Nokia model is Windows' best hope of taking a bite out of Apple
It's easy to forget that there's a mobile phone out there that isn't an iPhone or Android.
Although Apple and the scores of Android-based devices hog all the limelight (and the phone sales), Microsoft has been desperately trying to grab what little attention is left for its Windows Phone operating system.
Nokia has released a Windows-based phone that finally has generated talk. The Lumia 900 is the new flagship model for the operating system, and it's attracted buyers with sleek looks and simplified Windows interface. It is available only through AT&T for $99.99 with a two-year contract.
Design • In the case of the Lumia 900, it's hard not to judge a book by its cover. Nokia's handset is probably the slickest and most appealing design I've seen since the iPhone 4.
Unlike visually clunky Android-based phones such as the Samsung Galaxy line or any of HTC's phones, the Lumia 900 is streamlined, with straight, simple lines and elegantly curved edges. Unfortunately, that simplicity is interrupted by two oddly placed buttons, the camera shutter and the power button, which is on the side instead of the top.
It also feels heavier and more dense than most phones. The back is made of a unibody polycarbonate construction that gives the phone its simple design, as well as a substantial feel in its build.
Performance • Although the phone is well-designed, things get a little more iffy when you turn it on.
Using a 1.4-gigahertz processor, the phone is sluggish, compared with the iPhone's silky performance. As with nearly all Android phones, scrolling through the Lumia's screen is not as smooth as it should be. But it certainly has got enough horsepower to run all the apps I threw at it, from "Angry Birds" and "Plants vs. Zombies" to the Netflix app.
The Lumia has a 4.3-inch AMOLED screen that is bright and clear, but the resolution is noticeably lower than the latest iPhone. Text on a webpage, for example, is hard to make out before you zoom in. But the colors are vibrant, and the contrast is deep.
The call quality is decent, if not great, and it's equipped with 4G LTE connectivity (the only Windows phone to have it), although it's a useless feature for now because AT&T has not turned on its LTE network in Utah. The battery is rated at seven hours, but expect less under real-world conditions.
Windows • The Lumia 900 uses the latest version of Windows Phone 7.5, also known as Mango. Mango has colored tiles rather than small icons to access programs. And because they're bigger, you can see constant real-time updates or alerts on some of the tiles. It also includes Xbox integration so gaming statistics on the phone are tied to your Xbox 360 at home.
It's a much more elegant interface than anything that uses Google's Android operating system, and it's even prettier than Apple's iOS. However, it requires the Zune software in order to move music and movies from your PC.
The Zune software provides results similar to iTunes, but with it there isn't a way to either download or stream movies directly to the phone from the Zune marketplace. You have to go through the PC first (the Zune software is not available on Macs).
Apps • The phone's apps are purchased through the Windows Phone Marketplace. With more than 82,000 available for the phone, there is nearly everything you might want, including an app for Netflix streaming, Facebook and the Spotify music service.
But that's still a far cry from the 450,000 apps in the Android Market and the 725,000 in Apple's iTunes. The Windows Phone Marketplace still doesn't have exceptional apps such as Flipboard, Zite, the Xfinity app or the biggest one, Skype.
If the adage "hardware is only as good as its software" applies here, then the Nokia Lumia 900 definitely is at the bottom of the smartphone ranks. But it's such a handsome phone at such a great price, you may not mind.
Google+: +Vincent Horiuchi