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Nokia Lumia 800 - Great phone, bad timing

  • Native Office suite
  • Drive works without data connection
  • Nokia design meets Microsoft's best software
Written by Adam Wajnberg

Nokia’s strategic partnership with Microsoft, to offer flagship handsets running Windows Phone, is off to a mediocre start. For Microsoft, the decision to carefully curate their apps and offer a closed, safe system with a slow release (in contrast to Android's devil-may-care attitude) seems canny, but there’s a danger that people are going to get bored waiting for something to happen. For Nokia, the focus had to be on offering a strong flagship phone, which could stand in contrast to Apple’s exemplar iPhone while distinguishing itself from the likes of Samsung and HTC, who seem to run on weekly release schedules. Arguably, Nokia was at its best when you could look at their product line without an index.

Nokia Lumia 800

So it was with some excitement that Nokia’s reboot would be with a singular, superb handset, the Lumia, running the latest and greatest version of Windows Phone operating system. Then we all heard that that there would be two models; the flagship 800, and the budget 710. Then we all heard that the handsets would have a staggered worldwide release. Then we heard that a 900 model was being shown at trade shows before the other two were widely available, rendering the 800 as a never-was has-been. Now we’re hearing that the Lumia line will be extended to several models with several operating systems.

Let's look at Apple for a moment. The real trick to making a Californian computer maker into the world’s richest company is salesmanship. When Steve Jobs introduced a product, he didn’t show a prototype – he talked for 20 minutes about everything people hate about the current range of products, and then whipped the red velvet cover off of a finished product that beat everything else out there- and would be on sale the next day. This is in stark contrast to how the rest of the industry- and most other industries- work. The usual marketing tactic is to show a prototype at a trade show, hype it up in various media outlets, and then release a similar product, much later than expected. And then, to add insult to injury, release half a dozen models that try to suit every demographic and price point, adding a further 8 minutes to the retail salesperson’s pitch, during which the bored and frustrated end user casts a glazed eye to the stark, singular and popular device being sold by Apple. Game over.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that Lumia 800 isn’t going to turn some heads. This is a stunning device, based closely on the design of the N9, a great phone with a dead-on-arrival operating system that was released just prior to Nokia’s allegedly new direction. With a strong polycarbonate case (the same durable plastic that Apple used for their old Macbooks) and a tapered design that makes the phone nicer to hold than the iPhone and all those Android powered black rectangles.

Under the hood, the Lumia 800 sports 16GB of space, with no card slot for movable storage. The AMOLED screen is amazingly vivid, and comes in at 3.7 inches, slightly larger than the iPhone but smaller than most of Samsung’s recent offerings. The phone sports an excellent 8MP camera with a particularly noteworthy daytime mode. The phone runs on the same snappy 1.4Ghz processor as the 710, which is more about the requirements of Windows Phone than any generosity on Nokia’s part.

As for Windows Phone, what can be said that hasn’t been said already? This operating system is superior to Android and BlackBerry OS, and is a proper challenger to Apple’s iOS. Smooth, vivid and different enough to be unique, with the same ‘it just works’ quality that Apple brought to the market. The 50,000 apps available might be small compared to the Apple’s 500,000+ and Android’s 400,000, but they tend to be high quality apps. And with almost every developer on earth eager to tap into the Microsoft universe, expect that number to soar.

Of course, the other big ticket item on the Lumia 800 is a native Office suite, with full versions of Excel and Word. Nokia’s own Drive GPS system. Drive is capable of working without a data connection.

But many of these features are available on the far cheaper 710, and with a 900 model around the corner, the 800 falls into the same trap the N9 did – great phone, but who’s going to bother when cheaper and/or faster models are available?

And so, Nokia’s first launch into the proper smartphone market is a bit of a bust. Never mind. It’s only money! But on a serious note, the 800 proves once again that Nokia has everything right except for one thing, and this time, its timing.


Great, unique design
Windows Phone Mango is fantastic
Built in Nokia Drive GPS works without a data connection


Feels dated on launch, especially with such a big price tag
Only 16GB storage (non-expandable)
Small screen compared to rest of market

Overall – Really, a good phone. Like the 710, this might fill an enterprise hole that BlackBerry used to fill, with all that native Microsoft goodness baked in. But Nokia missed the boat a little. They could have launched this phone as a standalone Lumia, and picked a different badge for the also-ran Windows phones. Now, this is just a mid-range model in a quickly expanding line that will have to rub shoulders with Samsung's crowded Galaxy range, Motorola's RAZR line, Sony's XPERIA, and HTC's new unified One series of barely distinguishable handsets.

The Lumia 800 is available for $0 on the Optus $49 Cap (Call 1300 148 570) which includes a whopping $550 call value and 1.5GB data. For less calls and more data, Virgin's Fair Go $49 comes with $400 value and 2GB of data, on which the 800 is free as well. Call Virgin on 1300 881 097


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