Hands-on with the Nokia Lumia 800

We go hands-on with the Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia's first Windows Phone

Nokia's Lumia 800

Nokia's Lumia 800

In February 2011, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced that the company would be switching from Symbian to the Windows Phone platform for its core smartphones. It's been a long time coming, but the Nokia Lumia 800 is finally here, almost 12 months after that original announcement.

Nokia Lumia 800 preview
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Well, it's sort of here. The Lumia 800 isn't officially available in Australia yet, but its expected to launch in the very near future. Thanks to Australian online store MobiCity, we've managed to source a Lumia 800 to take a look at before it officially hits the shelves Down Under.

What we like

We've only had our hands-on the Nokia Lumia 800 for a day or so, but we can tell you it's left a largely positive first impression. It's design is almost identical to the Nokia N9. That's a fantastic aspect in our opinion as the N9 was one of best looking and slickest smartphones we've ever reviewed.

The Lumia 800 uses a solid polymer body that Nokia says is manufactured from the same material often found in ice hockey helmets. Like the N9, the Lumia 800's polycarbonate casing is coloured all the way through in the manufacturing process, so scratches, dents or marks from everyday use will not show up. The Nokia Lumia 800 is available in black, cyan and magenta colours and these will vary depending on carrier.

There are a couple of minor differences in design between the N9 and the Lumia 800. There's no front facing camera on the latter and the screen is slightly smaller — 3.7in compared to 3.9in. This isn't a huge deal breaker as the extra space was necessary to include the touch-sensitive Windows keys — back, home and search. As the screen is smaller it also has a slightly lower resolution of 480x800. However, the Lumia 800 has a dedicated camera button on the right hand side which the N9 didn't include: it's a very nice inclusion and makes using the camera quicker and easier.

From the moment you pick it up, the Lumia 800 feels like a superbly constructed smartphone. It's light to hold, but not light enough that it feels flimsy or cheap. The edges of the phone are rounded, so it sits in your hand perfectly. The screen is very responsive and very bright and clear — it may lack the higher, HD resolution of new phones like the Galaxy Nexus, but it remains an excellent display in its own right. If you're concerned about the size of your smartphone, we think the Lumia 800 is a near perfect balance between a large screen and a comfortable design.

The user experience of the Nokia Lumia 800 is also excellent. If you've never used a Windows Phone before you can expect a fast and slick OS that's dead simple to use. We didn't experience any lag during general use. Applications opened swiftly with no delay, and multitasking is effortless and very effective.

What we don't like

We love the design of the Nokia Lumia 800, but we don't like the flap that covers the micro-USB port on top. It's awkward to open as you need to dig your fingertip into the left side of the cover to flip it up. The Lumia 800 doesn't have a removable battery and uses a micro-SIM card rather than a full-sized one, so if you're strung up about being able to remove the battery you'll be left disappointed. We don't think this is much of an issue: it certainly doesn't hinder Apple's iPhone 4S.

A much bigger issue and a real disappointment is the lack of removable storage. The Lumia 800 only has 16GB of internal memory. To be fair, this is a problem not restricted to Windows Phones: the Android-powered Galaxy Nexus also has the same issue, though 32GB models of the latter are reportedly on their way. No such luck when it comes to the Lumia 800, so you'll need to make do with the 16GB model.

The Nokia Lumia 800's Web browser is slick and has all the features we've come to know and love on smartphones including pinch to zoom capability. However, it loads pages slower than both the Galaxy Nexus and the iPhone 4S when compared directly over the same Wi-Fi network. Speaking of the Galaxy Nexus, the Lumia 800 shares an issue with Android's flagship: the volume of its speaker is quite low. This is particularly noticeable when using the hands-free speakerphone during a phone call, but it also affects the volume of ringtones, too.

There is also the apps issue. While the Windows Phone platform has plenty of the popular applications like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Evernote, the fact remains that the number and quality of apps is low when compared directly with its rivals: Apple's iOS platform and Google's Android OS.

Unlike the N9, the Nokia Lumia 800 isn't a quad-band 3G device. There will be two models of the device sold in Australia — one that supports Optus and Vodafone's 900 and 2100MHz 3G networks, and another that works on Telstra's 850MHz Next G network.

We'll be publishing a full, comprehensive review in the coming week which will include a closer look at some of Nokia's exclusive software: Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps in particular. In the meantime if you have any questions or thoughts on the Nokia Lumia 800, please let us know in the comments below!

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
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