Nokia Lumia 900 – Software Review

The hardware of the device was impressive, from the superb build and the quality of the materials used. If it was just up to the hardware, this device would be brilliant! I mean yes, it does have a few low points but overall, superb, but that is not the entire picture obviously, Software plays the remaining 50% of the role and this brings us to the second part of my Review, the Software.

The Nokia Lumia 900 is running Windows Phone 7.5 Tango and I shall be going through some of the good and bad, but I got to say before I begin, the device was a pleasure to use. There is something about its smoothness and simplicity that really shined.

One thing that made this part more complicated than it should be, was that Windows Phone 7.5 did not have a Screen Shot option! Hopefully they get this fixed soon with Windows Phone 8.

First of all, the home page. Pressing the lock button you will find a wall paper’d Screen with the date and time and other notifications. Sliding it upwards will bring you to the home screen (One thing nice about the lock screen is its spring loaded effect, where it falls down if let go)

Opening any page on this device just reminded me of how black the ClearBlack Screen really is! I can hardly tell where the screen ends and where the Bezel begins. Speaking of the screen, there was just one fault really, and that was the Screen Resolution of 480×800. You can really tell that it was of that resolution as there are pixels visible. I mean, it is not like a terrible thing but with most devices on the market today baring much higher resolutions it is easy to notice.

So, the home screen… it welcomes you with a lovely tile layout where everything is bright, clear and active. I really did like them being active. The tiles show latest updates on messages, emails, etc and the Pictures tiles slowly slideshows the pictures. It feels lively.

The thing I didn’t enjoy was the fact that the battery indicator is not constantly visible! Nor the signal! Just the time. You have to tap the top of the device to bring down those indicators

Also, I cant understand why we cannot get a battery % indicator, it just helps make things a lot clearer. I do not understand why only the Time would be displayed all time. It would be understood if that space is utilized for something else, but it isn’t! I guess Microsoft just wanted to keep the cleanest layout possible, I think we should have that as an option at least. Sliding the screen to the left brings up all the applications available on the device in a list, nothing active there. In the case of a huge list of applications, there is a search function built in as well.

Pressing either of the volume keys brings up the Audio controls drop down

Tapping the bell icon switches between Ring+Vibrate and Vibrate only. I did not figure out any way to turn off Vibration entirely.

One of the first things I do when I hold a new device is try out the keyboard! I mean, that would be the main way of communication right? (Yes, I do know phones are for “Phone Calls” but lets admit it, we spend more time typing these days) Loaded up Whatsapp (Free from the App Market) and gave it a whirl

Before I begin my criticism, the keyboard is a breeze to use. Coming from iPhones and Android devices, it is smooth as ever. Typing fast did not take more than a few seconds to get comfortable. Above the keyboard there is a little strip where the suggested words pop up to assist in typing. On the bottom, there are a few icons and a “…” on the right. Pressing the dots anywhere around the Operating system brings out the labels of these icons and more options. But even with this space saving feature, the amount of space taken up is a lot to my liking. I believe that the keyboard is a bit too tall, the suggested word bar and the slight gap above it are just taking up too much space on the screen. As seen above, I can exactly see 1 line of chat only. This means that in most cases I have to put away the keyboard after every time I type, that is not so chat friendly. Fixing mistakes is a breeze on this phone, if you touch and hold on text on the screen you get a little Cursor to place where you want to edit, but the difference here is, the cursor is provided above your finger, not where you have touched, allowing you to place it directly on the text without having your finger in the way. Smart.

I thought if I flipped the phone in landscape I might see more of the screen

Yeah… that did not help much. The same exact amount of space taken. I really did wish the phone had a higher resolution screen and a smaller keyboard layout (Not by much, but a bit)
Remember my comments on the status bar not showing the battery and signal information? It is still taking the entire bar’s space here on the left but only showing the time! Why the wasted space? but the real annoyance to me personally with the landscape layout was this:

This was not a nice experience, if you have figured it out already. The send button was right beside the backspace button. Why would you hit a backspace? to change something, but in this case, they often get to see what you wanted to change. Thanks Microsoft!

