Review: Nokia Lumia 900 puts Windows Phone back in the race
The phone runs Mango, the latest version of Windows Phone software, but AT&T and Nokia have stuffed some extras in as well -- and these extras are a mixed bag. Nokia's App Highlights app is nearly useless; it merely highlights apps that you can find in the Windows Marketplace. On the other hand, I appreciated the AT&T Navigator GPS app and the AT&T bar code scanner. Overall, though, I wasn't impressed by the additional software that ships with on the phone.
Windows Phone itself, though, truly shines on the Lumia 900. The LTE connection means that data piped into the operating system's live tiles, which display constantly changing data such as social networking updates, pops in quickly. The large screen with rich colors and crisp text shows off those colorful tiles to their best effect.
Is the Lumia 900 a perfect phone? Of course not. One of my biggest gripes has to do with the confusing button layout on the right side of the phone. Two silver buttons near the top control volume up and volume down; below them, there's the power/sleep button; and then at the bottom there's a button you press for taking photos. It's far too easy to accidentally press the power/sleep button when you mean to change the volume controls and vice versa.
Also, 16GB of storage may not be enough for most people, and the lack of an SD card slot means that this amount of storage is all you'll ever get on the phone. It's true that Windows Phone integrates well with Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud-based storage service for additional cloud storage, but if you want to store music, video or media on the phone itself, you may find yourself hamstrung.
The phone also lacks Near Field Communications (NFC), which will eventually be used for mobile financial transactions and data transfer, especially for working with mobile social networking apps for exchanging photos, files and data. It would have been nice for the phone to include NFC capabilities, because even though it's not particularly useful today, at some point the standard may take off. If it does, this phone won't be able to take advantage of it.
And, of course, there's always the Windows Phone app issue -- the Windows Phone's 70,000 apps lags far behind the 400,000-plus you'll find for Android phones and the 500,000-plus for the iPhone. And it's not just oddball outliers that aren't available for Windows Phone 7; major apps such as Pandora can't be downloaded either.
At a Glance
Price: $99.99 with two-year AT&& contract
Pros: Clear, bright display; good performance; stylish; broadband network
Cons: Confusing button layout on side; only 16GB storage; no SD card
The bottom line
The Lumia 900 is clearly the best Windows Phone you can buy today, with a sleek design and top performance that rivals the best Android phones and the iPhone. Combine all that with an attractive $99 price, and you have a winner.
Even though it makes some compromises, such as only 16GB of storage with no SD card and no NFC support, those are relatively minimal compared to the strengths of the phone. And despite having a single-core processor, the phone is a snappy performer. In short, you won't give up much for that $99 pricetag.
If the Lumia 900 was an Android device, I have no doubt it would be a top-seller. But given that it's a Windows Phone smartphone, it's hard to know how much of a success it will be. It's a good-enough phone that it could be the smartphone that finally helps Microsoft break into the big time in the smartphone race.
Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld.com and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).
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