A Real Life Review of Nokia Lumia 800
I did it! I migrated to the full Windows experience - Windows 7 and Windows 8 on my computers and Windows Phone 7.5 on my smartphone - Nokia Lumia 800. How was it? Well... quite different and more interesting than previous smartphones experiences. After using it daily, for more than two months, in lots and lots of scenarios, I'm ready to share my impressions. Is it worth buying a Nokia Lumia 800? What kind of people should consider it as a good alternative to Android and iOS phones?
NOTE: If you are interested in learning all the hardware and software specifications of Nokia Lumia 800, first read this page: Detailed specifications for the Nokia Lumia 800.
Simplicity = Elegant Design
The first thing you notice about the Nokia Lumia 800 is its compact and elegant construction. It comes in many vibrant colors and feels good to hold in your hand. Not too big, not too heavy... just right for a smartphone.
Its buttons are well located and don't feel out of place. I liked that the most used buttons are close to each other (volume up/down and power) while the camera button is further away. This way, you don't press it by mistake when you want to close or start the phone and it is perfectly placed for when you want to take photos. It is found exactly where you position your finger when rotating the phone to take pictures.
The power port and the SIM card are nicely hidden on top and cannot be opened by accident, which prevents issues and keeps dirt out of the inside of the phone. The curved 3.7" AMOLED ClearBlack glass touchscreen display is nicely integrated into the phone and displays very vibrant colors. It works great in normal lighting situations and reasonably well when used in direct sunlight.
I enjoyed even the small, elegant charger provided with the phone, which resembles the simplicity of the iPhone.
Simplicity = Snappy & Easy to Use
As soon as you set up the phone and use it, you notice how snappy Windows Phone 7.5 runs on Nokia Lumia 800. The experience is very fluid, there are no hangouts or unresponsive apps. Everything is made to run well on this phone. Even games which are more demanding are smooth and fluid. Navigating the Windows Phone is dead simple. Anyone can do it: you have the home screen (the equivalent of the Start screen in Windows 8) and another screen with all the apps and settings. That's it! You can also use the Search function to quickly find what you want to launch, without doing a lot of scrolling through the list of installed apps. Definitely handy when you install lots of apps.
The Home screen can be fully customized with shortcuts or live tiles that show dynamic data from your apps. There are another three buttons on the bottom of the screen: Back, Home and Search. Each button does what its name implies. The Search button however, opens Bing and allows you to make all kinds of searches on the web.
I have used Android phones in the past, for quite a few years and I could not help but be impressed by how simple Windows Phone is. All the settings are where you expect them to be. I never felt lost in configuration menus, nor encountered stupid limitations that did not allow me to use all the space available on the phone for installing apps. As for apps, the design principles applied for Windows Phone make them easy to navigate with touch, even though they are very different from the navigation paradigms found on other platforms. Finding your way through menus and settings is learned quite fast and becomes natural in no time.
Simplicity = The Basics Delivered, No Abundance in Apps
So far I have bragged about how simple Nokia Lumia 800 and Windows Phone are. But there are also downsides to simplicity. The first is the number of available apps. The situation has improved since Windows Phone was first launched and it will continue to improve each month. But it is still not great. At least not if multiple options are very important to you. I use about 25 apps for things like: checking e-mail, browsing the web, accessing social networks, reading RSS feeds, listening to radio stations, tracking sports activities, navigation, casual games and chatting with others. I am not exactly a power user, with loads and loads of apps installed neither am I a basic user.
Luckily all my basic needs have been met so far. Yes, there are not as many alternatives to choose from like on Android or iOS but the important basics are there. At least for most people.
Simplicity = Lack of Features & Restraints
Simplicity also means that you don't get as many features as on Android or iOS. While I do not know the whole list of differences, there are a few things that lessen the experience of using Windows Phone 7.5, at least for me. First, is the lack of true multitasking for all apps. This causes some issues with apps trying to use the same hardware component. For example, you cannot run two apps that use GPS tracking at the same. One of them will be paused in the background automatically and you must resume it manually, after the active app is closed. Another issue that bugged me for a while (until the most recent update for Nokia Lumia 800) was that there was no way to share your phone's internet connection. Luckily this is now fixed and it works great.
