The Nokia Lumia 800 is one of the most important phone releases of 2011. With it Nokia is hoping to cling back some market share after seeing the competition, Apple, Samsung and HTC, leap ahead at the high end of the UK smartphone market over the last few years.
But it’s also hugely important for Microsoft. Although Windows Phone has generally been very well received following the huge operating system revamp to seen in WP7 this again suffered next to Android and iOS. Nokia has incredibly loyal fans and if they like the Lumia 800 and buy it en masse, Windows Phone could receive a huge boost.
Nokia Lumia 800: Design and build
The Lumia 800 is made from a single piece of polycarbonate, at first we wondered why Nokia hadn’t gone for aluminium, however the moment we picked up the phone our fears subsided, it’s incredibly tough, yet a lightweight 142g.
From the curved edges to the top-mounted microUSB slot you tap to open and the tiny precision engineered speaker is at the bottom, the Lumia 800 is incredibly well engineered. We’d go so far to say it it’s vying with the iPhone 4S for best looking phone on the market and the screen seems far less fragile than Apple’s latest offering.
To help conserve space the phone uses a micro Sim card, which slots into the top. We wouldn’t advice opening the door though, the moment you do it pops out and the Lumia 800 powers down.
On the side are chrome volume, hold and camera shutter buttons. Pleasingly when the phone is locked the volume controls still work and you can even launch the camera.
By using a single piece of plastic protrusions are limited. So there’s no removable battery or microSD slot, which leaves the Nokia with just 13.86GB usable internal memory (of 16GB), which isn’t much compared to other top-tier smartphones.
Nokia Lumia 800: Operating system
Out of the box the Nokia Lumia 700 runs the latest version of Microsoft's operating system. Windows Phone 7.5 or Mango. Incredibly simple to use, features - such as Phone, Messaging, People and Games are displayed as a vertical list of tiles, which you can move around to suit your preference by pressing and dragging, as well as adding extra options from the main menu. You can pin add favourite web pages and contacts to the homescreen too.
Some of these tiles are live, which means they remain active, so for example your avatar moves around the XBox square and contacts pop up around the People square, none of this is particularly useful, but it certainly looks good.
One of the most useful updates is to the People feature. Now you can contacts from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email accounts are all in the same place, although you’ll have to go through and pair them. You can also choose which feeds you want to see and which account to post an update too.
Nokia’s made some additions including Nokia Drive, which brings turn by turn navigation to Windows Phone for the first time, choosing from 2D and 3D maps.
Native search is unsurprisingly through Bing, accessed by tapping the magnifying glass icon. Built in are a selection of shortcuts to features including an effective QR scanner and voice search. Bing Music listens to a snippet of the track and detects the artist, it works pretty well most of the time, although it helps if you are close to the source and the room is quiet.
Running on the Lumia 800 is the Internet Explorer mobile browser, which includes an impressive internet search capability. Enter a URL and it will take you to the web page, but just enter a term - such as Mobile Phone - and it performs a search with results split between: web, local and images.
Flash support is supposed to be included, but our review model (which was pre-production) wouldn’t let us playback videos from iPlayer.
Nokia Lumia 800: Screen
Nokia has traditionally included excellent screens on its high-end phones and the Lumia 800 is no exception. It’s slightly curved which means the edges are more exposed to the elements than other phones. At 3.7-inches the screen size is the same as the iPhone 4S. However it feels bigger because it seems to blend into the edges of the phone.
We feel Nokia is somewhat stifled by having to stick to the 480x800 resolution required for all Windows Phones. The smaller screen size means that text still looks sharp compared to the Galaxy S2, which shares the same resolution with a larger screen.
The Nokia Lumia 800 includes AMOLED technology, which is excellent for movie playback,w ith eye-popping colours and exceptionally deep backs that make the iPhone 4S look almost grey in comparison, while the screen is noticeable brighter than the Galaxy S2. We did notice the occasional colour bands, but that’s a minor grip. Off-angle viewing is excellent though.
Nokia Lumia 800: Performance
In common with other Windows Phones, the Lumia 700 includes a 1Ghz processor, specifically Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S2. No it’s not a dual-core processor, but it still feels very fast, pinch to zoom on web pages and the text feels like its leaping in at you.
We ran a series of non-scientific tests against the Apple iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S2 launching a few web pages, including Recombu, BBC News and Sky News. All phones are blisteringly quick loading within one/two seconds of each other at the most. The iPhone 4S was the fastest each time, followed by the Lumia 800 and Galaxy S2, vying for second place.
Of course one of the main uses for a dual-core processor is for gaming and at the moment the Lumia 800 along with Windows Phone handsets, it’s the best choice for gaming. Yes you’ve got XBox Live, with your avatar you can buy clothes for, but for us choice just can’t match the Apple App store yet.
We’ve mentioned the battery isn’t replaceable, so there’s no chance of getting a spare one. However with moderate use, it will easily last into a second day, although with push email on more regularly and heavy browsing you’ll be charging every day.
Nokia Lumia 800: Music
The Nokia Lumia 700 includes two music players. There’s the standard Zune Music and Video player and Nokia Music, both of which you can buy music from for 99p with - confusingly - separate accounts.
Unfortunately you have to use this to transfer music and videos onto the Lumia, by a process of dragging and dropping audio (such as music and podcasts) and video. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly slow and time consuming.
On the Lumia 800 the Zune app is actually laid out very well, swipe left and right to go through menus. History displays a list of your most recent tracks and New the latest things you’ve transferred onto the phone.
Of much more interest is Nokia Music, a feature that differentiates the Nokia from the other Windows Phone handsets. As well as buying mp3s, you can find out about nearby gigs, Mix Radio includes a selection of playlists you can listen to for free and offline including: 90s Indie, 90s Alternative Rock and Pop Bestsellers. Unfortunately this wasn’t working in our version.
Mix Radio won’t make us give up our Spotify subscription just yet because choice is limited, with only a limited number of tracks you can skip through. However, it’s a nice bonus.
We’re not overly impressed with the headphones, build quality just isn’t what we expect from Nokia’s top-tier phones.
Nokia Lumia 800: Camera
Traditionally, Nokia has produced some of the best cameraphones (the N8 winning cameraphone of the year at the 2011 Recombu Awards). However on the Lumia 800 just isn’t up to the same - albeit very high - standard, it's average rather than good.
Capturing 8-megapixel stills, the shutter doesn’t feel particularly quick and focusing is a little slow, but all our test shots lacked clarity with fine detail - something we didn’t have a problem with using the N8. It really seems to struggle with poor lighting conditions. At the moment we'd describe the camera as average, but next week we'll test it side by side with the N8, so we’ll update this section.
720p HD movies fare better, they are smooth, with fairly loud.
Nokia Lumia 800: Verdict
We’re really impressed with the Nokia Lumia 800, it’s the best Windows Phone 7.5 phone to date. Build quality is excellent, it looks stunning and it’s very quick. Windows Phone as an OS is very simple to use and keeps getting better and better.
We’d have liked to have seen a better camera and an NFC chip like the N9, but Nokia deserves
to have success with the Lumia 800.
Note: Our sample (like all those given to the UK press) was described by Nokia as pre-high street