By this point in the review it might sound like it is all terrible news, but it is not! There are a lot of great features and there is a lot to come!
While exploring the whole Keyboard layout and typing out, I set up mail to see how it handles that

Email setup was pretty easy and basic, and the above is what the inbox looks like. Very clear and very straight forward. The way tabs/pages are handled in Windows Phone is sliding sideways will switch between tabs/pages. For example, if I swipe to the left, the above page would show the Unread, and then Urgent, etc It is all very smooth, very cool and is unified where ever more than 1 tab/page is available. The entire Operating System is actually very smart, and it shows it. I pressed the “…” to see what options I had to select a few emails for deleting, and I did. After which, I got a pop-up which told me that if I just tap beside an email (to the left) I can select emails right away. It was monitoring me! It gave me a tip! thanks! Being that I set up Hotmail, I had access to all my folders as well. On the top, above everything else, it usually indicates when it last synchronized the mail, i found that helpful.

Contacts Management is pretty cool on the Nokia Lumia 900, and is unified across the Operating System

Just like the Contact list, the Whatsapp Contacts (shown above) works in the same way. The Contacts show up with a thumbnail which is something the device gets from Hotmail account or their own Account set. One of the first things I noticed was there wasn’t any way to get to a letter in the bottom of the list without scrolling, and that was a pain, but then, by mistake I found a cool feature! Touching on the blue box with “#” or any letter for that matter, brings up this..

Just tapping on a letter takes you to that part of the contact list. Yes, it might not be the ideal solution, but it is pretty neat I got to say. It also, disables the letters that have no contacts under them.

So I used the mail a bit, and Whatsapp and a few features and pressing the back button always goes through the previous pages till the home screen. Pressing the Windows button takes you back to home screen. Pressing and holding the Back Button though, opens the Multitask screen

This is a easy way to switch between apps, but there is one feature that was really missing, and quite an important one! Closing applications! Why do I have to open every application to end it? Microsoft wake up! It just feels like a new feature that was released without fully thinking or completing. Multitasking is great and switching is very smooth (Some applications need to re-load, which is a bit of a drag) but it really needs a Closing App feature.

Time to take a look at one really important feature in today’s devices, the Camera

I’ll go straight to the end on this one, it isn’t bad but is not good either. It may be a Carl Zeiss 8 Mega Pixel Camera but it does not serve as expected. The shooter itself is very easy to use, plenty of options to adjust, plenty of options to play around with filters and quite fast as well. There are two ways of taking a snap; the physical two stage button (really nice to have one of these!) or touching where you would like the camera to focus and after it has, it will snap a shot. I found myself using the screen more often, it was just so much nicer to use. The image quality is not bad, but does not stack up well with its competitors. Here are two sample photos I have taken (In order of top to bottom: Indoors with good lighting, Outdoors during the day, Indoors in low light)

I felt that the colors are not the exact as it shows when you see them on the viewfinder, and I cannot figure out why. I am sure if I spent time adjusting the settings it would work out better but why do I need to do that in the first place, right?
Overall, it is not a big disappointment, but what I felt really did affect the Camera is blurry shots. I am not sure if the device had Image Stabilization or not, but the images do not come out well unless held steady.

The Video capture is quite good, no real complaints past the ones for the camera in general. Speaking of Videos, When video is being played back, whether off the device or on youtube for example, there is a backward and forward button which would skip several seconds in the video, but there isn’t an option to click and move the loading bar to the selected spot wanted. I find that really missing as I like to control where I want the video to play, or how much to skip.

There is about 16GB Internal Storage + there is Skydrive, something that Microsoft Integrated in Windows Phone 7.5 so photos can be uploaded to Cloud Storage, which is pretty nifty. What isn’t nifty is this

When you select a photo, and click the share option, you get the 4 above. All of which is great, but what I was trying to do is send the photo using Bluetooth. Why is this feature missing? Turned Bluetooth on, off and all but… I may not use this that often but still, it is an essential thing and is something that has annoyed me personally on the iPhone since I can remember. Ironically, Nokia was like the base of Bluetooth sending where almost anything could always be sent by Bluetooth. Again, Microsoft?! Aside from sending pictures, I couldn’t find a way to select multiple or all pictures to delete or share.

