Name: Nokia Lumia 900
Price: $100 (w/two-year contract)
The Back Story: The Finnish mobile giant put together a six-month buildup consisting of tradeshow appearances, special events, and clever marketing ads all of which led to the official launch of its flagship Windows Phone 7 device: the Lumia 900. Serving as a testament to Microsoft’s strides with its mobile operating system and Nokia’s futuristic designs, the Mango-powered handset, along with the HTC Titan II, were quickly billed as the next coming of WP7 handsets at CES 2012. With AT&T having sold out of its online stock in the first month and sales continuing to grow, it would seem like Nokia and Microsoft's lovechild has become the biggest smartphone of 2012.
What’s so special about this particular WP7 device? Let’s see: An 8MP camera sporting Carl Lens optics, a smooth and beautiful OS, LTE coverage, and the most attractive design of any handset out. But while it’s unarguably the best Windows Phone on the scene, does that necessarily make it AT&T’s top dog?
• Ultramodern design: In person, the Lumia 900 is stunning and sleek. The unibody chassis immediately grabs your eye, donning a rectangular shape with tapered edges, a slightly raised touchscreen, and four chrome buttons on the right side. Measuring at 5.03" (length) x 2.7" (width) and .45 inches thick, it obviously doesn’t bear the slimness of the Droid RAZR or share the proportions of the iPhone 4S. But it feels great in-hand and in-pocket. Not to mention it’s one rugged SOB.
• Fast 4G speeds: We’ve already put Ma Bell’s LTE network to the test this year with the Galaxy Note and Titan II. Both phones showcased the carrier’s progress with its high-speed data roll out, producing above average 4G speeds. The Lumia 900 squeezes right in and delivers slightly better data speeds than the Note and Titan II. Downloads clocked in at 16Mbps and uploads at 2.3Mbps in New York City. 4G coverage also held up strong in certain parts of the Big Apple, mainly Manhattan and Queens.
• Dynamic OS and processing power: In a market dominated by Android and iOS devices, Microsoft’s Mango OS has yet to lose its flavoring. WP 7.5's favored features like its attractive, smooth, UI, and quicksilver performance only add to the Lumia 900's performance. As we noted with Titan II, the OS is so intuitive to where running a single-core 1.4GHz processor will produce similar benchmarks found on any Android dual-core phone. Multitasking is a beast, media playback is stutter-free, social network integration is better than any other mobiule OS (save for Google and its host of services) and MS Office documents load instantly.
• Great display: Widows Phones manufacturers have become a victim of hardware circumstance, having to work around Microsoft’s mandated requirements, but thanks to Nokia’s ClearBlack display technology the Lumia 900 bears the screen vibrancy lacking in previous WP7.5 models. The 4.3-inch AMOLED display generates richer colors and contrast, making it easier to view content in bright environments and in the sun.
• Effective camera: The 8MP shooter features a wider aperture lens and Carl Zeiss optics to enhance image quality, a package well worth the investment on Nokia’s end. Outside shots looked amazing as the camera adapts best to bright settings, capturing great shots in the daylight. Video recording was top notch. Even with a 720p restraint, it managed to pick up clear imagery and loud audio.
• Great value: It’s already worth spending a Benjamin on a WP7 headset for the operating system alone. Add LTE coverage and a sexy veneer to the mix and it’s a no-brainer. Those who hit up Amazon right now can grab it for $50.
• Camera focusing issues: Seems like Nokia’s shutterbug suffers from nearsightedness. Up close shots are money, but the auto focus struggles to frame objects when taking distant photos. It’s great having a dedicated button that automatically triggers the focus, but the feature makes it difficult to time snapshots and there’s no way of setting the focus on a particular background figure.
• Sub-par call quality: Our call experience on the Lumia 900 was quite the opposite to that of the Titan II. There was some distortion and muffling coming from the opposite end, plus the audio clarity wasn't sharp.
• Takes long to fully charge: The 1,830 mAh battery can pull a good 8 hours on heavy use (10+ on moderate), but expect to wait a few hours before the phone reaches a complete charge.
Final Say: The Lumia 900 lives up to its hype for the most part and sits comfortably atop of the Windows Phone throne. Is it AT&T's best phone? No, but it can give the iPhone a great run. There’s no denying the avant-garde look and build of Nokia’s design, which was clearly inspired by previous models like the Lumia 800 and N9. Data speeds are the highest of any AT&T WP7 device and the 8MP shooter works great outdoors as well. However, the Lumia 900 does have imperfections. Call quality could have been better and it’s almost baffling to see a phone sporting a Carl Zeiss lens having focus issues. In the end, the pros do outweigh the cons, and for $100, you’re getting one of the best phones available now at a phenomenal price.