Hands on -- Can the Nokia Lumia 800 save Windows Phone 7?

By Preston Gralla

Microsoft is counting on Nokia to help save the struggling Windows Phone 7, and the recently released Lumia 800 is Nokia's Windows Phone 7 standard bearer. I took a quick look at the Lumia 800, and here's what I found. (A more comprehensive review will follow on Computerworld later.)

Let's start off with the basics: This is a beautiful stylish, phone, made from a single block of polycarbonate with a Gorilla Glass screen and a superb 3.7-inch AMOLED display. It's based on the existing Nokia N9. The specs are solid, but not spectacular: a 1.4 Ghz Qualcomm SnapDragon S2 processor, 16GB of internal memory and 512MB of RAM. It's got a single 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. The phone runs Mango, the latest version of Windows Phone 7.

The software

Under the hood, it runs Windows Phone 7.5, which as I've written in a review, make Windows Phone 7 for the first time give Android and iOS a run for the money. Anyone who buys into the Microsoft ecosystem will be very pleased, and those looking for a task-oriented phone will be pleased as well. If it's apps you're after, there simply aren't as many as for iOS or Android.

Nokia has added some of its own software to the mix, including a music app and a mapping app, which are generally good. I'll have more details about them in my upcoming Computerworld review.

What's good

What's best about the phone is nothing objective -- it's the way the phone looks and feels. The polycarbonate feels soft, and not at all like plastic, and the phone is light and svelte and yet still feels substantial in your hand.

Even though it has only a single-core processor and 512MB of memory, it doesn't feel at all sluggish. The AMOLED display, put quite simply, is beautiful. The camera, with its Carl Zeiss lens, is top-notch. It's not just that it has an 8-megapixel resolution, but that the photos seem more true to life than other 8-megapixel smartphone cameras. A nice touch is that you have your choice of two ways of snapping a photo -- either use a physical camera button, or else tap the area of the screen where you want the camera to focus, and it does the rest.

What's not so good

All that being said, there are some downside to phone. To begin with, it has only one camera, so that you can't use it for video chat or videoconferencing. Given that competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy S II has two cameras, this is a decided drawback.

There's also no notification LCD on the front, so you won't receive any visual clues that you've got waiting messages, texts, or emails, for example. The 16 GB of onboard storage is adequate, but not outstanding. There's no Micro SD slot, so 16 GB is all you'll get.

Can it save Windows Phone 7?

The Lumia 800 is a beautifully designed phone, and with Mango, it runs a top-notch operating system. By itself, though, it's no Windows Phone 7 savior. The iPhone overall is still a slicker, more elegant device. And the Android-based Samsung Galaxy S II is not only beautifully designed, but sports a larger screen and more impressive specs.

The truth is, though, no phone by itself can save Windows Phone 7. But Nokia has shown with the Lumia 800 that it can design phones that stack up reasonably well against the iPhone and high-end Android phones. If Nokia builds other phones to this standard, Windows Phone 7 will have a shot at succeeding.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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