By CHONG JINN XIUNGbytz@thestar.com.my
Will the Lumia 800 be the light at the end of the tunnel for Nokia's flagging smartphone business?
THE Nokia Lumia 800 is the Finnish phone maker's new flagship model for its Windows Phone series. Nokia hopes it'll be a big leap forward for it as moves away from its aging Symbian platform.
Nokia sees Windows Phone as its future and it'll be interesting to watch how a young OS fares against established platforms such as the iOS and Android.
So let's see if the Lumia has what it takes to compete in the modern smartphone market.
The Lumia looks almost identical to the Nokia N9. This is not a coincidence because Nokia must have liked the design so much that it decided to use the same body but with minor tweaks here and there.
It is a smartly designed phone with no back cover or exposed ports. A 3.7in touchscreen adorns the front - it's smaller than the N9's because the display had to make space for three touch-sensitive buttons.
The slightly small screen hardly impacts the user experience because more importantly images look great on it and the seamless curved design gives the effect that stuff on the screen appear to float on the surface.
The only downside is that there is a noticeable green tint when you tilt the phone.
There is no front facing camera which is a shame as this rules out making video calls.
With the Mango update, Windows Phone feels more like a robust OS that could offer a decent challenge to Android or iOS.
Simplicity is the OS' main attraction. The big dynamic tiles on the homescreen make it easy to navigate and they also show push notifications such as calendar appointments and Facebook updates.
Windows Phone is also big on social networking. Besides Facebook it now also supports Twitter and LinkedIn.
You can check your Twitter and Facebook feeds from the People hub, view your friend's Facebook albums on Photos, check Facebook events on Calendar and even Facebook chat with friends using the regular messaging app.
The number of apps are growing in the Windows Phone Marketplace but it's still difficult to browse for new and interesting apps.
Still, its a good thing that almost every app lets you try a demo version before you purchase it.
One of the major additions to Mango is multitasking, something which most users have been demanding. Just hold down the back button to bring up the multitask view which will allow you to hop to different apps.
However, multitasking is limited - only up to five applications can be running in the background. It's rather odd that you are not allowed to close apps running in the background as the OS will automatically kick out the oldest app in the list.
We have no complaints when it comes to making phone calls. The call quality was good and there were no dropped calls.
Text messaging felt great with the virtual keyboard. It is one of the most accurate keyboards we have used on a smartphone. Although the keys are tiny but the excellent predictive input and autocorrect system allowed us to type long messages with ease.
Web browsing was speedy on the Lumia. For instance, we managed to load our portal in just two seconds. Also, pinching and zooming in on different parts of the webpage was smooth.
The browser, however, does not support Flash so you'll miss out on some videos and games that uses the technology.
The Lumia has 16GB of storage and there are no options to expand it with an expansion slot. This may sound limiting but Microsoft has a free Skydrive app available on the Marketplace that offers an additional 25GB of online storage. You can use it to upload, say, pictures and Office documents.
Of course, you will need an Internet connection to access your files but the extra space is still a welcome addition.
In terms of battery life, it's pretty decent but not spectacular. If you don't do a lot of surfing, the battery will last you a day.
Nokia has a unique collection of apps for the Lumia. Nokia Drive is a free turn-by-turn navigation app that we found very useful.
Drive worked really well on the road - planning a route to a destination was accomplished within seconds and the app also has voice navigation.
However, it is missing some basic features such as saving your favourite destinations and customising a route to not include roads with tolls.
Nokia Music is another great app that doubles up as music player and Internet radio app. Should you get tired of your music collection, Music can stream music from a variety of stations covering many genres.
It's great that we can save up to two hours of streaming content for offline listening, say, when you are in an airplane.
Though the audio quality isn't the best, it's fine for casual listening.
The 8-megapixel opens to a wide f/2.2 aperture so it is supposed to be a capable camera for low light shooting.
We liked the physical camera button on the side but we found it faster to take pictures by using the tap-to-focus method.
Both indoors and outdoors photos lack the sharpness and have more muted colours compared to shots taken from other 8-megapixel camera phones.
Sadly, the camera's 720p HD video capture yielded similar results. There is also another problem - the autofocus struggles a lot in low light.
On several occasions, the video would go completely out of focus for at least a good 10 seconds before it refocuses.
The Lumia 800 is just the device Nokia needed to impress the smartphone crowd. It is a step in the right direction but it still has a long way to go before it can go toe-to-toe with the big boys.
The unibody build quality is solid and the 3.7in is brilliant. Windows Phone also works smoothly and is great for social network fans who need to keep in touch with their friend's activities.
It also comes with many handy apps and we liked Drive the best.
Web browsing was also great on the phone despite the lack of Flash support and the battery is good enough to last a single day with light usage.
However, the phone's multitasking feature is definitely not as robust as iOS' and Android's and is just limited five apps running in the background.
Also, the camera didn't fare that well when shooting photos and videos.
All in all, the Lumia 800 is a decent phone that is worth checking out if you are into social media a lot.
Pros: Attractive unibody design; fast browser; good social networking integration; well-designed virtual keyboard; lots of free and handy apps like Drive.
Cons: Multitasking limited to just five apps; shoots average quality photos; video recording limited to 720p; autofocus struggles for video recordinbg; no front facing camera.
Windows Phone smartphone
NETWORK: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 900/2100
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows Phone 7.5 Mango
DISPLAY: 3.7in touchscreen (480 x 800-pixels)
CAMERA: 8-megapixels f/2.2 Carl Zeiss optics); 720p HD video recording
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, microUSB
MEMORY: 16GB internal storage
STANDBY/TALK TIME: 335 hours/9 hours 30min
OTHER FEATURES: Dual LED Flash, Geotagging, Nokia Drive, Nokia Maps, Bing Maps, Nokia Music, Office Mobile
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 61.2 x 12.1 x 116.5mm
Review unit courtesy of Nokia Malaysia, 1-300-88-1600.