Last weekend, the wife and I spent some alone time and she needed to get some issues with her iPhone resolved. After leaving the Apple store, we strolled through Tyson’s Corner Mall and happened upon the Microsoft Store. We were curious and decided to journey inside.
I have to admit, I really like the Microsoft Store. As usual, the Apple Store always seems that it’s the place to be. But, the Microsoft Store is really cool. In addition to the myriad computers and laptops running Windows 7, they had two stations showcasing their Surface technology. Surface is a touch screen/projector technology allowing you to swipe and flick a computer monitor that takes up the size of a work table. I personally think it’s pretty cool. There was a scene in the last Bond film, Quantum of Solace that displayed similar tech.
After checking out some Samsung phones, one of the floor salesman must have noticed how geeky we looked and asked us if we wanted to see something cool. Of course, we said sure. And he went in the back and brought out the Nokia Lumia 800.
It’s Nokia’s Easier, Faster, Funner entry into the smartphone market. The 800 runs Microsoft’s latest version of Windows Phone, Mango, and I have to admit, I fell in love with it immediately. The Lumia 800 sports a gorgeous, 3.7 inch, Super AMOLED screen. Nokia claims that their ClearBlack Gorilla Glass protected screen reproduces colors more vividly and accurately than any other smartphone display. Trust me, it’s beautiful.
The Lumia 800 is powered by a 1.4 GHz Scorpion (Snapdragon) chip using an Adreno 205 GPU. Although the Adreno 205 is grossly underpowered, Mango was extraordinarily snappy and all of the Window flyouts and icon animations were displayed effortlessly. I’ve always felt that webpage scrolling is challenging for smartphones, and the mobile build of IE9 scrolled through websites with almost know lag or jitter. The 800 gives you 512 MB of RAM and 16GB of storage memory. The Lumia 800 is 3/3.5G phone with LTE support coming in the superbly designed Lumia 900 later this year.
On the back you’ll find an 8 megapixel shooter that produces spectacular pictures. Nokia cleverly integrated a dedicated shutter button for the camera that activates the camera app by simply clicking the shutter from anywhere. I think this is an awesome feature, because I’m always missing my kids’ unprompted moments waiting for my i4’s phone app to load, catching the tail end of that Kodak moment. The camera is very impressive, Nokia chose Carl Zeiss optics for the lens and gives you a dual-led flash head that even gives you a simplified burst mode. The Lumia produces HD video at 30 fps.
The Lumia 800 is very remarkable, but what I find most impressive is its software. It’s no secret that I believe that Microsoft’s Metro User Interface is a proper breakthrough for not only mobile operating systems but for greater computing. Metro is a full on digital user interface. You will not find glassy icons, 3D buttons, or shadowed window elements here. The UI is futuristic, it’s 21st century, and is a departure from what most people think of operating system widgets. When you watch sci-fi movies, the computer UIs are fully digital, futuristic, and Microsoft doesn’t disappoint with Windows Phone’s User Interface, Metro.
Using Metro is refreshing, I feel like I’m in the 21st century and it’s super responsive and feels right. Microsoft has even pushed Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines to the Nth degree by not only bringing your content front and center, but in some cases making your content the only important aspect of your app. Using my Apple mindset, the Camera/Photos app stupefied me and the floor rep had to show me that I was over thinking. There were no controls or navigation bars, all control was built into the photo. Single tap to play, double tap slideshow, tap-tap to remove. It was indeed, fully gestured, and intuitive. And fun to use. The years of study at Microsoft Research, the success of the Xbox, and feedback from Kinect players definitely show in the ease of use and experience Metro gives.
Of course Microsoft is going to build in mobile support for its second cash cow, Office. On the device we were using, the Office app synchronizes with Office Online and you can sync, edit, and upload your documents to and from the phone. As a business owner, this is great, and there are colleagues that will enjoy updating drafts while sitting on the Metro or in traffic.
So, will I switch? I’m seriously considering it. From a business point of view, continuing to develop apps for Android and iOS make sense. Both platforms have a large and expanding user base and there is a thriving iOS app market. Microsoft is trying to encourage more developers to build apps for the platform and all of the major developers are there. The challenge is getting consumers to purchase Windows Phone devices so that the market can thrive. Microsoft’s deal with Nokia could make this happen. Nokia was in the duldrums for sometime, but people forget that they are the world’s largest feature phone seller. Windows Phone is a legitimate and powerful mobile operating system. Using Microsoft money and ability to absorb losses Nokia can convert its base of feature phone users into smartphone users and you have three man race on your hands. Microsoft tools, development products, and languages are developer friendly. It’s faster and easier, to build and release .NET based applications that the memory confusing confines of Objective-C or the slimmed down Java platform of Android. Developers will come, but can Microsoft and its partners bring consumers? The sales reps kept making the point that Windows Phone does more without needing a bunch of apps and they are correct in that regard, but we’ve reached a point in computing where people want and expect lots of choice.
The Nokia Lumia 800 is bold, powerful, and sexy. It’s a little pricey at an unlocked price of $800, but you will not be disappointed. For anyone sick of iOS’s confinement or Android’s battery chucking habits, the Lumia 800 is a great device with an alternative platform.
The Nokia Lumia 800 is available in short supplies. The sales reps told us they’re sold out for six weeks. It’s 3/3.5G GSM based phone and ships unlocked.
What do you think about Microsoft and Nokia’s entry into the smartphone war?