Illuminating the Lumia -- The Nokia Lumia 900
Product Category: Windows Phone 7 Smartphone
Where to Buy: Expansys [affiliate]
Price: $765 USD (unlocked, no contract)
System Requirements: Comes with Windows Phone 7 Mango+ (8107) installed.
Specifications: 1.4Ghz single core CPU, 16Gb internal storage, 512Mb SDRAM; 4.3in WVGA (480 x 800) Super AMOLED screen; Quad band (850/900/1800/1900) GPRS, Tri band UTMS (900/1700/2100), HSPA+, LTE 700, 1700/2100; GPS; 8mp rear colour camera w/autofocus + LED flash, 1mp front-facing camera, 720p HD video recording; BT 2.1 EDR; 802.11b/g/n; 3.5mm stereo audio jack; microUSB 2.0; G-Sensor; 128mm (5.03in) x 69mm (2.7in) x 12mm (0.47in); 160g (5.6oz). Full specs are available at the Nokia site.
- Rogers first LTE-capable WP7 phone!
- Solid construction and feel;
- Call quality is excellent.
- No replaceable battery;
- Access to the microSIM card is difficult.
- Wi-Fi doesn't see the 5Ghz band;
Summary: There has been a lot of buzz (and sales activity) about Nokia's introduction of their premiere WP7 phone to the US marketplace, the Lumia 900. I was fortunate to pick one up the second day they came available through Rogers here in Canada. Now, after a week or two of working with it on a day-to-day basis, let's see how it stacks up.
Ever since the introduction of Windows Phone 7, I've been using AT&T branded phones that I acquire from various places, then unlock and use here on the Rogers network in Canada. This means I get to play with phones that most people never even see here in Canada, but the downside is that I'm at the mercy of AT&T with regards to updates and I'm on my own as far as technical support. My most recent purchase was a Samsung Focus S which worked great, but I got tired of waiting for AT&T to finally release the 8107 patch. So, when Rogers announced they were going to bring in Nokia's Lumia 900, I jumped at the chance to get back on a 'supported' phone and pre-ordered it as soon as the form became available on the Rogers. They notified me of shipment on April 7th and I picked up the Lumia 900 from a local store on the 14th.
What Comes in the Package
The Nokia Lumia 900 comes in a nice sturdy slide-out box which looks good, but what comes inside is pretty much the standard fare now.
Figure 1: Here's what came in the box. From left to right are: The Lumia 900 unit, a white USB to microUSB charge/sync cable; black earbuds with built-in microphone (Apple must have some sort of patent on white earbuds); a tool to access the SIM card drawer (behind); a button wall charger; and documentation, including quick start card, booklet and safety manual.
Although Microsoft has been pretty prescriptive about the physical specifications for Windows Phones, there have been signs that they are willing to 'loosen' up a bit, and Nokia has taken the first small steps into differentiation of their products from others on the market.
From the outside, we can see only minor modifications from the previous Microsoft 'standard'.
Figure 2: Here's the front of the Lumia 900 which you've probably seen in numerous advertisements, etc. but without the 'makeup' :-) At the top left corner is the 1mp front camera for video conferencing and in the centre above the Nokia logo is the earpiece. At the bottom are the standard Windows Phone 7 action keys. These are actually etched into the screen and glow a soft white when activated. The phone also vibrates slightly when each one is pressed. The idea is that this haptic feedback makes up for the lack of a physical button.
Figure 3: Along the bottom of the Lumia 900 are the speakers (behind the grill). I'm assuming there's a microphone here somewhere as well, to pick up your voice while on the phone, but it's not obvious where it is located.
The screen is protected with Corning's 'Gorilla Glass' which you can just see the rim of in the photo above. The glass is scratch and dent resistant, but it sure does attract smudges and fingerprints.
Figure 4: There's not much on the back of the unit except for the lens for the Zeiss 8mp rear camera and the dual LED flashes just above it.
The body of the Lumia 900 is a single cast polycarbonate unit. Except for the SIM slot in the top, there are no removable panels anywhere so there is no back panel to permit access to the battery or removable storage.
I'm getting used to the idea of not having an accessible storage card, since I don't store a huge amount of personal data on my phone. But I admit that I miss the ability to access huge amounts of videos, music, etc. and shift them around from phone to phone.
I'm not sure how I feel about the lack of removable battery. I haven't had to do it very often, but the ability to 'kick start' things by removing the battery for a couple of seconds has helped in a couple of situations. Just in the last couple of days, there was a case where I thought the L900 got stuck, becoming totally unresponsive to any buttons, etc. Fortunately, a longer push of the power button got things restarted.
Figure 5: Nothing at all along the left side of the unit. I'm thinking this phone was designed for right-handers.
