Published on April 10th, 2012 | by Ramon Trotman1
The Nokia Lumia 900 Review: Something Truly Special
A great many things are riding on the success of the Lumia 900, the fate of the once mobile juggernaut Nokia and the relevance of Microsoft in the mobile market. From the very announcement of the partnership between the two, excitement was in the air. For some, the partnership was viewed as a unity between the ultimate software and hardware powerhouses. To others, it was a desperation attempt on the behalf of two dying breeds in the mobile industry. Although it is still too early to tell, the likes of the Lumia 900 is here to sway the outcome for the better.
Some really key things were done to make this phone special before it even reached the consumer. For instance, Nokia allocated $25 million in a genius marketing ploy. Microsoft tried to push the OS before, but with little success. No matter how much pressure they put on the carriers to train employees, they still didn’t accept the devices. This new idea from Nokia was simple; just give the phone to AT&T employees. They didn’t make it a pressure push from the top or force it down anyone’s throat, they just gave it them. Did I mention before this was genius? Give anyone a free phone and they’ll actually use it! It’ll feel a lot less like work and a lot more like “let me just see what this is about.” That is exactly what happened.
When we arrived at our local AT&T store, the manager actually had the phone out. Not that I ever doubted the strategy, but to see an AT&T employee actually using a Windows Phone was something I was not use to. When the manager greeted us and actually found out why we were there, he was ecstatic to clue us in on the device. I choose to play the consumer roll for once to see how well this would play out. I was thoroughly impressed as he explained to us how deep the Facebook and Twitter integration ran throughout the OS. He had a pride when describing the device; he even insisted we use the phone to hit a website or two just to see how smooth it was. The awe didn’t stop there, even after we explained to him we were actually Microsoft fans, he had a slew of questions for us. It was truly amazing to him so enthusiastic about the device. And still it continued, the actual store rep who assisted us shared in the excitement. He told us he was a big Android user, but he couldn’t help but be blown away at how smooth and stable the device was for the week or so he had it.
The enthusiasm we encountered at our local AT&T store was a huge part of the puzzle gone right. No amounts of training or marketing material could ever get a person to love a device. Give it to them, suddenly things change. They actually gave it the time of day, and just as expected, came to understand the hype. There is much beauty in this is domino effect that is sure to follow. Employees are a lot more likely to recommend Windows Phone devices if they feel comfortable enough to use them as personal devices themselves. This theory was proven when we returned later that day. Tawann wasn’t completely satisfied with the sound quality on the Nokia ( he will explain in his review of the Titan II) and opted for the Titan II instead, when we arrived, our sales rep was busy selling a customer another Lumia 900. Awe was the feeling, the product spoke for itself and momentum was full steam ahead.
Nokia still had plenty more tricks up their sleeves. The week before launch date, Nokia sent out invitations and started the PR buzz for an event at Times Square in New York. They said little to nothing more about event. Also around the same time, rumors from the AT&T side of things started to surface. AT&T was said to be spending up to $150 million on the Lumia 900 launch, and titles read “AT&T’s biggest launch ever!” This was a huge statement, as AT&T is still regarded as the home of the iPhone. That $150 million figure meant AT&T was investing even more in Windows Phone than they did with the iPhone, more than a few people got that message. The hype train for the Lumia 900 was definitely on the move as interest in the device started to build. Then the Time Square Event happened. Wow, what an event! Nokia took it upon themselves to shut down Time Square for a Nicki Minaj performance. This was something no one expected, but it played out in a huge way. Although I didn’t attend the event, I kept a close eye on two twitter searches, “Nicki Minaj” and “Lumia 900.” Twitter was going wild! Fans of Nicki Minaj suddenly had interest in the Lumia, and a few posts even had questions like “Lumia 900? What is that? It does look a lot better than my iPhone.” The Buzz was out in a big way, and the phone had yet to touch down!
As I mentioned before, more than a few key things happened behind the scenes before the Lumia 900 even made its way home. But, now that I have the device, does it live up to the hype? Let’s see.
The Lumia’s design is the very first and most obvious of its features. It is a stunning phone to look at, and by far the most exciting device to hold in your hand since the iPhone 4s. It has some very pronounced curves and square-rounded edges. I’d go crazy trying to describe it, but it’s something you have to see for yourself. The screen gives the appearance of being offset and slightly raised. Also worthy of mention is the actual material of the build. It’s carved from a solid block of a plastic called polycarbonate. I’d be lying to you if I said I had any idea what that is, but what I can tell you is it feels great to the touch and in the hand. The beautiful cyan color suits the design well, and thanks to the polycarbonate, if chipped, the color remains consistent all the way to the core of the makeup. My only complaint with the design is the placement of the power button. It’s located right under the volume rocker, pretty much at the middle of the side. This is a really awkward place to put it and it will take some getting used to.
