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Nokia Lumia 800 Review

 

At Digital Phone Company we believe the best way to give feedback on handsets is by gathering it from long term users of a device rather than just using it for a few days.  Our latest review is brought to us by our Chairman, Phil Rider, user of the New Nokia Lumia 800...

When I was kindly invited by NOKIA recently to the launch of their new flagship product, the Nokia Lumia 800, I reflected that it had been a couple of years since we had heard much at all from Nokia. During that time, their long term domination of the UK marketplace had been eroded to a point where they now find themselves today only in fourth position, and this pattern has been repeated worldwide. This has partly been down to Nokia’s determination to stick to it’s Symbian operating system, whilst other systems like Blackberry, Apple and in particular Android, which now has over 60% of the UK Smartphone market, have thrived.

When Nokia’s new CEO, Stephen Elop joined the company just over a year ago, one of his first decisions was to call his old friend Bill Gates at Microsoft and do a deal for Nokia to base their Smartphone strategy around the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system. The Lumia 800 is the first product of that relationship so it was with interest that I attended the launch, aware that I, as a long term Blackberry devotee, who has tried unsuccessfully to be weaned off Blackberry on a number of occasions over the last couple of years, was exactly the sort of target customer they must attract to become successful once again.

Upon first sight of the phone my initial impression was what a beautiful piece of engineering it was. With it’s black, full size Amoled, slightly convex scratchproof screen and the black Polycarbonate rear casing, the initial look is stunning. On the rear, only the 8 mp camera with its Carl Zeiss lens and twin LED flash break up the smooth look and the elegant, four flush silver buttons down the right hand side, offering volume up/down, on/off and preference button complete what is for me the best looking new phone in years.

At that very moment I wanted one, and this is from a 25 year industry veteran who has long since given up caring what phone I had as long as I could get my emails, see my contacts and calendar!

When I did get my hands on one of the first phones a couple of weeks later, I confess I was genuinely excited, and many of my colleagues laughingly suggested it would be like all the others I had tried in recent times and would not last. I was determined however to try a different operating system, not least to comment to customers from a position of having used more than just Blackberry, but the initial hurdle as with all phone users, is always how to transfer your most precious information from one device to another, such as contacts, calendar etc, and is in fact one of the key barriers to people changing devices or operating systems.

 

Nokia have thought of this. With their contacts transfer app within settings, you simply enable Bluetooth, pair your old device with the Lumia 800 and within seconds, I was astonished to see my 900+ contacts being effortlessly transferred to the Lumia 800 a job that had previously proved highly difficult from my Blackberry to other phones. With the Wi-Fi enabled and my email address set up, I was ready to go. 

Initially, the change from a Qwerty keyboard to a full touch screen was strange to me, though for many who have already made that journey, it would not seem so.  However, the ease of the “live tiles” within the Windows operating system soon make it easy to understand.

The “live tiles” means that instead of sitting there statically as with most operating systems, the tiles constantly change, giving updates on statuses,particularly with people, where a neat operation enables you to slide the screen to the left and see whoever you have in your contacts has recently posted anything on a Social Network.  It does not have to be any particular network as the Lumia 800 will collate them all together for you automatically and therefore you waste no time searching for friends’ updates.

Whilst the phone offers all the usual things you would expect – and I am not going into spec details here – it does offer some things that are truly different and my particular favourite is Nokia Music. As you would expect, it offers you the opportunity to download songs from 79p as normal, giving access to all the latest music from the online MP3 store, as well as storing your music. Cleverly however, it also lets you know what gigs are happening in your area over the next few days and it’s distance from you. If you want to go, it will seamlessly transfer you to booking details, phone numbers etc as well as using the brilliant Nokia maps to guide you to the gig.

The best bit though is undoubtedly Mix Radio which offers various genres of music to choose from and then lets you download one hour of this type of music e.g. dance, and play it through the phone. The really great bit though is the ability to store up to 14 hours worth of this sort of music on the phone FREE for up to a month. This is brilliant if for example, you are going on a train journey and will have no Wi-Fi, just download before you go and enjoy.

I mentioned the Maps. When Nokia invested in a mapping company a couple of years ago, we all thought they were mad. With the Lumia 800 we see the fruits of that investment properly for the first time. Used in conjunction with the local info bar, you are able to see restaurants locally, get their contact details and reviews, before using the maps to get you there. This service also offers places of interest, shops and things to do.

Nokia Drive is your own built in street to street Sat Nav system, offering voice guidance for pretty much anywhere in the world once you download the free countries you need. Do away with the Tom Tom once and for all as you no longer need either it’s bulk or it’s cost. It is remarkable that such a huge benefit comes free with the Lumia 800, but it does.

My own phone has free Sky News built in and offers a great showcase for the incredible quality of the screen, giving as it does, rolling news coverage 24/7. One of those things you never think you want until you have it, I now find myself catching up on the news headlines at various points during the day when I have a couple of spare minutes, it’s so easy!

Other pre installed goodies include a link to Ministry of Sound, EBay and Xbox Live, but the great thing is how many apps are already available and growing literally daily. Others might claim to have more, but more relevant? As the software is open for developers, updates are constant.

So what are the downsides? Well, it does have a relatively short battery life, lasting only a full day when using many of the functions mentioned. We are promised a software update any day now which will make this last longer and there are various “battery save” modes on the phone. Another downside of this is that the screen blacks out almost immediately, but it is literally a click of the on/off button to restore it.

Otherwise, I admit I am hugely impressed. There are of course a number of other great phones out there at present competing for people’s attention and one phone does not a range make. I was privileged to see the range Nokia will launch throughout 2012 though, and I think they are back to stay. Without giving too much away, there will be a slightly lower specified version of the Lumia launched within a month at a more attractive price point which should give true volume sales and many other strong supporting products due in the coming months.

In the final analysis, the Nokia Lumia 800 is a strong statement of intent for Nokia to make. In conjunction with Microsoft, we have two of the biggest brands on earth and it would be a brave man who bets against Windows Mobile making a significant impression on the market share that Android has built up recently. With this phone they have combined the traditional build quality Nokia is renowned for, with the very latest technology in a stylish package that many people will find highly desirable. After one month, I am in no danger of reverting to Blackberry!

Phil Rider

Digital Phone Company

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