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When Nokia met Windows phone

From the moment the clear, black AMOLED display on the Nokia Lumia 800 blinks to life, you know you’re holding something special in your hands. The colours are sharp; the icons pop; the menus zip beneath your finger so fluidly you can barely keep up with them.

gadgets Updated: Dec 10, 2011 01:21 IST
Pranav Dixit

From the moment the clear, black AMOLED display on the Nokia Lumia 800 blinks to life, you know you’re holding something special in your hands. The colours are sharp; the icons pop; the menus zip beneath your finger so fluidly you can barely keep up with them. On the back, an 8 mega-pixel Carl Zeiss camera with dual LED flash nestles into the smooth, polycarbonate shell that rests reassuringly sturdy against your palm. Yes sir, the Lumia 800 is special. But then, it better be. After all, Nokia’s new flagship phone may well be its final chance at making a dent in the global smartphone market where it is rapidly losing out to rivals like Apple and Samsung. In fact, Samsung overtook Nokia for the first time as the leading smartphone manufacturer in the third quarter of 2011 by the number of units sold last month, says industry research firm Gartner. With the Lumia 800, Nokia is trying to pull its socks up.

Like no other
Visually, the Lumia 800 bears a striking similarity to the Meego-powered Nokia N9, which is a good thing — it looks like no Nokia product ever released before. You can get it in three rather striking colours (shiny black, bubblegum pink and beautiful blue) and has a slightly curved profile with bevelled edges. The bright 3.7-inch capacitive display looks gorgeous both indoors and outdoors after you’ve wiped all the fingerprints off (to say that this thing is a fingerprint magnet is an understatement). At its heart is a single-core 1.4 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM. And while you’re stuck with 16GB of onboard storage, completely eliminating a microSD slot seems to be in vogue these days.

It’s the OS, stupid
What makes the Lumia 800 special? It is powered by Microsoft’s latest Windows Phone 7.5 ‘Mango’, a sexy beast of an OS that doesn’t really get enough credit in a world stuffed with self-styled Apple and Android fanatics. Windows Phone changes user interface paradigms with a lively ‘tiled’ interface known as ‘Metro’ and finely integrated social networking features. And it melds beautifully with the Lumia 800’s top-of-the-line hardware: swishing around tiles is an experience in itself; apps launch with almost zero lag; 3D games are on a par with their iPhone counterparts; capturing and editing images on the go is a snap; and pages, including those choc-a-bloc with graphics and images, load at unbelievable speeds on the built-in Internet Explorer 9 browser.

The only issue we have with Windows Phone is that it’s a smartphone OS with which you won’t exactly be spoilt for choice, as the number of apps available for download at the moment is only about 40,000 (compare this to Android Marketplace’s 600,000+ apps and about 60,000+ in Nokia’s Ovi Store). But then, it’s still early days. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/10-12-pg15a.jpg

To sweeten the deal, Nokia has included a handful of Lumia-specific features like 3D Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive (a free, turn-by-turn voice-based navigation system) and App Highlights, a fun feature that will throw up interesting apps tailored to your tastes every time you shake the phone.

To buy or not to buy
Does this mean that the Lumia 800 is a perfect phone? In many ways, it is. If you’re new to the world of smartphones, can’t afford an (overpriced) iPhone 4S and (rightly) believe that Android is too ‘geeky’, Windows Phone is the perfect OS to take the plunge with. But when it hits the stores in a couple of weeks, Lumia 800 is expected to cost Rs30,000 (best buy price, MRP is approx Rs34,000) — as much as some of its high-end Android competitors, most of which offer decidedly more cutting edge features, which Lumia 800 could have offered too. Take for instance the absence of a front-facing camera for video calls. Or the lack of a larger display at a time when almost every smartphones offers a minimum of 4-inch displays. Why are we being forced to use Zune to transfer data — including pictures — to a computer? Neither does this unibody wonder offer HDMI connectivity nor NFC, the next ‘big thing’ in mobile connectivity according to none other than Nokia itself. And why — oh why — does the camera take such lacklustre images in anything less than perfect lighting conditions?

If Nokia is serious about reviving its fortunes in the smartphone world — and by all accounts it is — it must ensure that a flagship device like Lumia 800 must not only jolt its competitors but also go a step further and create a new benchmark. Is this a great phone? By all means. For you, dear consumer, is it value for money? It almost is. Almost. Your monthly dose of technology