From a technical spec stand point, the Lumia 900 holds its own, even in a world where the foot race consists of weekly releases of Android devices with incremental hardware improvements. It’s stalked with a single-core 1.4 GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 4.3” AMOLED clear-black display, Carl Zeiss 8mp Camera including front facing camera, 1800 MaH battery, AT&T’s new LTE connectivity, and the usual Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies.
As the tech savvy amongst us will be quick to point out, the Snapdragon processor features in the Lumia 900 is not dual-core. Trending hardware aside, the performance of the device does not suffer from the single core offering, in fact, since owning the device, it never broke stride. Windows Phone is well optimized and makes great use of its hardware spec. Although 16GB of internal storage is more than enough for the likes of me, I suspect some consumers may opt for a 32GB or even 64GB option. The 4.3” AMOLED display is as beautiful as any other, with the addition of the clear black technology. I did find the screen particularly easy to read out in day light.
The 8mp Carl Zeiss camera features a notable f/2.2 which in theory is supposed to take advantage of whatever light is available to produce great pics. Unfortunately this has not been the case. Images produced are inconsistent as the white balance and focusing just never seemed to respond as expected. The camera is indeed capable of some great shots, the problem is you can never predict when. I suspect Nokia will be releasing some updates to address the inconsistency; hopefully we don’t have to wait too long. The front facing camera was a solid performer, I had no complaints.
The second major feature of the Lumia 900 comes to us compliments of AT&T’s uber fast LTE network. It seems like forever since I’ve been waiting for this rollout, and to have it on a Windows Phone makes this even better. I’ve been doing some solid testing in different areas and I can pull constant speeds up to 25Mbps down and around 10Mbps up. I can assure you this is faster than the speeds I currently get with my home internet provider, this is simply amazing. The LTE speeds benefit the Lumia in a very interesting way. I’ve always told people hardware spec doesn’t make your phone faster, OS optimization and data pipeline was the key. Windows Phone took care of the OS part, and LTE takes care of the pipeline. An app like Facebook now seems 5 times faster on my Lumia 900 than it did on my Titan. It isn’t because the Lumia is a faster device, it’s because the LTE pipeline pushes that data through much faster. This leads to an overall faster experience. Things like browsing, downloading attachments in emails, checking online photo albums and even twitter feeds populating on launch all seem instant. AT&T should be commended for their LTE network!
Design and hardware spec would have been enough to give the phone personality on its own, but the charm does not stop there. Nokia has a suite of software they offer to help bridge the gap between standard offerings on WP7 and other platforms. Nokia Maps works fairly similar to Google Maps and offers business look ups, landmark information and even directions. Nokia transit should be a hit with city slickers as it gives you the best route to get from point A to point B using public transportation based on where you are. The star of the show is Nokia Drive. This is Nokia’s navigation solution complete with offline maps. These three offerings give the Lumia 900 a bit of an edge over other Windows Phones while keeping it in the comparison game with other platforms.
The Lumia 900 can be purchased at AT&T for a mind blowing $99. I am not sure who is behind this one, be it Nokia or AT&T, but never before has a phone of this quality been offered at this price. Even if you had a counter attack for every feature offered by the Lumia 900, the price alone off sets if all. In its own right, the $99 price point should be regarded as a feature on its own.
I have never seen a device this pampered; the Lumia 900 has been carefully handled from every angle. Microsoft provided an elegant yet functional OS worthy of beautiful hardware all the while over extending their partnership to Nokia. Nokia delivered a strong package: beautiful and unforgettable design, relevant hardware specs and solid software to dress it up and a killer marketing campaign. Even AT&T does their fair share with some money spent and a commitment to the device as well as the platform.
What makes the Nokia Lumia 900 such a remarkable device is the stature around it. When reviewing the Lumia 900, you start to notice something truly special. This is not only a Lumia 900 review, but it’s a review of all the key players involved, a group effort of sorts. You have to take a step back and see Microsoft’s vision for the Windows phone platform. Love it or hate it, you’d still have to tip your hat to how far it’s come in such a short time. Then you have to send a smile or two Nokia’s way for their innovation. The design of the phone is exactly what the doctor ordered, not to mention you can’t help but feel like a proud parent saying to a child “see….i knew you could do it!” Then you’d have to give a pat on the back to the unlikely second runner up for MVP, AT&T. They delivered a killer LTE performance profile and showed commitment to the product and platform. I am very impressed with the in store experience I was greeted with on launch day (special shout out to the Manager Ronald Cruiel and his sales rep Bryan Reid over at Triangle Junction AT&T store, these guys were class acts and defiantly did their part in the Lumia 900/Windows Phone experience,) it makes me extremely proud to be an AT&T customer. They definitely earned their strips as the “premier” Windows Phone carrier.
Nokia set out to deliver a device with a loveable personality of its own, a device like none other, something that could foster an iconic status. Flaws and all, I am happy to say they made good on their delivery. Three generations in, it is now safe to say, the Lumia 900 is “THE” Windows Phone to own. At the $99 price point, it is also safe to say, the Lumia 900 is “THE” smartphone to own. I highly recommend the Nokia Lumia 900!