Figure 6: Most of the functional buttons are located on the right side of the phone. From left to right they are: the camera button; the power/sleep button; and the volume down/up rockers. There are also no markings on the case at all to give any hint as to what the buttons do.
Figure 7: At the top of the unit on the left is the micro-SIM card slot. In the centre is the micro-USB charging/sync port, and to the far right is the 3.5mm stereo headphone jack. I'm not exactly sure what the small hole to the left of the headphone jack is, but the specs say that the Lumia 900 has two microphones. Maybe this is another one???
SIM Card Switching
The Lumia line uses microSIM cards, which means I had to give up my old regular-sized SIM (Rogers shut it off when I upgraded). Unfortunately, the change to this format means that I don't have quite as much flexibility as I had in the past, being able to use multiple phones on the same line for reviews and testing, but I'm hoping that microSIM will become the new 'standard'.
Getting the microSIM card out is not easy, even with the special tool Nokia provides. It's definitely not something you can do with your fingernails.
Figure 8: A shot of the SIM card access tool provided by Nokia. It's basically a thin strip of metal with an end (right) small enough to fit into the hole in the top of the unit. By the way, the same tool can be used to take the Lumia's case apart. There are videos online to show you how.
Figure 9: Once you insert the thin end of the tool into the access port hole, you pry open the port.
Figure 10: Here's a shot of the microSIM card holder once it's been removed from the port.
Once you put the SIM card in the holder, it slides fairly easily back into the port, and the cover sits flush with the top of the unit.
I thought it might be helpful to show a comparison between the L900 and the Samsung Focus S I was using before. The L900 is definitely heavier that the Focus S, but it has a good, solid feel.
Figure 11: Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two units. You can see that the L900 (left) is wider and longer than the Focus S (right). Personally, I kind of like the squarer edges of the Lumia 900.
Figure 12: On an edge comparison, you can clearly see how much thicker the Lumia 900 (bottom) is than the Samsung unit (top).
Figure 13: Here's a side-by-side of the two screens. Although the L900 is a physically bigger box, the screen display is just that little bit smaller than the Focus S.
The screen on the Lumia 900 is the now pretty much standard 4.3in (109mm) AMOLED display which produces very bright colours and completely 'black' blacks, since they turn off the LEDs when they are not required. There has been some talk on the forums about a purplish tint to the screen on lower screen intensities, and I have seen this on my unit. It definitely becomes more pronounced if you select the Nokia Blue theme, as opposed to the regular Blue theme. It seems to shift to a greyer cast when the screen brightness increases. For me, it's not particularly bothersome, but some people have been getting replacements for their units.
The screen is protected with Corning's GorillaGlass, which provides a very tough and durable surface which is (according to the brochure-ware) scratch and dent proof. I'm not sure if it's visible from the pictures, but the screen actually sits slightly above the edges of the case. Again, not a big deal for me, but some might not like the feel. The screen is definitely a fingerprint magnet. It gets and holds smudges really quickly. It would be cool if Nokia could incorporate some of that hydrophobic, anti-smudge technology Apple uses in the iPhone.
Thanks to WPBench (available in free and paid versions from the Marketplace), we can get a relative comparison of the Lumia's capabilities compared to the other WP7 phones available. It's certainly not the top of the heap when it comes to overall performance, but it isn't a slouch either.
I just ran the Speed tests, since battery life is largely a function of how you use the device.
Figure 14: Here's the raw results from the speed tests on my Focus S. Many thanks to WPBench for providing a Screenshot capability in the program!
Figure 15: As you can see from this graph of comparison results, the speed of the Lumia 900 isn't at the top of the pack. It's around the #11 mark on this day. The Focus S fares better at spots 5 and 6.
Figure 16: It's nice to see that Nokia is making some inroads into the top 3 of manufacturers.
Figure 17: Clearly, the Mango (7720) version of the O/S still commands the greatest number of phones. The Lumia 900 comes with the 8107 version.
Windows Phone 7
The Lumia 900 comes standard with the Mango (build 8107) version of WP7 installed. The new patch for the disappearing keyboard and data connection problems with the Nokias arrived last week. It didn't change the level of the O/S in the Rogers implementation (the AT&T versions went up to 8112), but upgraded the firmware and radios.
As with most manufacturers in the WP7 space, Nokia provides their own app collection in the Marketplace.
I was gratified to see that Nokia Drive, the turn-by-turn on-board navigation system had already been installed. All that was left to do was to download the maps for the areas I wanted to travel in.
Figure 18: The top level of applications available from the Nokia Collection
Figure 19: ...And here's the rest. Not a lot of selection here, but the apps provided really do provide functionality.
