "can't copy text from an email in Windows Phone", among other demonstrably wrong statements. Over the past months he's been wrong regarding not just Windows Phone but MS products in general.
he shouldn't be surprised OR offended that a large portion of the readership call him out on it, and while he has responded in the comments, he's only responding to the trolls. The rational readers who like The Verge but point out where he's wrong are ignored.
When The Verge started I was very impressed, and thought it might be better than Engadget. That initial excitement is now more or less gone.
I agree with Topolsky's lowering of the software and ecosystem scores. Think about it. Microsoft's Mobile OS ecosystem and third party app performance, ought to (way) be better by now - at least if you're to compare it to the competition. That's why it's correct to have a lower score than before. Things are relative, you know!! Something you gave 10/10 in performance category 3 years ago would now be a 7. Josh would give a similar score for an android tablet right now, you know. For exactly the same reason. Shocking ecosystem...he's not an apple fanboy. He uses a Nexus as his main phone. LOL.....
Give ME a break..
Again, since the review of the Lumia 800 just six months ago over 35,000 apps have been added to the marketplace... that is nearly 6000 a month. By the end of year they will have at least 125,000 apps. As someone who has used a Windows Phone for over a year, there isn't one "must have app" that I miss... as there are comparable apps for nearly every single one. The reviewers who say there aren't alternatives simply don't look hard enough.
The two "rogue" points aside in the Ecosystem category, there is no reason that the Software should have dropped three points in six months... especially when improvements were made like internet sharing and offline turn by turn navigation. iOS and most Android handsets only see major updates every 6-12 months as well... so this again, is a total BS score decrease.
Reviewers are supposed to provide perspective and encapsulate many pros and cons into a pragmatic recommendation that sees the forest for the trees. Neutrality or at least disclosure of biases is also nice. Mossberg and Topolsky have long been Apple fans but there is a definite trend of them sounding more like shills.
I understand this isn't just an issue with Windows Phone, because I was in a similar boat with my Android devices. The simple fact is that the iPhone is the new Windows when it comes to 3rd party applications and it's not going to change anytime soon.
I'm giving Apple another year and I'll check back to see what Nokia and Microsoft have in 2013. My suggestion to MS is continue to develop features which differentiate your product instead of just trying to play catch up. For example work with carriers to make intelligent call and message routing native to your devices. I'd love to be able to simply choose who's able to contact me for the next hour.
Microsoft did try to differentiate their product, and they have. However, it seems to be lost on most technology reviewers. Microsoft does not want to be the next iPhone and rely on 600,000 apps to make their platform a success. They also don't want to be the wild west that is Android. They want to offer a stable mobile environment that is geared towards people who are more worried about communicating, than playing a game of Cut the Rope.
Android's functionality is a near clone of what Apple launched in 2007 with iOS. Microsoft struck out a different road, for a different kind of user. I want my phone to be a phone, where communication is the central purpose... and that is the Windows Phone. I don't want a phone where I have pages and pages of apps and games I rarely open just because I can... and people like me are the people that love their Windows Phone devices, which has a satisfaction rating just as high as iOS for a reason.
It is different strokes for different folks, and we Windows Phone lovers would really appreciate it if the tech bloggers out there realized that comparing a Windows Phone to an iPhone is like comparing apples to oranges... and that is how both Microsoft and their Windows Phone users want it.
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