Review: Nokia Lumia 900 and Windows Phone OS

It’s no secret that makers of every touch screen smart phone hitting the market these days that isn’t an iPhone has to develop its design and function with the iPhone in mind. Apple’s 500 lb. gorilla sets the sale benchmark and forges the touchstone experience for many smart phone users.

We had a chance to try out a new Windows Phone – the Nokia Lumia 900 – to test how its interface and performance furthered the idea of what smart phone can and should do.

The 900 features a 4.3-inch display termed AMOLED – for active-matrix organic light-emitting diode. According to Nokia, the technology “increases the refresh rate of the screen and enhances the contrast ratio while reducing energy consumption to increase battery life. The ClearBlack Display feature blocks incoming light reflections through a polarized layer to improve screen visibility under direct sunlight.”

All that means the phone’s big screen – bigger than the current iPhone – and bright. As silly as it might sound, that’s an important feature right out of the box as the friendly vibrant image invites the user to start playing with the phone’s abilities.

The phone’s overall built quality is solid and stable in the hand. And – imagine this – Nokia didn’t make their $400+ smart phone out of glass.

The Lumia 900 packs a 1.4 GHz Qualcomm single-core processor running the Windows 7.5 operating system. Microsoft promises the OS will “keep phone tasks simple and easy for the everyday user.” And that’s one area where the 900 comes through with flying, high-res colors.

Whenever trying out the Android OS, it seems clumsy and too busy. There are too many menus, too many ads and too many fiddly apps that drained the battery. The Windows Phone OS is much cleaner and friendlier. It manages to offer the intuitive nature of the iPhone OS without copying its look.

The Windows Phone 7.5 operating system allows the user into the phone’s functions faster. The Live Tiles on the Start Screen are adaptable and allows the user to prioritize what he or she wants to see.

Live Tiles opens the phone to Local Scout, a search and mapping feature providing driving directions: Twitter and LinkedIn are built into the OS with Windows Phone, with their data filtering into common channels for easy checking.

The 900 includes an 8 megapixel camera with auto-focus and a dual LED flash. It can also take 720p video.

Of course, the 900 is an AT&T native phone. That might generate as many groans as the original news that the first iPhone would only work with that alphabet soup network. However, I tell anyone who asks that, while AT&T’s network did disappoint in years passed, technical and material improvements have improved the service. I can’t see you won’t lose some bars and drop some calls, but it’s nowhere near as frustrating as it once was.

AT&T claims the 4G HSPA+ network provides mobile broadband speeds up to 4x faster than AT&T's standard broadband network. For tethering, the 900 provides an AT&T Mobile Hotspot service enabling users to connect additional Wi-Fi-enabled devices to the phone's mobile broadband signal.

The OS’s SkyDrive system works similarly to Apple’s iCould, allowing easy syncing of data between the phone and its backup server.

All in all, from ease of use to sound quality, from available functions to battery performance, the Nokia Lumia 900 and its Windows Phone OS do what they must do to survive and flourish in the marketplace. They do everything an iPhone does but in clean new ways to offer users a legitimate alternative.