After announcing in February its new best buddy would be Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, Nokia slipped quietly back into its labs to put the finishing touches on its new line of smartphones.
Some eight months later, and what does the Finnish company have to show? Apparently, just a reworked Nokia N9 re-dubbed the "Lumia 800" but with a few minor tweaks and of course, Windows Phone 7 as its power core.
Nokia also announced the lower-priced Lumia 710 — a cheaper, less premium-feeling model of the Lumia 800 with a few toned down specs.
We felt up Nokia's latest and greatest smartphones this morning and here's what we thought.
Dressing Polycarbonate All Up
Plastic doesn't denote premium. We've all been conditioned by a certain fruity company to believe that gadgets made out of aluminum, titanium, magnesium and glass equals "premium" and that plastic is cheap.
What can we say? We like nice looking and nice feeling smartphones. With the Lumia 800, Nokia's managed to gussy up polycarbonate into feeling so luxurious, it doesn't even feel like it's made out of plastic.
The construction of the Lumia 800 is made to withstand scratches. The Lumia 800 won't just be coated in colors like pretty cyan, its internal layers are dyed too, so if you chip it, even its scuff mark is colored!
Comfy and Not Too Large
It's easy to get carried away with a bigger screen and dual-cores and all that jazz in a smartphone, but Nokia's not topping the Lumia 800 with any of that. Inside is a 1.4GHz single core processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB internal storage and an 8-megapixel camera on the back (no front facing cam) capable of shooting 720p HD video. Nokia's promising up to 9.5 hours of talk time on the Lumia 800 (sorry, sealed battery here!).
Up and center is the Lumia 800's 3.7-inch curved AMOLED touchscreen with 800x480 resolution. It isn't quite the 4-4.5-inch screen size that everybody seems to be using these days and isn't close to looking as gorgeous or spacious as the Motorola Droid RAZR, but it gets the job done because it's responsive. You really can't ask for anything else. The Lumia 800 touchscreen is buttery smooth. Pinching and zooming on websites is suddenly fun again.
Compared to the iPhone 4, the Lumia 800 does look a little bloated, but in the hand, it kind of molds to the inside of your palm, which makes it feel quite comfortable. Well done here Nokia!
Windows Phone 7 Mango
The Lumia 800 will run the latest Windows Phone 7 Mango update (copy and paste!) and it's pretty nice. Nokia knows that Windows Phone 7 has been slow to the smartphone game, but it's hoping its hardware will help provide that punch that Microsoft's mobile OS so dearly needs.
Overall, responsiveness on the Lumia 800 was speedy. Apps opened up quickly and animations did their thing flawlessly. No hiccups observed. We still really like the Metro UI. Some one year later and Windows Phone 7 still feels refreshing compared to iOS and Android. It's a shame, most youngins don't seem to feel the same.
While the Lumia 800 will have a stock version of Windows Phone 7 (Nokia's not mucking around with any skins for it), that doesn't mean the Finnish company hasn't put any of its own special apps into the device.
We checked out Nokia's own proprietary GPS "Nokia Drive" navigation app and it does feel nice that there's built-in turn-by-turn directional mapping. There was also the "Nokia Maps" app that allowed tourists to map their location and then find out popular local spots — complete with directions for public transport. Nifty, but not a killer app by any stretch.
The Other Lumia
In addition to the Lumia 800, Nokia also unveiled the Lumia 710, a smaller more plasticky version of the 800, but with 5-megapixel camera. It has the same 1.4GHz single core processor and 512MB of RAM, but less storage. Its face buttons felt stiff, but at least there's a cellphone strap hole!
Based on my brief hands-on, it would seem Nokia's back on the horse's saddle. The Lumia phones feel solid and slick, for sure, but since we're hearing that these phones won't even show up on U.S. shores until next year, the Lumia 800 and 710 might be outdated by then.
Pricing and carriers for both of Nokia's new Windows Phone 7 phones has yet to be determined in the U.S. (The prototype we toyed with was running on AT&T for demoing purposes). Folks living in Europe will be able to pick up the Lumia 800 on November 16 for 420 and the 710 for 270 (unsubsidized).
All photos for DVICE by Raymond Wong