Here’s our Nokia Lumia 800 review. When the Fedex shipment tracker said the Nokia Lumia 800 was at my door, I quickly took a cab home. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Nokia’s latest hero device. A couple of paranoid thoughts mixed with excitement went through my head during the half hour ride. What if one of my neighbors took it? What if the delivery man dropped it off at the wrong door? Fortunately, the package was safe, waiting for me when I got home.
The Nokia Lumia 800 is beautiful! The shiny curved glass and smooth unibody polycarbonate material match well. It’s the same design as the Nokia N9 and that’s not a bad thing. The size of the glass covers almost the whole front side of the Nokia Lumia 800 and seamlessly joins the rest of the phone. It plays a trick on your eyes that makes it difficult to see the actual edge of the 3.7″ Clearblack AMOLED display. There’s even a sensor under the top right corner that is only visible at certain angles. Don’t let the display’s beauty fool you. It’s made of the ultra strong Gorilla Glass.
The Nokia Lumia 800 feels very natural in the hand. I can easily wrap one hand around the device. HTC and Samsung offers devices with larger screens, but these phones are overall larger, too. I find bigger phones more difficult to use with one hand, but others may not find that a problem. For comparison, the Nokia Lumia 800 is thinner but slightly taller and wider than the popular Nokia N8.
The Nokia Lumia 800 has four physical buttons: volume up, volume down, power, and the camera button. You might want to check if these buttons are loose. Some reviewers have reported a lot of movement when rubbing these buttons. Luckily, my review unit doesn’t have that issue.
On top of the Nokia Lumia 800 are the 3.5mm audio jack, microUSB and microSIM slots. The microUSB slot has a door that needs to be open whenever you need to charge. You can then use your nail to slide the compartment for the microSIM. You’ll need to get a microSIM cutter to make your old SIM card fit in the Nokia Lumia 800. Some carriers sell microSIMs at their stores if you don’t want to cut it yourself. For example, I was able to go in and out of a T-Mobile store within 5 minutes for a microSIM.
The loudspeaker is located at the bottom. I don’t see any other holes for the microphone, so I’m going to assume it’s somewhere here, too.
The back has the 8 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens and dual LED flash. We’ll talk about the camera options and image quality later in this review.
Windows Phone Experience
The Nokia Lumia 800 runs Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. It’s now the primary platform that Nokia has adopted. If you’re coming from Symbian, Windows Phone feels simpler and more modern. Menus and pages move smoothly and respond quickly to the touch, however we noticed some lag with some applications. The Nokia Lumia 800 has a 1.4GHz processor and 512MB RAM.
The Start Screen and the Live Tiles are what you’ll see the most on Windows Phone. You can quickly check your calendar appointments, Twitter mentions, weather summary, number of new messages, and more without opening any apps. It’s similar to how widgets work on Symbian and Android. You can pin more things to the Start screen such as favorite contacts, apps, bookmarks, and more. These get added to the bottom of the list and can get too long if you pin too many items.
The People Hub is a shining star on the Nokia Lumia 800. It’s your phonebook deeply integrated with your online accounts from Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. One panel lets you see the latest updates from all your friends, while the other panel is a list of your friends. From here, you can call, text, email, write on Facebook wall, mention on Twitter, check their latest status updates, view their online albums, and even the history of your interactions. It’s pretty neat. You have to try it person to really see how great it is. My only complaint about People Hub is the missing profile thumbnails in the What’s New panel.
The keyboard on the Nokia Lumia 800 is amazing! Seriously. It is! I can tap on it really fast and the keyboard somehow knows what buttons I meant to press instead of the ones next to it. If you need more help, predicted words appear above the keyboard. iPhone users will feel right at home, too. They’re pretty similar.
Email is great on the Nokia Lumia 800. Setup is so easy. If you’re a Gmail user like me, just enter your Google account and password, then all your contacts, calendar, and email get synced! Multiple email accounts are supported as well. To keep things neat, there’s an option to link the inboxes so you can view all your emails from multiple accounts in one inbox. To view emails separately, just go to the folders and select the account you want to view. The user interface is great, too. The subject on new mails are colored, while email threads are indented. Shortcut tip: tap the left side of an email to reveal checkboxes and select multiple emails.
The browser on the Nokia Lumia 800 loads most websites quickly, but I noticed a few problems. Some sites don’t render well. One example is the touch-friendly version of Facebook. That’s a huge problem for Facebook addicts like me. It’s also a hit or miss with embedded Youtube videos. Some will play fine, but some pages show error messages that Flash is unsupported. Another website that doesn’t render is Mashable. The websites that do render work great with pinch-to-zoom. I don’t know the technical reasons behind this, but I think it has something to do with HTML5. The HTML5 Test website gives the Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone browser a score of 141. That’s lower than 177 for Android, 272 for the MeeGo browser on the Nokia N9, and 296 for the iOS browser iPhone 4. Let us know if you have a better explanation for these issues.
Bing. Most of us use Google to search the web, but Bing is surprisingly good on Windows Phone. In addition to normal search, there are four options at the bottom of the app that are fun to use. There’s location, music recognition, product scanner, and voice search. The scanner is my favorite. It requires no action from you. Just place a barcode or books in front of your phone, then it will automatically search for the product. You can see more info about the scanned product and check its prices.