The apps work very well. Some of them aren't well populated for the part of the world I live in (such as Nokia Transit and Nokia Maps), but maybe that will come in later releases/updates. Apparently, Nokia provides a 'Network Profile' application which would set up the various SMS, voice mail, MMS parameters for each network provider, but I can't see it in my collection. Perhaps it's been blocked here in Canada.
Nokia also has an undocumented diagnostic tool available, which you can access by going to the phone and dialing in ##634#. Once this is completed, the application will be downloaded and installed to the phone and will show up in the app list as 'Diagnostics'. Much easier to run than the Samsung version, the tool will run tests on various parts of the phone's hardware.
I did notice an oddity with Internet Explorer on some sites with this version of the O/S. The symptoms are (for me) mainly visible on m.yahoo.com/news. On the Focus S, everything works just fine. On the L900 however, the fonts are different, some links don't grey out to show they've been activated (but they work anyway) and links from headers to stories don't work at all unless you tap and hold them, then select 'open in a new tab'. This may be due to a setting difference, but I don't normally play with the IE settings on my phones, except to force selection in 'mobile' mode. Maybe there was a new version of IE going from 7720 to 8107?
Generally, radios in smartphones have been evolving, becoming more sensitive and more discriminating (eliminating interference) with each generation. The radios provided in the Nokia Lumia 900 live up to this, being as good as or better than those in the Focus S.
As stated in the specifications, the Lumia 900 is Nokia's first all-band LTE-capable WP7 phone. Unfortunately, I couldn't give the LTE throughput a test, since the area of Canada I live in isn't yet serviced by LTE. I did try taking the phone over to Vancouver which is supposed to be set up for LTE and I did very briefly see the LTE symbol show up at the top of the screen but it was quickly replaced by 3G. Apparently, on the Rogers network, you have to order an LTE data package and have a specifically-programmed SIM card installed to take advantage of LTE. I guess I'll have to wait unit LTE is announced for Victoria. :-(
When I said above that the Lumia 900 had better radios than the Focus S, the GPRS radios are a bit of an odd exception. With the Focus S, I would generally see 4G displayed no matter where I traveled between home, the office, and my clients. With the Nokia however, the majority of time it will display 3G. I occasionally see 4G flip by quickly, but for the most part, it sticks to 3G. It looks like the UTMS radio isn't quite as sensitive as Samsung's, or perhaps Samsung has a different interpretation of 4G connection from Nokia. In further tests, on the outskirts of coverage in my area, it became pretty obvious that the Lumia's cellular receiver is not as sensitive as Samsung's. Where the Focus S could get 2 or 3 bars of 3G, the Lumia had dropped to 'E' or showed no service.
When you do get data service, the between the 3G and 4G connections doesn't seem to affect data throughput. I did some comparison data tests using the Free Speed Test application from the Marketplace. I tried the throughput tests on each of the Lumia 900 and the Samsung Focus S, at the same time, from the same location, running five trials on each device. On the Lumia 900 (showing 3G), the average d/l was 2.45mbit/sec and u/l was 0.97 mbit/sec. On the Focus S (showing 4G), average d/l was 2.15mbit/sec, u/l was 0.72 mbit/sec. Even though the actual tests belie the fact, browsing and accessing email, etc. does seem a bit 'snappier' on the Lumia 900.
The Lumia 900 includes support for BT 2.1, including the EDR+ profiles. It connected easily to the handsfree units in the Prius and the GMC Sierra and all the connections were consistent, automatically established and stayed connected. Voice quality was clear, and they responded consistently to call pickup and call end commands from the phone (and vice versa).
Pairing with my Motorola stereo headphones was also straightforward and the audio quality was as good as I've ever heard from a phone.
Generally the WIFI receiver in the Nokia Lumia 900 seems much more sensitive than the one on the Focus S. I'm able to see a lot more routers/networks in my neighbourhood than I did before (good thing/bad thing, right?) According to the specifications, it supports 802.11b, g, and n, but it didn't see the 5GHz second band on my home router, only the 2Ghz one. It didn't seem to affect throughput, but it was just odd that it's not supported.
From a security point of view, the Lumia supports WEP, WPA, WPA-Enterprise and WPA2-Personal formats.
By default, the Lumia's GPS receiver uses AGPS (cell tower triangulation), wi-fi location, GPS and GLOSNAS satellites to quickly determine location. Generally, I found the Lumia to be much more sensitive and able to achieve a 'lock' much more quickly than the Focus S. In a side-by-side test (with the SIM cards removed to force location by GPS/GLONAS only), the L900 was still able to resolve location within a few seconds in Bing Maps. In many cases, the Focus S took much longer and finally gave up with the 'Bing Maps isn't able to find your location right now.' message.
Usual FM radio and application using the headset wire as an antenna. Moving on....
