Second Impressions: The Nokia Lumia 900 with AT&T LTE


Another product launch, another AT&T party!

This time the “LTE Limo” was driving around Hollywood to celebrate the release of the Nokia Lumia 900.

Now this wasn’t my first experience with a 900, as I got a little face time with one at CES. The Lumia was definitely the high point of this year’s Electronics Show for me, but since then I’ve been able to play with a few more premier phones.

Can a phone make a second impression as lasting as its first?

Getting my hands on the phone again felt like a homecoming. Using a Nokia WP7 phone long term (a Lumia 710) I’m really taken with the Nokia+Microsoft combo; and while the 710 was a solid entry-level phone, the 900 raises the bar to another level.

I’ve already raved about the construction of this phone, but it bears repeating. This is the most gorgeous hardware I’ve gotten my hands on yet. The design is simple and striking, reminding me of my favorite cues from the Nokia N8, but simplified.  The one piece polycarbonate shell is a joy to hold, and I’m very taken by its seamless casing. It means losing a replaceable battery, but that’s the price you pay for design.

In the hand it feels a little big. It’s dimensions aren’t far off from the Galaxy Nexus, but holding the phone in one hand, my thumb does not reach the opposite side of the screen. I’m also not sure I like the glossy feel of the White 900. In a device this large, the glossy exterior had all the grip of wet soap. I would opt for the matte finish on the black or cyan Lumias. No, actually just go cyan. The cyan Lumia looks incredible.

The screen is fabulous. It is lower resolution than what I’m used to on Android, especially for it’s 4.3″ diagonal, but Nokia’s “ClearBlack” AMOLED is contrast-y and vibrant. Text and fine detail look a little soft compared to the Galaxy Nexus, but firing up the same Youtube clip, and it was difficult to call a clear winner between the two.

The camera is very solid, if a bit dull. Jpeg output looks very good when put up against other 8MP shooters in Android  and the iPhone. Pics are sharp and detailed, but color output seems a little bland. I wasn’t able to snap many decent pics as there was almost no light in the restaurant, and without the flash, pics were almost unusably grainy.

Happily, a dedicated camera button is on board, and it’s not the rubbery unresponsive button found on the 710. It’s a solid clicky key which really does help recreate the point and shoot camera experience.

General UI performance was exactly what you would expect from WP7. Snappy, quick, responsive. It felt a lot like my time with the 710. I did think it was an annoying omission to leave out Nokia Drive and Maps. You can download them from the Marketplace, and they’re still free, but they really should be pre-loaded.

Network performance was great. Most of Hollywood had solid LTE, and at any given time I was able to get almost twice the downstream speed of WiMAX on Sprint. I was consistently getting 15Mbps downloads with peaks as high as 22.  Verizon’s network is more mature, and would often best AT&T’s, but considering how new it is, it’s a promising start.

More than anything else, it’s really exciting to see teamwork. All parties are benefiting from this relationship. AT&T is still a little bruised from the failure of their merger with T-Mobile, and is playing catch up with Verizon to roll out LTE. They need some exciting handsets to show off. Microsoft needs good hardware. Nokia needs good software. Everybody wins. A Nokia PR rep even flew down from their offices in Portland to be on hand to answer questions about the device and the rollout. They’re just as excited to be showing the device off as we were in getting to play with it. It’s refreshing watching a company as large as Nokia shift gears.

While the iPhone is becoming old hat, AT&T now has the most audacious Android handset with the Galaxy Note and the crown jewel of Windows Phone with the Lumia. It’s becoming an exciting line up to combat Verizon’s collection of droids.

With all the phones I get to play with, I think the next handset I’ll spend my own money on will be a Windows Phone. Specifically a Nokia.