Nokia Drive and Maps. To differentiate from other Windows Phone devices, Nokia offers Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps. Other manufacturers will get Nokia Maps, but Drive will be exclusive to Nokia devices. Maps is currently in beta and the two aren’t closely integrated yet. For example, if I search on Nokia Maps, I don’t have the option to use Nokia Drive to navigate to the place. At their current state, Drive and Maps are snappy. We haven’t experienced slowdowns or lags when zooming or panning through the maps. GPS locks are quick too. The Nokia Lumia 800 finds my location within seconds. The voice navigation on Nokia Drive does not tell you the street names when turning, but we were told this feature will be added in an update. Not bad for a free service!
Third party apps and the Windows Phone Marketplace make the Nokia Lumia 800 the more preferable device over the MeeGo phone, Nokia N9. There are more apps to choose from on Windows Phone and I think it will get a lot more support from developers in the near future. Android and iPhone users will see some familiar apps in the Marketplace. The first 10 apps I recommend installing when you get the Lumia 800 are Accuweather, Flixster, Foursquare, Netflix, Rowi, SoundHound, Spotify, Thumba Photo Editor, Tipit, and Yelp.
I like the close integration of third party apps with the OS. For example, you can send a photo to Thumba Photo Editor immediately after capturing one with the camera.
Google Voice users will be happy to know that there are a couple of apps available. The one I use is Free Talk by ashtech. It works fine, but I hope Google releases an official app.
I’m not a big mobile gamer, but there are numerous options in the marketplace. Just take a look at this list.
The Nokia Lumia 800 features an 8 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, F/2.2 aperture, dual LED flash, and capable of up to 720p video recording. Unlike the Nokia N9, the Nokia Lumia 800 actually has a dedicated camera button. The camera can be activated even in the locked screen by holding down the camera button. In addition to the dedicated camera button, you can also tap to focus and shoot.
The camera on the Nokia Lumia 800 is not bad, but I expected better from Nokia. We don’t get the same photo quality as the Nokia N8. That phone will still be Nokia’s imaging leader. Photos from the Nokia Lumia 800 are great outdoors when there’s plenty of lighting, but I wasn’t impressed with many of the indoor shots I took with it.
I’m not a fan of the autofocus bracket on the Nokia Lumia 800. A rectangle blinks in the center of the screen when you half-press the camera button and then becomes solid. I assume focus is achieved when the rectangle becomes solid, but that’s not the case. It becomes solid even when objects are not in focus. This results in many photos that are not sharp.
Advanced shooters will like the additional options to tinker with the ISO, metering mode, white balance, exposure compensation, metering mode, and more. By default, 8 megapixel photos have 4:3 aspect ration, but you can change it to the 7 megapixel wide 16:9 aspect ratio in the settings.
I like that you can quickly go to the camera roll while you’re in shooting mode. Just swipe to the right, and you’ll see the last photo or video taken. Sharing online to Facebook, Twitter, or email can be done in just a few clicks.
Out of the box, the Nokia Lumia 800 will shoot videos in VGA mode. You have to go to settings to change for 720p, then press the save button. If you don’t save, the camera will shoot in VGA next time you turn on the camera. I like that the camera autofocuses during recording. Exposure automatically changes too as you pan around. Video quality on the Nokia Lumia 800 is fine. It isn’t extraordinary, but it also doesn’t suck.
Unfortunately, the Nokia Lumia 800 has no front facing camera. Checking yourself out or taking video calls are going to be extremely difficult without this camera. I’ve probably only used this feature 5 times in the last 365 days with FaceTime on an iPhone and never on an Android device. If you do a lot of video calls, the Lumia 800 isn’t going to be for you.
The 1450mAh battery in the Nokia Lumia 800 isn’t user-accessible. While Nokia devices in the past easily survive more than a day of usage, you’ll need to recharge the Nokia Lumia 800 every night. I’m not complaining though. I can do so much with Windows Phone. My typical usage consists of checking 3 email accounts, heavy browsing, tweeting, taking photos. Occasionally, I’d watch movies on Netflix, listen to music with Spotify, and record 720p videos of anything interesting.
To sum it up, I feel the Lumia 800 is currently the best Nokia smartphone out. The hardware looks great and the software looks just as beautiful for the first time in a very long time. Previous Symbian users will appreciate the simpler UI and better email experience. Previous Maemo/MeeGo users will enjoy actually having more polished apps to install. The Nokia Lumia 800 isn’t perfect, though. The camera isn’t bad, but I expected a lot better from Nokia. I’m also disappointed that the web browser doesn’t render correctly some of my favorite websites. I need my Facebook, damn it!
Availability. The Nokia Lumia 800 is scheduled to roll-out across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK in November. It is scheduled to be available in Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan before the end of the year, and in further markets in early 2012. The estimated retail price for the Nokia Lumia 800 will be approximately 420 EUR, excluding taxes and subsidies. Click here to find out how Amazon is selling it.
You should double check the WCDMA frequencies your carrier uses. While the official Nokia page lists WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100, the review unit I received supports only WCDMA 900/1900/2100. This means no 3G with T-Mobile in the US and limited 3G coverage for AT&T.