I recently grabbed myself a Lumia 800 on a Vodacom contract which comes bundled with 100 MB of data each month on a Business Call contract for R 279/month.
As far as ordering and delivery went, I must actually say that Vodacom did a decent job and made it happen quite effortlessly and painlessly. The only hiccup was the fact that there appeared to be some confusion at their contact centre as to when stock was arriving or whether they already had stock. Either way, I'm a happy camper so I can't complain.
So, lets take a look at the key technical specs of the device:
OS: Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango)
CPU: Qualcomm MSM8255 Single Core CPU @ 1.4 GHz
RAM: 512 MB LPDDR2
Storage: 16 GB Internal (No external SD) - 25 GB SkyDrive storage online free.
Connectivity: Micro USB, WiFi (802.11 b/g/n with WEP, WPA, WPA-Enterprise and WPA2-Personal), Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, 3.5mm headphone jack.
Battery: 3.7V 1450mAh
Network Support: HSUPA Category 6 (7,6 Mbps), WLAN 802.11 b/g/n, GPRS Class B, WCDMA, HSDPA Category 10 (14,4 Mbps) and EDGE Class B on the following bands: GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900 and various WCDMA Bands which we don't use in South Africa anyway (but nice to know if you're headed to the US and end up on a WCDMA network).
Other hardware: 3D Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Ambient light & proximity sensors and 2 Microphones.
Camera: Rear facing 8 MP with Carl Zeiss optics and 2.2F. 3 x Digital zoom, dual-LED flash activated from either touch or hardware button. Video recording can be captured at 30 fps in 720p HD in MPEG-4.
Audio: Stereo FM with audio formats for music playback supplied by AAC, AAC+, MP3, MP4, WAV and WMA.
Full product specifications are available here: http://www.nokia.com/za-en/products/phone/lumia800/specifications/
Well, as usual, Nokia have delivered on build-quality second to none. It's made from a high quality polycarbonate and is currently available in 3 colours. Cyan, Magenta and of course Black. There is a white version on it's way also in the near future.
Although the body/design is a 98% knock-off of the ill-fated MeeGo powered Nokia N9, it doesn't bother me at all. Why? Well, why mess with a really good design if it's practical and works in the first place? The screen size is slightly smaller compared to the N9 (to make space for the "Back", "Windows" and "Search" keys which are mandatory for the Windows Phone OS as stipulated by Microsoft. There is the addition of the hardware camera button on the bottom right side of the phone also (another hardware requirement) which allows one to get to the camera quickly (and conveniently) instead of having to go through the tedious process of an unlock screen, potential security prompt and then navigating to the camera application (by which time the moment may be lost).
The Gorilla glass screen is curved and completely flush with the polycarbonate casing of the phone giving a seamless, smooth touch to the hand. Holding this phone feels great!
The battery charging/USB interface port is cleverly hidden under a small flap which sits flush alongside the SIM card slot. These provide the only 2 access points to opening anything on the phone, which makes me feel confident the phone is solid and won't litter any surface it might accidentally land on with hundreds of bits of plastic that might jump off from a jarring landing.
The down side? As you might have noticed... no external SD-card slot and no user-replaceable battery. While this might be an issue for some users, I suspect most will over-look this as the on-board 16 GB storage is more than sufficient, and generally speaking batteries don't need replacing every other day. Usually every 6 months to a year or more at most (by which time most users have upgraded already). Personally, I don't run around with gigs of music on my phone, and I'm quite happy to change out my tunes when I need to (which is made easy with the Zune application).
I find the screen to be great! On par with my old Galaxy S and it's Super AMOLED display. Nokia uses what they call their ClearBlack screen which uses AMOLED display technology. It weighs in with a 3.7" screen which is a bit smaller than I was used to with the Galaxy S's 4" screen. That said, it certainly doesn't bother me to any significant degree due to the fact that the Windows Phone OS itself provides bold, clear and crisp text using the clever and inspired Metro UI Microsoft have employed to power the UI experience. With the AMOLED providing a almost perfect black background colour, the live tiles and text content really pop off the screen! Content is still visible in outdoor conditions, but I am yet to see any phone seriously trump direct sunlight properly. That said, it's significantly better than some other display technologies I've seen employed on some lower-end devices.
