Windows Phone 7 will go down in tech history with mixed reviews. While just about everyone loved the tiled, buttery smooth interface that worked just as well across a host of devices from different manufacturers, it failed to gain the kind of traction that its rivals iOS and Android did. Perhaps it was the fact that it initially came on expensive devices, perhaps it was the relative absence of good apps, but it did not really revive the fortunes of Microsoft or Nokia the way many had hoped it would. Which is why both are now betting on the next version of the Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8, which is due to be released shortly.
This, in turn, makes the recent arrival of the Lumia 900, seen by many as the flagship device of Windows Phone 7 (7.5, if you insist on being pedantic), on Indian shores just a little ironic. Not only does it come to India a full four months after its international release, but it carries the burden of a hefty price tag (Rs 32,990 when we last checked) and the fact that it cannot be upgraded to the next major version of Windows Phone, which is just around the corner.
It will, like most Windows Phone devices, receive an upgrade to Windows Phone 7.8, which will enable it to get some of the benefits of Windows Phone 8. Now why on earth, some might wonder, would someone be interested in an expensive, high-end device that is likely to be outdated in software terms in less than a month?
Well, the answer to that is: because it works. Yes, the geek inside us might go “meh” at the thought of a Windows Phone 7 device when Windows Phone 8 is around the corner, but the simple smartphone user will find a lot to love in the Lumia 900. It is by far the best looking large screen smartphone we have seen in the market not to have come from Cupertino.
The design is minimalist, with just the metallic volume rocker, power on/off and camera buttons on the right of the device and no other keys anywhere. The front is dominated by a 4.3-inch AMOLED display, and although at 11.5 mm thickness and 160g, it is neither the thinnest or lightest device around, its polycarbonate unibody still feels reassuringly solid to hold, if a tad wide for those with smaller hands. Within it is some very decent hardware — a 1.4 GHz processor, 16GB onboard storage, an 8.0-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, and every connectivity option short of HDMI you could ask for (GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, 4G). It also is the first Lumia to come with a front-facing camera — so video calling is very much on.
Running on top of this is the tile-based interface of Windows Phone 7.5, which lets you access information on tiles on the homescreen (including live updates), and access all programs by a simple swish to the left. You get not only the usual Windows Phone accomplices such as MS Office, the IE browser, support for Skydrive, easy to install mail and social networks; but also a stack of goodies that are the preserve of Nokia Lumia phones, including lifetime free navigation (in Indian languages too) with Nokia Maps and a year’s free downloads from Nokia Music. And thanks to the powerful specs, the wider screen makes for a more spacious keyboard, something that was absent in the earlier Lumia devices.
The 8.0-megapixel camera finally lives up to its Nokia — Carl Zeiss heritage. Sound quality of music and calls is typically Nokia — solid rather than spectacular. And while you cannot remove the battery, it will keep your phone ticking over comfortably for a day and a half even with social networks and mails buzzing around the clock. The large display is superb for viewing HD videos, YouTube, and browsing the Web.
It does not have as many apps as iOS or Android, but it is rare to see a smartphone that does everything you need right out of the box, without any additional downloads. The Lumia 900 is one of that rare breed.
The Lumia 900 may be Nokia’s last Windows Phone 7 smartphone warrior. But it is also one of the best smartphones in the market, and easily the best Windows Phone device we have ever used. Yes, it costs a fair bit. But it delivers a lot, too.
Update and download junkies will not line up for it. However, those looking for just a very good smartphone would do well to consider investing in it.