Review – the Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone (video)

1 Feb 2012

The Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone

The Lumia 800 smartphone from Nokia is, as far as I am concerned, the first true test of the Microsoft/Nokia alliance that swept away Symbian and ushered in a new Windows Phone era.

The Lumia 800 is as much a test for Microsoft as it is for Nokia, but you can’t help but feel anxious for Nokia about this latest milestone in its history.

For many of us at the time, the mighty Nokia’s decision to embrace a Microsoft operating system was unthinkable and felt like a defeat for the troubled mobile maker.

First you have to realise, however, that Nokia is still the largest mobile maker in the world and while the smartphone market is going from strength to strength and is dominated by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, it is a mobile battle space that never stops moving.

My experiences of Nokia devices began like most people back in the 1990s and my favourite was the 9000 Communicator – a slab-like device that was futuristic for its time and which brought mobile data communications to the pocket before BlackBerry devices dominated the corporate space.

For much of the past decade, Nokia kept its edge. Unfortunately, by the time the iPhone came on the scene, its Symbian OS hadn’t really changed much. All that was changing was the shape and form of Nokia’s multitude of devices. Sadly, each time I powered one up I felt my heart sink, there was little change and you’ve got to remember this was before the app revolution.

Nokia’s troubles have been well documented but you have to remember that it has great pedigree when it comes to actual wireless technology and quality communications.

Silicon Republic editor John Kennedy checks out the new Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone 

Microsoft’s Windows Phone evolution somehow evaded me over the past year and anyone who can remember the Windows Mobile OS of five years or so ago shudders at the memory. The software giant seemed obsessed with putting desktop software en masse onto mobile devices, probably the same thinking that brought us travesties like Vista.

So it was with mild trepidation that I unboxed the Lumia 800. I already knew from reports from the Consumer Electronics Show that the 800 and its sister 900 were well received. I have to admit I was excited about a Nokia device for the first time in five years.

One of the first impressions is the style of the device – it is elegant and features a kind of polycarbonate plastic that is scratch resistant and has a nice velvety sheen.

The screen made of Gorilla Glass appears slightly raised and there are just three symbols (a back button, a Windows emblem and a search key) that denote functionality. Emblazoned on the top is the familiar Nokia logo. The back of the device reveals a 8-megapixel Carl Zeiss camera lens and flash.

Every smartphone today is given the obvious similarity test with the iPhone and the use of a micro-SIM and a white USB-connected charger plug is where the similarities end.

The device weighs just 142 grams and comes with 16GB of internal memory and 512MB of programme memory. The screen is 3.7 inches of AMOLED with WVGA 880 x 400 resolution and 16m colours.

In terms of usability, this phone is most unlike any iPhone – so for originality Microsoft and Nokia have pulled off a coup you can’t quite say is true of rival Android devices.

What I liked most about the Windows Phone operating system was the simplicity and natural feel of the software – everything about it is visual and you know what you are looking for and I can imagine there being little learning curve for any generation of user.

A real return to form for Nokia

A nice surprise was Nokia’s ClearBlack display, because everything behind the tiles is black and if you are standing in a dark room it gives you the feeling that everything is floating on air. If you look at the tiles from the side of the phone it feels as if they are actually part of the glass rather than buried under the material.

The Windows Phone 7.5 (that’s Mango) device could be termed what I would call a crossover device – it is ideal for the professional user who wants style and elegance but who also wants to enjoy his or her digital and social lifestyle.

For example, the phone connects in an arresting visual display to your Xbox Live hub and your 3D avatar, as well as featuring Zune media-playing technology.

As a business and productivity device it is surprisingly versatile – it connects to and synchronises with Office 365 applications, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, not to mention Lync and Sky Drive.

I particularly like the way it integrates you and your friends’ social activity into the dynamic address book. Very clever and visually arresting.

Nokia has made a very elegant device that should start conversations but the real winner is how smooth the software is to use. Not only is it fast but in the programme menu if you slide the list down with your finger to the bottom, the display actually compresses the words, giving a really physical feeling to the software.

While I found the device to be versatile, I wasn’t totally happy with the battery life but this was probably because I was using it primarily as a data device and after that as a phone.

Talk time on the device in GSM zones is up to 13 hours and 265 hours on standby. Video playback time is 6.5 hours, music playback is up to 55 hours and browsing over 3G and HSDPA is up to 4.5 hours.

All in all, I think this is a fantastic achievement by Nokia, a real return to form.

The Nokia Lumia 800 has an RRP from free with Vodafone MyWay bill pay plans and will be priced at €429.99 on pay as you go.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years