- Reception and call quality The reception isn't bad but it could be better. There's usually no problem but it can struggle in low signal areas.
- Display It doesn't scratch easily but has the blue discolouration of AMOLED and is relatively low resolution. The polarising filter seems to help when in sunlight.
- Battery life It will go from morning till evening unless heavily tasked. It's hardly high praise but much to be expected from today's smartphones.
- Camera The camera has trouble focusing, especially in macros, and the picture quality is never great. It should blow the ancient N95 out of the water but fails.
- Ease of use Aside from camera focus and clunky multitasking it's pretty straightforward to use. Everything syncs and backs up to the cloud and the tiles work great.
- Design and form factor The Lumia 800, and the N9 before it, is one of the best looking and feeling mobile phones ever. The only competition in my opinion is the Iphone 4/4S.
- Portability (size / weight) It could be thinner. But it's not thick, really. It certainly shouldn't be any lighter. Many phones today are too light and don't feel substantial.
- Media support Nokia Music is fun for a minute or so but doesn't make up for the lack of services. Outside of the US Microsoft doesn't even offer podcast support on the phone.
- Durability Generally this phone is built to last. However the chrome strip on by the camera scratches fairly easily and I'm not too confident about the lens either.
- Ecosystem (apps, accessories, etc.) Microsoft claims >100K but that's in aggregate globally. Even apps available on WP in some markets and on IOS and Android in Sweden wasn't on WP in Sweden.
So what happened?
Released in late 2011 or early 2012 depending on the region (it was late January when it was released in Sweden, late March when I bought mine), it was a slow rollout a couple of small markets at a time, Nokia had taken the great design of the N9 and stuffed Windows Phone 7.5 in it. Great hardware was now running a software platform which had matured since its initial release a year to a year and a half earlier. Nokia was back.
Or rather it should have been back. We all learned in June that Nokia had jumped from the Symbian burning platform onto a dinghy that was already on its way to be scrapped. Windows Phone 7.5 wasn't ready for prime time and as Microsoft decided to abandon yet another OS for yet another fresh start with Windows Phone 8 the updates for Nokia's latest and greatest hopes, the Lumia series, never came and never will come. It looks pretty, the tiles are actually useful and the OS does a great job integrating with services like SkyDrive, Live and Twitter (and probably Facebook but I wouldn't know because I don't use it) and the fundamental ideas of the platform seem sound.
It's the little things that get to you. When you launch an app from the start screen it will always launch it from scratch even if you were already in that app and pressed the start button to get out of it. To get back into it and have the app not restart you have to hold down the back button to bring up the multitasking menu. In theory it doesn't sound terrible but here's the rub: some apps, including Internet Explorer, will populate the entire multitasking menu with its own tabs or sub screens like settings or a particular e-mail. You can have two apps going but if one decides to present its internal screens as separate multitasking options the other will have to be restarted, which often takes far too long, effectively removing your ability to multitask. Of course it's a little bit generous to call it multitasking to begin with, practically nothing gets to actually run in the background, which in the case of Microsoft's own Skype app renders it pretty much useless since. Some apps, like Evernote, doesn't resume properly and so have to be restarted regardless. Gmail doesn't sync drafts with the phone. Podcasts require syncing with Zune on the desktop. Apps that update live tiles, like weather apps, have to be periodically launched or they stop updating the live tiles. Searching the store is terrible.
The apps are still not there, sure, you can often find equivalents for major apps on other platforms but not always and sometimes getting an app that's close to the real thing just don't count when you need the actual real thing. But the big issue with the lack of apps isn't finding Instagram or an Instagram clone it's walking into your local pharmacy and wanting to download their pollen count app only to realise it's IOS and Android only. It's not finding the app for your favourite website, your bank, your local public transportation, the museum or your favourite sports team.
And as of June 20th it's officially only going to get worse.
The hardware is almost as good as it was when it was called the N9. I say almost because it's lost a front facing camera (not a huge deal) and there are three dedicated capacitive buttons taking up space beneath the display. It is unfortunately using a screen technology that not only tints the screen blue when off axis but that also doesn't use proper sub pixels and therefore produce fringing artefacts when rendering stark contrasts (contrasts like you might expect from a UI that consists of crisp white text on black and perfectly square coloured tiles on black). Maybe if the screen had been of a high enough resolution it wouldn't be noticeable but alas WP 7.5 dictates 800x480. On the plus side the Clear Black polarising filter used does make it easier to see what's on the screen when outside in the sunlight, which can often be an issue. Maybe the strict hardware requirements held back the phone in raw benchmarks but it is snappy and responsive in most day to day activities, loading times for apps being a notable exception. Ironic then that the artificially limited hardware of all Windows phones is cited as a reason why current devices won't get any updates. Well, not ironic I guess so much as moronic.
Hardware internals and planned obsolescence aside the build quality of the chassis and the choice of materials used can hardly be faulted. The plastic is high quality and the device casing has been machined out of a single piece sidestepping any issue of unsightly moulding marks or seams and there are wonderful colours to choose from.
There are definite bright spots. Definite reasons to get this phone. But I still couldn't really recommend it to anyone. I would not recommend it to a casual phone user who's coming off of a feature phone and just wants something simple because odds are they might in a flight of fancy decide to use their new smart phone to try out that smartphone app some regular company is pushing in an ad and they won't understand why they can't have it. If they never do and the functionality that comes with the phone will last them a lifetime they should look at the 710 or even 610. I wouldn't recommend it to a serious smartphone user or proper geek because it's a complete dead end of a platform with table stakes functionality missing.
I might recommend this phone to someone who has more money to spend than they know what to do with and who collects computing platforms. The Lumia 800 would go great beside a Palm Pre, a Kin and JooJoo.
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