All the buttons have been pressed except for one so far. The search button

This is quite cool, it is a search engine that is always there for easy access. It opens up Bing search, and can be searched using the keyboard or voice. You get all the usual search results as going to including images. Quite convenient to have, but is it worth having a dedicated button for? I am not sure, never got used to it in the few weeks I have had it.

One feature I did not expect the device to have was Internet Sharing!

The setup was absolutely easy to do, and it just works really simple. I do not know why Microsoft wont let the screen show the entire name of the application on the screen (Half the “G” going away isn’t so cool). I ran a comparison test between the Nokia Lumia 900 and the iPhone 4s in sharing the internet, it performed very well, but the tether was slightly slower than the iPhone. Still shows that this is quite up to date, especially with people having laptops and tablets with them that need internet.

People often complain that Windows Phone does not have as many applications as Android and iOS. That may be true but it isn’t necessarily that far off! On Windows Phone 7.5 I had a lot of applications available for download, but not all of them are the very popular ones found available on iOS and Android, but I did see a lot of similar applications, and other applications that provide similar features, options. One thing that is unique to Nokia is they have their own Nokia Collection section

Here Nokia gets to put all their applications, whether device specific or general applications created by Nokia. I did find some interesting applications here. Adding applications is pretty straight forward and removing applications is a mere tap and hold and select delete. There are many categories and sections in the App Market and a search to make things easier. For me at least, as long as it had all the basic Applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and a few other “Can’t live withouts”, I was good. There were a few games that caught my eye, but I did not come across some really graphic heavy Games.

Don’t we all get scared when we use Internet Explorer compared to faster alternatives on a PC? Nothing really scary on the Windows Phone 7.5 though

The browser is quite fast, smooth, pinch-to-zoom works rather smoothly and the only real let down in the browsing experience, as before, is the Screen Resolution. In the above shot of my other blog, the main text is quite clear and readable but the side categories for instance are not clear. I would expect, out of a 4.3″ screen, I could read text that small quite clearly. there is not a lot of space taken up, and Microsoft has decided to remove the Status Bar in the browser for more space. The device does not support flash though.

All this reminds me of something I did not want to mention, but it does in fact remind me of the early days of the iPhone where a lot of features weren’t offered even though they were the basics.

Overall, this device is worth noticing, maybe not 100% in its absolute current form but because of its potential. The Software is almost there. The overall experience is very smooth, fluid and simple, everything simply works with no lags or jerks. The Screen is very responsive and functions without flaw. The device has pretty much all the basic features required and does them quite well. Messaging is simple, easy, and especially holding the device in landscape mode is a breeze (I have had a bit of issues with Portrait due to the sharp-like edges). Phone call quality is very good and have absolutely no complaints, voices are heard and being heard quite clearly. The Loud speaker isn’t as loud as I would like but is acceptable. Emailing is very good and with Office being built in, Word, Excel and Powerpoint files can be edited with ease on board the device without any third party applications.
There is no Notification section to see all the latest notifications like emails, messages, etc though, they just pop up on the top of the device as it rings and is marked next to the tiles. Not a really big issue actually. Software can be updated over the Air through WiFi and the device does handle WiFi connectivity pretty well and has a good strong capability of finding Wireless Networks and keep in mind that the device is LTE Capable, so surely indicates they are up to date.

I have really enjoyed using the device, and is certainly a very worthwhile device. It might not be ideal for the most demanding of users, but as a device for the essential functions it is very good. The main fall backs on the device come from the Software aspect which means could be easily improved in future devices. Nokia has done a very good job with this device from the hardware aspect, and a lot of people I have met were surprised to know that the funky blue device I was holding was in fact a Nokia.

I’d rate the Nokia Lumia 900 a 6.5 / 10, and I would recommend it for someone looking for a simple device, that is different and can do all the basic necessities with ease. I cannot wait to see what Nokia can come up with next because they are behind their competitors such as the Samsung S3 and iPhone 5, but not by too far. They better catch the opportunity, quickly!

2 thoughts on “Nokia Lumia 900 – Software Review

  1. good review , but you need to focus in Nokia specific things insted of the whole os 🙂
    for me , Windows phone worth nothing without Nokia .

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