The battery provided with the Lumia 900 is a fairly massive 1830mAh unit, which should be able to provide power for a good portion of the work day, for the average to high level user. According to the specifications, the maximum talk time is 7 hours with a standby time of 300 hours. For music playback, the specs say you should get 60 hours and for video, it drops down to 8 hours.
I tend to be on the medium to low usage scale of things, a few calls of about 3 to 5 minutes each, emails pulled down on an hourly basis, some texts, some browsing (especially at night), not a lot of video viewing. For me, the battery will last about a day and a half from full charge to almost empty.
The rear (primary) camera has a 3264 x 2448mp resolution with an F2.2 lens and a minimum focus length of 10 cm (about 4 inches). It includes autofocus and a 3x digital zoom. In the settings are exposure compensation (+/- 2.0) and white balance for a variety of environments. The camera app features touch to focus and capture in a single tap.
Here are some outdoor and indoor shots I took. The only touchup has been to resize them to fit our review article format.
Figure 20: Here's an outdoor shot on a typical sunny with broken clouds kind of day. The image quality is pretty good and the 8mp image scales up nicely. There is just the hint of a blue cast overall to the picture colours though.
Figure 21: Here's a closeup using the Macro setting on the camera.
Generally, I found the macro settings on most phones to be OK for 'closeup' types of shots, but not what I wold consider true 'macro' photography. Getting any closer than a couple of inches from the subject makes it impossible for most phone cameras to focus.
Figure 22: Here's an indoor shot at my cubicle, taken with everything set to 'Auto'. A little on the dark side.
Figure 23: The same shot, but with the White Balance set to Fluorescent. Much better overall colour balance and definition. There's still have quite the blue cast on my laptop screen (lower left) which isn't really blue at all (at least to my eyes).
As with other smartphones I've used and tested, the primary camera does an adequate job of taking pictures but, even with the Zeiss name on the lens, I'm not quite ready to give up the DSLR just yet. They're great for those spur-of-the-moment moments, or when you need a shot of the whiteboard you just spent 2 hours brainstorming, but they aren't as good as a 'real' camera.
The front camera has a resolution of 1280 x 720 and a f2.4 lens. The lens is also set to wide angle, so you can include your friends when you are either taking your picture or video chatting.
The Lumia 900 supports MPEG4, MP3, WMA9 and 10 formats for audio files. Again, as with most smartphones, the Zune player software is adequate and the sound is generally good. The earbuds provided by Nokia in the package are OK, but not great.
There have been some comments on the forums about low volume on phone calls, but I have to admit that I don't hear this at all. For me there is plenty of volume on phone calls, even outside. The quality of voice is much better than the Samsung, and people have remarked on the clarity and quality of calls from the Nokia.
According to the specifications, the Lumia 900 should be able to handle WMV 9, H.264/AVC, MPEG-4, 3GPP (H.263), AVI, VC-1 and ASF formats. I ran the Nokia Lumia 900 through our ThougthsMedia 'battery' of video test files, which doesn't include all of these, but a pretty good selection, at various resolutions and framerates. The Lumia was easily able to handle the .m4v, MPEG4's, h.264's, WMV's, and DiVX's I could throw at it. There were no instances where there was skipping or stuttering, even up to 1080p. The only files it wouldn't handle were QuickTime (no surprise there) and AVCHD.
The main rear camera boasts a video screen resolution of 1280x720 and can take video at 30 frames per second. The front camera is a 640x480 resolution which can also shoot video at 30 frames per second.
From a functionality point-of-view, there's not a lot of difference between the WP7 phones available today. If Microsoft has done one thing really well, it's that all WP7 phones work almost identically, regardless of manufacturer or platform technology. It's basically the same look and feel no matter what phone you pick up.
Is the Nokia Lumia 900 the hottest phone on the market? Not really. I think the Focus S still has some better specs (1G RAM, better processor and broader Wi-Fi) and better overall performance, but the Lumia 900 is a very solid performer. I guess that's the most important feature; it's a solid phone. It feels good, it works well, and the support I've seen from Nokia on the forums so far has certainly made a believer of me. (I just hope Rogers follows through from a carrier perspective.)
Don is a Senior Solution Architect for Fujitsu Consulting, specializing in Enterprise Mobility, Security and Privacy. When not bugging the local Rogers retailers about the availability of the latest and greatest handsets (which they never sometimes have), he's helping his sons and wife fully appreciate the wonderful, social side of cell phone ownership :-)
Do you enjoy using new hardware, software and accessories, then sharing your experience with others? Then join us on the Thoughts Media Review Team! We're looking for individuals who find it fun to test new gear and give their honest opinions about the experience. It's a volunteer role with some great perks. Interested? Then click here for more information.