The Nokia Lumia 800 is, according to CEO Stephen Elop, “the first real Windows Phone”. Other models, made by HTC and Samsung, have been decent enough, but they don’t offer the solidity of the new Lumia 800.
The operating system now boasts over 40,000 apps, too, so the two companies can claim that the partnership is already driving increased momentum for Microsoft's superb operating system.
And although the seamless polycarbonate shell and the solidity of the device are impressive, in fact it’s the Windows Phone software that really shines. Teamed with Nokia’s excellent design and camera heritage, there’s a lot to like, whether it’s the Office integration, gaming with Xbox live or simply social network integration.
The 3.7” screen offers Super AMOLED resolution, and Windows Phone’s living tiles really do look impressive; showing you the weather, a boarding pass or a friend’s photograph, the display hardware here is as good as this software needs. And the phone’s tactile, matte finish means the Lumia is not like the bar of soap that many other phones often seem to be modelled on. It’s also pleasingly weighted, at 142g.
Unique apps on the Lumia are limited; Nokia Drive offers a decent satnav alternative, but so do iOS apps and so does Google Maps on any Android phone. A Music app provides pre-arranged playlists, for people who would like a radio substitute. Elsewhere, of course, other Windows Phone apps can be downloaded from the main Microsoft Marketplace.
There’s no front camera on the Lumia 800, which will be a pity when Microsoft roles out Skype, but it does mean the all-screen design, hardly evolved from the N9, looks lovely. There’s a single-core 1.4GHz processor inside the Lumia 800 and 16GB of internal storage, and an 8mp camera on the back. With 512MB of RAM, the phone performs perfectly well enough.
What this device does, simply, is to give Windows Phone the flagship hardware it has deserved since the Mango update. That doesn’t make it as compelling a product as a top Android phone, but it puts Windows back in the game. And it shows up rival manufacturers: Samsung, for instance has excelled in designing Android devices, but its Windows devices have not had the same style.
Admittedly, with Nokia and Microsoft so closely aligned, why should others focus on Windows? If the Lumia ranges does as well as it could, then rival manufacturers may well see merit in putting more resources into developing Windows Phones. This, of course, is what Microsoft hopes and it may well work.
The Lumia 800 finally makes Windows Phone good enough to compete for early adopters’ attentions. But in truth that is not where Nokia or Microsoft is aiming – they want regular, mid-market upgraders to think Nokia is a good choice. They’re right, for the first time in years.