But, the biggest problem is the Windows Phone Marketplace itself, which uses your Xbox gamertag profile for making purchases. If you have the bad luck of living in a country for which there is no official support (like Romania), you must use another region, close to your country. Initially, I used a Microsoft account registered to the United States and I was stuck. I don't even remember setting the country for it - I must have randomly chosen the default values when creating it, a long time ago. I could not make any purchases because my credit card was a European one. After a lengthy chat with Microsoft support, I learned that my gamer tag region cannot be changed and the only solution is to create a completely new Microsoft account and a new Xbox gamertag. :( I was forced to create another Microsoft account, which was registered for United Kingdom, create a gamertag for that region and then purchase apps. Too much complexity if you ask me. I understood this will be changed when Windows Phone 8 is launched but for now it is a big problem. If you are in an unsupported region, it also means that you don't have the option to use your own language as the display and/or keyboard input language. Again, this should be fixed when Windows Phone 8 arrives. I do hope Windows Phone 7.8 users will benefit as well. Another restraint I stumbled upon was the fact that I could not manually use the backup and restore functionality in Zune. Full backups are done only prior to updates being made and cannot be manually triggered or scheduled. Being able to back up manually would be extremely useful. To get this done, I had to use a hack, detailed here: How to Backup & Restore Your Windows Phone 7. Last but not least, Windows Phone 7.5 has no Bluetooth file transfer capability. For me it isn't a big issue because I use SkyDrive instead for making file transfers but to many other people it is a valid problem. Hopefully, this will be fixed in Windows Phone 7.8 so that Nokia Lumia users can enjoy this rather basic feature. One of the most common restraints in any smartphone is battery life. Nokia Lumia 800 has a rather average battery. If you don't use it heavily, you can use it up to 24 hours. But, as soon as you do more energy intensive tasks such as gaming or GPS tracking, its battery takes quite a hit. For example, if you run an app that uses the GPS to track where you are, the battery will be dead in about 7 hours. If that app keeps the screen turned on as well, the battery will run dry in about 4 hours. This is better than some phones but also a less than what you get with other phone models. Looking in perspective, I think this is the weakest point about this specific phone model. You do have to be cautious about how you use it and turn off background tasks and services that don't provide value, if you want it to last the whole day.
Nokia Apps = Real Added Value
Nokia Lumia 800 sets itself apart from other Windows Phones, not only through its design and hardware configuration but also through its apps. Apps like Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive bring lots of added value to the platform. Also, there is a Nokia Collection of apps on the Marketplace, that can be downloaded and installed. It gives you access to other cool things like Camera Extras (lots of presets for taking great pictures) or Play To functionality to other computers and device, over your WiFi, using the DLNA technology.
Their app package is updated regularly and does pack quite a punch. They are all high quality apps that work very well at what they do. For example, Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive have very good offline map support. You download the countries you plan to visit and you can use them instead of your GPS to get around. I have tested them in my travels and I was very pleased with how they worked. They rivaled commercial apps and devices that cost quite a lot of money. Another great thing about Nokia Lumia phones in general is that you get very timely operating system updates. I hated so much the updates policy of Android smartphone makers. It was the main reason that made me avoid this platform and switch to Windows Phone. Nokia & Microsoft just made me happy since day one and kept me happy in this respect.
Windows Phone 7.8 - The Big Unknown
At this moment it is known that Windows Phone 8 will be launched in October and it will bring many great features, which will make most of my complaints moot. But, Nokia Lumia 800 users won't have access to it. They will be able to upgrade only to Windows Phone 7.8. And at this moment we know that the Home screen will be improved and... that's it. Windows Phone 7.8 is a huge enigma and Microsoft has a chance of removing many of the constraints existing in Windows Phone 7.5. I do hope they won't ignore this chance and pack in this update as many improvements and new features they can, whilst keeping the same level of smoothness and performance.
I did not intend to write a lengthy review and cover every aspect of Nokia Lumia 800 and Windows Phone 7.5. I simply did my best to stick to the aspects I discovered as important while using this phone for more than two months. And I think these basics are enough for most of our readers to decide if they want to purchase this phone or not in the near future. Overall, I am pleased with the experience of using this phone but I would not recommend it to everyone. First of all, Nokia Lumia 800 in particular and Windows Phone 7.5 in general are not for power users - people who use their smartphones intensively and install lots and lots of apps. They will be a lot happier with new Android and iOS phones. Those platforms have more features and provide more choice to keep them happy. But there are people who will love this phone and its simplicity - beginners, casual users, people who are not heavy smartphone users. If you are the kind of person who wants to try smartphones but doesn't want to spend a lot of time learning new things, then Nokia Lumia 800 and Windows Phone 7.5 in general are a great choice. I consider this platform to be the easiest to learn and adapt to. There won't be any headaches with setting things up, the interaction is simple, quick and fluid. Yes... you don't have so many things to choose from, but do you really need lots of apps and options? If you don't, then don't hesitate to purchase Nokia Lumia 800. You will have one of the better Windows Phone 7.5 experiences out there.