Nokia have put in a lot of work over the past year in the scramble to stay relevant in the smartphone market. They launched the Lumia 800 which is easily the best designed Windows Phone to date. Later, when Microsoft brought the minimum requirements for Windows Phone down, Nokia launched the Lumia 710 as a more budget conscious Windows Phone.
Windows Phone has received more than its fair share of attention thanks to its elegant design as well as the speed and fluidity of the operating system in general. However, the number of applications available on the Windows Phone market and the quality thereof, and the underlying operating system’s lack of certain features have certainly not helped in it gaining a solid market share.
Can the Lumia 900 change this, or is it just another Windows Phone?
Design and build quality
The Lumia 900 takes many of its design cues from the Lumia 800, but makes a few subtle tweaks. The outside casing is once again a single piece of polycarbonate and it gets the same praise. It looks good and feels hardy.
On top is the 3.5mm jack, a microUSB port and the ejectable micro SIM tray. The microUSB port is no longer covered with a flimsy flap (or anything else, for that matter), and the micro SIM tray is easily accessible.
The left side is bare, while the right side is, as with the Lumia 800, overcrowded with the volume rocker, power button, and camera shutter button.
On the bottom is the speaker, while the back holds the 8 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash.
The Lumia 900 does away with the beautiful and (fairly) unique curved glass display on the front, opting to go for something a little more conventional. The other notables on the front are the capacitive buttons (Back, Home, and Search) as well as the front facing camera in the top left corner.
The Lumia 900 has one of the best designed exteriors and it’s something that Nokia can be very proud of.
The Lumia 900 carries a Qualcomm APQ8055 Snapdragon SoC, with a 1.4GHz single-core Scorpion CPU and an Adreno 205 GPU. There’s 512MB of RAM and 16GB of non-expandable storage.
Connectivity is provided by Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, and HSPA+ (up to 21Mbps down and 5.76Mbps up).
Against phones like the Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, the Nokia Lumia 900 looks almost like a budget device internally.
Screen and responsiveness
The Lumia 900 is outfitted with a 4.3-inch 800×480 ClearBlack AMOLED display.
While colours are vibrant and blacks are deep, there is one big problem with the screen: the resolution. 800×480 is now a decidedly mid-to-low range resolution and doesn’t stand up to other high-end smartphones that are currently available. Where this does play an important role is in the smoothness of text, which is quite important in an OS in which typography is of such importance.
There’s nothing to complain about in terms of responsiveness. Microsoft and Nokia have done a good job to keep Windows Phone one of the most responsive mobile operating systems on the market.
Sound and call quality
Sound quality on the speaker was good, though anything below maximum volume is much too soft.
The bundled headphones were similarly good, though similarly soft as well.
Call quality was okay, but the earpiece on our unit distorted quite heavily on volumes over 5/10.
The Lumia 900 stocks an 8 megapixel camera capable of 3,264 x 2,448 still shots and 720p video recording at 30 frames per second.
Pictures and videos are generally good, but there’s nothing spectacular.
Images do get noticeably grainy in lower-light situations, though the dual-LED flash does a decent job lighting things up when necessary.
The front side 1 megapixel camera is also nothing special, but works well enough for video calls.
In day-to-day use, the battery life of the Lumia 900 was great. We managed to get well over a day with frequent use. Most users will probably be able to squeeze two days out without too much trouble.
In our video looping test (looping 720p video at medium brightness with Wi-Fi on) the Lumia 900 got around 6.5 hours
In terms of software, the only real difference between the Lumia 800 and the Lumia 900 is that the Lumia 900 has a pre-loaded “Tango Video Calls” app which, obviously, allows you to make video calls. However, the only reason this difference exists is because the Lumia 900 has a front facing camera.
It’s also very important to note that Microsoft has said that current Windows Phone 7 devices will not be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8, but will instead get an upgrade to Windows Phone 7.8.
This will supposedly include many of the “core customer experiences” in Windows Phone 8, though what exactly that means is unclear. What we do know is that apps compiled specifically for Windows Phone 8 will not run on Windows Phone 7 devices.
In the end, the Lumia 900 feels like a larger Lumia 800 with a few extra features that will mostly go unnoticed.
With the questionable pricing from MTN (R369 on an Anytime 200 contract), and the fact that Microsoft has essentially exiled it, it’s impossible to recommend the Nokia Lumia 900 over the similarly priced HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S3.