The handset comes with two exclusive Nokia applications: Nokia Drive and Nokia Music.
The Lumia 800 is similar in design to the Meego-based N9. It contains the same polycarbonate unibody dyed all the way through, with the addition of a camera button. It boasts a curved 3.7-inch AMOLED touchscreen with rounded edges which fit comfortably in the hand. To the right, four buttons provide access to volume up & down, power, and camera. On the top, next to the 3.5mm audio jack, is the charging port and micro SIM slot; and at the bottom, the speaker and microphone. The camera is cleverly placed at the centre of the back, so your fingers are less likely to sneak into your shot. The touchscreen itself has three buttons: back; home and search.
Inserting the micro SIM is easy, thanks to the instructions ‘push’ and ‘slide’ appearing on the top cover. The power button, however, is not marked, so I had to push a few random buttons before finding it. (It’s the individual button in the centre.)
The start-up process was simple. You have the option to login with your Windows Live account. I recommended doing this if you want to start downloading apps immediately.
While transferring contacts to a new device can be a pain, but with the Lumia 800’s preloaded Contacts Transfer app via Bluetooth, my contacts had been copied over within minutes. When I set up my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Gmail accounts on the Lumia, all my contacts from those accounts were also added it to the address book. Naturally, I ended up with duplications, but that can be fixed easily by merging duplicates. Also, you need to decide if you want every single person you’re connected to online to appear in your address book. (I recommend giving LinkedIn a skip.)
What makes a Windows Phone unique is its live tiles on the homescreen. It displays dynamic content and you can also customise your layout to include third party apps, or add multiple tiles from the same app, such as Facebook and Facebook Places. Scrolling through tiles was smooth. I actually expected some lag, but there was none. The interface looks pretty, is slick and I found it impressive.
Once you’ve linked up all your favourite social networks, you will notice a “Me” tile, displaying your profile picture from Facebook. This tile allows you to post status updates across all or select social networks, pulls your notifications, and displays all activity posted by you. Oddly, you cannot use this feed to access your Facebook or Twitter profile. For that, you will need to download each individual app. I still found it handy for checking my mentions and replies on Twitter and Facebook.
If you are used to the dedicated notifications screen of Android and iOS, you will be slightly disappointed with how notifications work on Windows Phone. It varies per app, and while the Twitter app doesn’t display any notifications, the “Me” tile does. When you receive a text message, you will get notified at the top of the screen, but tapping the notification does not give you access to the message, like I assumed it would.
Typing messages can be tricky at first, especially if you have large fingers, because the keyboard in portrait mode is very narrow. I never switch to landscape mode when messaging, so I ended up hitting the wrong keys for quite some time. The first time I sent out text messages, I didn’t receive any replies. It was only after I put my SIM card back into my iPhone, turned off iMessage and swapped back, that it started working properly. Messaging is threaded.
Camera and video
The Lumia 800 has an 8-megapixel rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics and, while picture quality is very good, the 3x digital zoom is not. This is immediately noticeable on-screen. Since there is no front-facing camera, you cannot make video calls. Video is recorded in HD (720p) at 30 frames per second, but during one video recording, the quality sometimes went from being clear to unfocused and blurry. Hopefully an update will fix that.
Mix Radio, which is found under Nokia Music, is new to the Lumia range. It lets you stream music from the cloud, providing access to an extensive collection of music and genres, including pop, rock, local, Bollywood, classical, jazz, dance, etc. Best of all, it’s free and no subscription is required. There are preselected mixes you can choose from, with an option to listen while you’re offline. If you stream music, you are only allowed to skip six tracks within a period of one hour. Of course, to stream, it helps to have a decent internet connection. You can also create a profile of your favourite artists and receive recommendations based on that, or buy music (Nokia Music Store login required).
The Windows Phone Marketplace is limited. Sure, you will find your favourite social networks and games like Angry Birds, but you won’t find a wide variety. I would have preferred a Twitter app with more functionality, but unfortunately there aren’t many options. Preloaded apps include: Nokia Drive (turn by turn, voice navigation), Nokia Music, Xbox LIVE, Office and ESPN. Nokia Drive works well, and requires you to download a voice in a language of your choice before you start using it. I found myself using apps more than I browsed the web with Internet Explorer 9 (full HTML5 support).
The one thing I didn’t have to worry about was battery life. Compared to most smartphones on the market, battery life on the Lumia 800 is quite good. After a day’s usage, with WiFi switched on, the phone still had enough power to last until the next morning. I’m not a heavy or business user and didn’t push my work mail to the handset.
Despite a few initial hiccups, I really enjoyed using the Lumia 800’s smooth scrolling and beautifully designed interface. One of my favourite features on previous Nokia handsets – USB mass storage mode, unfortunately isn’t an option on Windows Phone. There is also no option to expand the 16GB built-in memory, but when compared it to the iPhone, it’s not an issue. The Lumia 800 is Nokia’s first Windows Phone, so remember there is room for improvement.
The Lumia 800 is packaged with a matching soft phone cover (available in black, cyan and magenta); a charger, a USB/plug point; earphones and an instruction manual.
Pros: Slick, easy to use interface; integration of contacts into address book; Mix Radio.
Cons: No option to take screenshots; maximum call volume still felt too soft; limited apps on Marketplace.
Originally published on My Digital Life.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org