Microsoft and Nokia are all in on the latest Windows Phone: the Nokia Lumia 900. I've been testing it for about a week and I'm disappointed.
This is the phone that Nokia and Microsoft hoped would bring them iPhone-level recognition. The two have fixed a lot of what has been wrong with both companies' mobile offerings and put their heads together to make a good phone. But I do have many misgivings.
Let's start with the good stuff: The hardware is lovely. I like the blue framing and I'd go so far as to say it's one of the most beautifully designed phones I've ever held. It also feels like a solid piece of electronics. It does not feel like a $99 phone at all! If you set it next to a $99 Android phone, you would think it was twice the price.
The software is also quite great. Windows Mobile has come a long way and it is a pleasure to use. Windows Phone is easy to navigate, easy to learn, easy to find the apps that you want when you want them. There are still too few quality apps that run on the platform but Microsoft is catching up quickly. But catching up at this point is not good enough.
Now the bad: My first reaction was that the screen looks over saturated. The colors are bright and not in a pleasant, Easter egg kind of way. It felt blown out and text looks fuzzy to the point of wanting to put the phone down.
I'm also not a fan of the size. I know some people do think bigger is better when it comes to mobile devices. But I'm so used to my iPhone, which I think is perfectly sized for one or two-handed usage. The Lumia is 4.3 inches and it just doesn't serve the way I type which is very often with one thumb. My hands are pretty large, after all (I'm a 6'2" inch guy), and my my thumb still can't reach across the screen.
Internet Explorer isn't particularly great as well. It doesn't look good and it doesn't work well. I had several webpages that simply would not load. It's a shame.
The 8-megapixel camera performs well but the photos I took around my neighborhood were still inferior to the same photos taken with an iPhone 4S boasting the same resolution camera.
After all of this, let me repeat that this phone is only $99 with a two-year contract on AT&T. The price might just be what makes this phone a success. But remember, at the same AT&T store you'll find 2010's iPhone 4, with a better web browsing experience and nicer display, for the same $99. Or pick up a brand new Samsung Galaxy S II, one of the best Android phones on the market, for $99.
If Nokia and Microsoft really want to compete with the big boys -- meaning Apple and Google -- they have to do something amazing. Something big that neither iPhone nor Android can do. The Lumia doesn't do that. It just does similar things pretty well.
The Nokia Lumia 900 ends up with a passing grade, and budget smartphone shoppers may be able to tolerate the phone's drawbacks. But it doesn't pass with flying colors. Just really, really bright and saturated ones.