While the Lumia 800 has been out for a while now, we only recently got out hands on the device and have our impressions down below. The Nokia Lumia 800 is one of Nokia’s premium Windows Phone devices that only sits below the Lumia 900 in the company’s line up. It is no secret that Nokia’s high profile move to the Windows Phone platform was a move born out of desperation after years of dwindling profits. Thus in many respects the Lumia 800 either represents the beginning of the end for Nokia or the beginning of its resurgence. The question is which one is it?
Hardware and Build Quality
Dimensions: 116.5 x 61.2 x 12.1 mm
Screen Size: 3.7 inches (800×480)
In a time of black slates with large screens Nokia deserves immense credit for the design of the Lumia 800. Instead of trying to make it as thin as possible, Nokia have instead opted for beautiful industrial design and in the process have produced arguably the most stunning phone on the market at the moment. Like the HTC One X, the Lumia 800 is made from a polycarbonate unibody that exudes quality although it does lack the wow factor of the iPhone 4/4s’s construction. Indeed while many people like the construction of the iPhone 4 it has been prone to cracking when dropped due to the amount of glass used. With the Lumia 800 however, it never felt like a small drop would cause any damage to the phone and credit must go to Nokia for even including a bumper style case with the phone itself. On the top of the phone there is a 3.5mm headphone jack, power/sync port as well as a micro-sim slot. The left hand side is composed of no buttons at all while on the right you will find a volume up and down buttons, a power button and a camera button (an especially nice feature). The front of the phone is home to the 800×480 3.7 inch gorilla glass display. Many people will find this to be an adequate screen, but in our experience a 4-4.3 inch screen is the ideal in today’s media heavy world. There are also the mandatory back, home and search buttons on the front of the phone in the form of capacitive buttons. Overall we were fairly impressed with the build quality of the phone especially as it is more of a mid-range device. The design of the phone is also inspired and is sure to turn heads.
Unfortunately the screen on the Lumia 800 exemplifies its mid-range nature. While the build quality and design of the phone are reminiscent of high end devices the 800×480 resolution is starting to looking a little low when compared to the 720p (1280×720) screens of the Galaxy S III and HTC One X. Saying that, however, the AMOLED screen certainly produces vibrant colours and the added saturation of AMOLED screens makes the Metro UI really pop from the screen. All in all its not a bad screen and is relatively easy to see in direct sunlight, its just a shame that Microsoft prevented Nokia from including a higher resolution screen as the Windows Phone OS is yet to support anything other than 800×480.
Nokia has had a rich tradition of packing stellar cameras on its phones yet unfortunately, while still good, the Lumia 800 fails to live up to some of Nokia’s past successes. The 8MP resolution is certainly on par with other smartphones on the market today but photos were occasionally soft and lacked the vibrancy of the images produced by the iPhone 4S and HTC One X. Take the images below for example; they are relatively sharp especially the top one. However, neither of the images has colours that really pop. We also found that low light performance could also do with improvement. However, considering that the Lumia 800 is a mid-range device the camera is definitively worthy of praise, its just a shame that Nokia is yet to implement the technology seen in its 41MP Pureview smart phone.
Battery Life and Call Quality
Battery life like many other aspects of the Lumia 800 is good without being outstanding. We typically got a whole days usage from the phone but not much more. As with most smartphones these days browsing the internet and playing games quickly diminishes the battery life and should be avoided if away from a charger for some time. Indeed considering the phone isn’t as thin or feature rich as other phones its just a shame that the battery life could not have been slightly better. It should also be noted that when the phone fist came out it did suffer battery problems although a subsequent firmware update has sorted out these issues and shouldn’t concern any future purchasers.
With regards to call quality we found it to be very respectable with people on the other end of the phone saying that they could hear us loud and clear and the same could also be said from our end. We also had no mobile signal or wi-fi connection issues.
Performance on the Lumia 800 belies its mid-range nature and in many respects this is down to the software rather than the hardware of the device. In an age of dual and even quad core smartphones the single core of the Lumia 800 may have you thinking that it is underpowered. Fortunately Microsoft built the operating system with single core performance in mind and therefore apps open quickly and flicking around the homescreen results in very little on screen lag. Indeed if we were to describe the performance of the Lumia 800 we would say “surprisingly snappy”. One problem with having a single core, however, is that the phone has relatively poor gaming performance. While 2d apps such as Angry Birds function as they do on other devices there is a distinct lack of 3D games even approaching the visual fideltiy of Infinity Blade. It won’t be until higher specced phones come out in the autumn that we will see developers even contemplating putting advanced 3D games on the Windows Phone platform. Overall then we were pleasantly surprised by the performance of Lumia 800, although having only a single core means that the phone could struggle as apps and games become more advanced.
Windows 7.5 (Tango)
Windows Phone 7.5, otherwise known as Tango is the latest iteration of Microsoft’s fledgling mobile OS. Unlike Android and iOS the Windows Phone operating system is built around a tile based interface which it calls Metro UI. The entire homescreen is a series of square tiles than can be filled with different information. For example, along with squares that take you to your email and messages it is also possible to create a square for a contact in order to facilitate quick access to that person. Indeed the actual operating system is very intuitive and coming from Android to Windows Phone it did not take long before the OS became second nature. However, by coming from such mature OS’s like Android and iOS the flaws in Windows Phone are certainly apparent.
Firstly there is a distinct lack of customisation available, especially compared to Android. The homescreen is really the only area that can be customised and whereas Android has numerous homescreens there is only one on Windows Phone. This ended up leaving us longing for the multiple themed homescreens we have on our android devices. Although those coming from iOS will be completely at home with the lack of customisation on offer. We even think that many people will find such a minimalist approach refreshing. It was merely that we personally found customisation a limitation.
Secondly it quickly becomes apparent that there is a dearth of apps in the Windows Phone marketplace. Indeed while the Android was initially filled with few high quality apps this problem is now almost non existent. Yet the Windows Phone marketplace still looks like it has a long way to go before it contains the same variety and quality of apps that the Apps Store and Play Store now contain. Worryingly for Microsoft the only way that this problem will be resolved is by selling more phones so that it becomes worthwhile to make and port apps to Windows Phone. This is fortunately a problem that is likely to be rectified over time but at the moment it is important for people looking to buy the Lumia 800 that there aren’t that many apps worth owning in the Windows Phone marketplace.
Finally as this article was being written Microsoft announced its newest iteration of the Windows Phone OS and unfortunately this brings bad news. While the update certainly looks promising with high resolution screens and multi-core compatibility the biggest news is that current Windows phones will not be getting the full update. This is a huge kick in the teeth for those people who have currently bought Windows’ phones and more importantly greatly reduces the amount we can recommend this phone. Indeed the fact that updates are on the horizon yet buying this phone will not grant access to all of these features could almost be considered a deal breaker.
Although it would seem that there are quite a few negative aspects to the Lumia 800 it would be wrong to think that this is a phone that is not worth buying. In fact were it not for the fact that Microsoft has come out and said that all phones running Windows Phone 7.5 will not get the update to 8.0 we would have no problem in recommending this phone very very highly as a mid-range to budget phone. As it is, the Lumia 800 is a beautiful phone that suffers from the first generation software it is bundled with along with the stringent restrictions on hardware that Windows has stipulated on all Windows 7.5.