Nokia employ the use of Carl Zeiss optics in many of their handsets, and pretty much universally in their top devices. The Lumia 800 is no exception in this case and gets the use of an 8 MP rear-facing (only) camera with a F/2.2 lens and fixed 28mm focal length, all backed up with a dual-LED flash. The camera optics are cleverly positioned centrally on the phone's rear and thus more likely to be out of the way of catching one of those irritating "finger-holding-the-casing-of-the-phone" shots.
On the down-side, there are some focus issues at the moment but these will be resolved in a software update from Nokia. I haven't taken nearly enough pictures yet to get a good feel of the image quality, but initial impressions are it is significantly better than any other brand make phone's camera solution.
Windows Phone as an OS
I really love what Microsoft have done with Windows Phone 7 Series. They've come out swingin' this time and really had a think about how people use their phones. The tired method of icons sprawled on a desktop paradigm are old. Really speaking, if one looked at the antiquated Windows Mobile 6 OS, Android and iOS pretty much follow a similar form and function. Obviously iOS and Android have a very modern interpretation of this and have designed their systems to be touch friendly from the ground up. What Microsoft have done is bring you big, bold tiles and then enable the tiles to be "live" by displaying pertinent information applicable to that application. The UI transitions and effects amount to eye candy, but give a polished feel and a pleasant user experience which leads one to feel like Microsoft took the time to think of small (but nice) elements like this to add to the end-user experience.
What I love about it? The UI is unique, bold and intuitive. It really kicks things up a peg or two and is definitely the way forward for mobile device interaction for smartphones. Everything is easy to find, well thought out and works as expected.
What I'd love to see changed - There is currently no WiFi tethering on the Lumia 800 (although the OS does support this). There is apparently an update looming in the near future which will enable this feature on the Lumia 800 which will be most welcome. The multi-tasking is still a little clunky, but at least it's there. The other thing is I'd love to see the addition of a notification bar pull-down like that found on Android and iOS. Having used Android for the better part of 2 years, I found this to be the best interface offered on any device of this class. iOS implemented a notifications bar relatively recently (and by comparison I think it's more pedestrian compared to the Android version). Windows Phone doesn't offer anything like this, and tapping the top of the screen (through a nice animation) only slides down a few icons which indicate the devices current status (ie. WiFi enabled and connected, cellular network signal strength, 3G/HSDPA status).
In Microsoft's defence though, it may be my own ignorance but perhaps the pull-down notification bar isn't necessary and the reason for not including one is due to the fact the live tiles on the start screen themselves are the notifications and are there without having to use a pull-down menu in the first place. It would still be nice to have something to quickly enable/disable WiFi, cellular data, screen lock and Bluetooth etc). Perhaps my attitude will change on this point over time. I'd be interested to hear anyone else's opinion/experience around this... so feel free to leave a comment below and share!
Something special from Nokia
Due to Nokia's close partnership with Microsoft to help drive the Windows Phone software and brand worldwide, Nokia have been getting some Microsoft-love by integrating some nice Nokia specific additions which shop with their devices. These being Nokia Drive (a navigation based mapping software using the phone's built-in GPS hardware), Nokia Music and Nokia Maps. I still need to explore these apps in more detail but it's nice to know Nokia are bringing their well known and well regarded applications over from Symbian to Windows Phone which makes perfect sense considering the $200 million + marketing push Nokia and Microsoft will be making with the platform over the first half of 2012 alone. This can only bode well for the duo in terms of sales and market awareness.
Well, there are minor area's that need some tweaking and polishing still in terms of software, but these aren't things that cannot be fixed with regular software updates. I suspect that considering the effort Microsoft and Nokia are going to, they will aim to please... and Microsoft in particular (of late) have been taking consumer feedback very seriously. The development (under the stewardship of Stephen Sinofsky) of Windows 7 was a fine example of this. On the hardware front I can't find much fault and Nokia have once again delivered a quality device, polished, well thought through and well executed as people expect from the largest phone manufacturer in the world.
Side note: Rumour has it that none of the current generation Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) devices will be eligible for the slated "Apollo" OS which can be tentatively thought of as Windows Phone 8. What is known is that Apollo will be based on the upcoming Windows 8 kernel which by now most tech enthusiasts are aware will be coming with a decidedly ARM flavour. However, Microsoft are being rather tight-lipped over their plans for Apollo at this stage so until we've heard it from the horses mouth...