Nokia Lumia 900 Reviews
Last night (April 3, 2012) the embargo was lifted, and Nokia Lumia 900 reviews started flowing in. At first glance, one would think the reviews were mixed, or even that the device was being slammed. Lots of good words, but bottom line being negative. I went through most of the top reviews, and as you unpeel the onion you see that generally, everyone agrees that this phone definitely has the chops to compete with the top smartphones on other platforms. The issues that have been brought up are actually a problem Nokia and Microsoft will have to tackle somehow. These are, generally speaking, issues faced by techies, but since techies control the message nowadays, it is a situation that needs to be addressed.
First though, the key selling points for the device: fantastic design, great screen (ClearBlack AMOLED), LTE, low price, good camera and a fresh (compared to iOS and its poor clone, Android) operating system. Some reviewers contradicted each other on some of the features (like The Verge’s Josh Topolsky and PC Mag’s Sascha Segan criticizing the camera but Engadget’s Joseph Volpe and PC World’s Ginny Mies claiming it was great and versatile), and of course different reviewers rated the “good” on different levels of the spectrum based on their preferences and experience.
However, I saw some of the issues that the reviewers brought up in their reviews, and Nokia and Microsoft both have to be concerned. First is that expectations are sky-high for Nokia. They are known to make excellent devices and after putting all their eggs in the Windows Phone basket, a lot is expected of them. Also, with RIM imploding, there is nobody else to take the 3rd spot behind iOS and Android, so the anticipation is heightened. As a result, even a minor issue will get amplified.
Furthermore, Microsoft has not released a new version of the Windows Phone OS. It is still Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango”, although it has some minor fixes applied, post-Mango. As a result, reviewers have to be pretty strict in not trying to evaluate the OS and instead focus only on the device. It is hard to do, and consequently, you end up seeing the unnecessary rant by Josh Topolsky about how Windows Phone is severely lacking when compared to iOS and Android.
[My counter-rant: It is unclear what exactly is Topolsky ranting about specifically with respect to Windows Phone. He claims the jerkiness of apps and lack of certain apps, however these are not issues when it comes to Android devices. Android’s lags and the poor nature of many of the apps, along with the perpetual complaints about battery life are well-documented, and even today, there are way more useful and beautiful apps on iOS than on Android. Clearly he chose to overlook these facts and continues to. I really like his reviews, but sorry to say, on this one he blew it.]
Finally, there is another angle which goes against Nokia and other Windows Phones, and that is the spec. Windows Phone has a strict guideline on the chassis specification and as a result, device makers aren’t allowed to deviate from some standards like screen resolution, processor, number of cores, number of buttons, etc. Windows Phone is engineered so well that it actually performs decently even with a single core, at lower speeds of CPUs and with much lower memory, than the competition. The tech blogosphere, though, is obsessed with tables which compare each spec of various phones, and the Lumia 900 will get “beaten” in most of those categories. This results in headlines with “disappointed” and “mediocre” when referring to the Lumia 900, despite several prominent writers declaring that the spec is dead.
Perception is Reality
I am not going to defend Nokia and Microsoft here. This is a genuine issue today, and a lot of customers are going to look at specs. Remember how Apple was also criticized before it got a dual-core chip in the iPhone? The thing going against Windows Phone now is that “all other phones” have multiple cores and more memory, so the perception is that Windows Phones are somehow lacking in their specification. Of course, we know that is not true. For most of the common tasks that you would do on your phone, Windows Phone is demonstrably faster, as seen by the results of the somewhat controversial Smoked By Windows Phone (and its equivalents around the world) campaign.
I have played with the phone at CES, although it cannot be called “testing” or “review”. I like how it is designed, the cyan color, and that it has LTE. I like the 4.3” screen, although at the size you can probably see the deficiency of 800×480 resolution. I love the fact that Nokia is throwing in a bunch of exclusive Nokia apps and also have some third-party apps and games, coming first to the Lumia line of phones. I like that the phone is priced to sell aggressively, to first-time smartphone buyers as well. Would I like to see a higher resolution screen, especially for that screen size? Sure. Would I love to have the top 10 non-game apps on iOS be available on Windows Phone? Sure. At this point though, at $99 with contract with all the other features that come with the phone, I would say this is a great phone to buy. This holds true especially if you have a previous generation Windows Phone, or if you are new to smartphones. If you are moving from Android or Blackberry, depending on how much you relied on apps, this phone may or may not be an easy substitute. Finally, if you are using an iPhone, there is a good chance you won’t bother with changing your phone in general.
As for the reviews themselves, I love the feature at gdgt which aggregates device reviews in one nice place. Check it out here. Some of my favorite reviews:
What’s your favorite review? Are you going to buy the Lumia 900? Let me know!