A big, quality screen, fluid and stylish OS and premium build are all sprinkled with Nokia's magic in a package that's made to impress. We've been there already - and we don't mean the review we have of the Lumia 900 for AT&T. After all, it's a Lumia 800 all over again, only the screen got bigger. And yet, we are delighted to meet this smartphone again - and we'll give it that, it looks stunning in white.
Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
Quad-band 3G with 42 Mbps HSDPA and 5.7 Mbps HSUPA support4.3" 16M-color AMOLED capacitive touchscreen of 480 x 800 pixel resolutionScratch resistant Gorilla glass display with anti-glare polarizer
8 megapixel autofocus camera with dual LED flash, 720p@27fps video recording and fast f/2.2 lens
1MP front camera
Windows Phone 7.5 OS (Mango), upgradeable to WP 7.8
1.4GHz Scorpion CPU, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 chipset, 512MB of RAM
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Non-painted polycarbonate unibody
GPS receiver with A-GPS support and free lifetime voice-guided navigation
16GB of on-board storage
Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
Built-in accelerometer and proximity sensor
Standard 3.5 mm audio jack; FM Radio with RDS
Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP and EDR
Impressively deep and coherent SNS integration throughout the interface
Design and build quality
The Nokia Lumia 900 is being offered with four color schemes - the traditional black, white, magenta and cyan. The white version we're testing stands out with its glossy ceramic surface. The matte finish of the rest is more practical perhaps - in terms of both grip and durability, but a matte white body would've been almost impossible to keep clean.
Build quality is flawless as always, it's just that the white Nokia Lumia 900 doesn't have the heavy-duty looks of its siblings using other paintjobs. It trades them for an extra bit of sophistication. The phone still appears ready to take a lot of abuse, as it is a blend of polycarbonate and Corning Gorilla Glass. The body is not painted the old fashioned way but it's rather made of plastic that has the same color in depth, scratches and marks from accidental drops won't stand out as much.
We've always said that AMOLED screens and Windows Phone OS are a perfect match. The Nokia Lumia 900's display is yet another proof. The 4.3" unit impresses with infinite contrast and deep blacks. In a manner befitting a Windows Phone flagship, Nokia Lumia 900's screen has dropped the PenTile matrix, found in the unit of the Lumia 800, so, despite its lower pixel density on paper, it is nicer to look at from up close.
Above the screen you will find a discreet earpiece, the ambient light and proximity sensors, as well as the front-facing camera. Below the screen are the three touch-sensitive buttons for getting around the beautiful Metro UI.
There is absolutely nothing on the phone's left side but things get a lot busier on the right. The volume rocker is there, along with the power/lock key and a dedicated camera button. The Lock button feels somehow less solid than the rest of the phone's body but it's definitely not as flimsy as the same control on a Nokia N9. The half press of the shutter key could've been a lot more distinct and the stroke is too shallow for our liking.
The Nokia Lumia 900 is comfortable to use and single-handed operation is a breeze - having all the controls on one side certainly helps. The device's side curves allow it to fit perfectly in your hand. The glazed white finish cannot match the grip of a black Nokia N9 but there's little to be concerned about in terms of durability. Our biggest disappointment was the absolutely flat display. Granted, the Windows Phone interface doesn't need a curved screen like the swipe-driven MeeGo but feeling the (somewhat rough) edges of the screen isn't the most pleasant experience.
Windows Phone 7.5
The Nokia Lumia 900 runs the latest software currently available. The Windows Phone build is 7.5 Refresh and was revealed at this year's MWC in Barcelona under the codename Tango. Barring some minor added features, the main point was to allow the OS to run on less powerful hardware. This is irrelevant to the Lumia 900 though, which has some of the highest hardware specs available on Microsoft-powered smartphone: a 1.4GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM.
That's about to change with Windows Phone 8 which, we all know by now, the Lumia 900 won't be getting. The 7.8 software version is the last major update the current generation of Microsoft-powered smartphones is likely to receive. That way they will at least have the new WP8 start screen with resizable live tiles.
That's at least a few months away though, so let's focus on what the Lumia 900 offers here and now. Here goes a video demo of the user interface in action.
A push on the unlock button reveals the lock screen, which displays the current time and date and shows calendar events, emails and missed calls.
Swiping the lockscreen up unlocks the device and reveals the live-tile Metro user interface. It's a vertical grid of Live tiles, which can be reordered the way you like. Almost anything can be placed in the grid by tapping and holding down over an app and selecting the Pin to start option.
It's a clean and simple interface. Each of the Live tiles display relevant info such as the current date, pending calendar events, missed calls, unread emails and more (third party apps do it too). The Marketplace tile displays the number of updates available, while the Pictures tile is essentially a slideshow of your photos. It's nice to have all that info always available at-a-glance. You can look at them as homescreen widgets of sorts, but that's a bit oversimplifying.
Homescreen • Main menu
The Lumia 900 goes about multitasking like every other WP7 smartphone. It's not true multitasking; things are being done the iOS way. Apps not in the foreground are suspended, but the OS has ways to take over and carry out the task for them.
To switch between apps you press and hold the Back key. The app switcher itself looks similar to that of Symbian or WebOS: thumbnail snapshots of the apps, ordered chronologically left to right.
You can scroll the list horizontally to select an app and a tap will bring you back to exactly how you left it. Usually, the last 5-6 apps are here. You can't "kill" any of those apps, this is more of a history of the recently used apps.
Eventually, as you open more apps, the old ones start to drop out from the list. Once an app is gone, you have to launch it again the old-fashioned way, which means you'll need to start over. However, the browser for example will still load the last visited page. Apps with active background tasks (e.g. streaming online radio) will keep on working.
Multitasking can be disabled from the settings to save battery life. There you'll also find a list of all installed apps that support multitasking.
Opening the settings menu displays two sets of options: like on the start screen, you can swipe between System and Applications. System covers all the settings you can think of like sounds, color theme, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Accounts, etc. The Application settings let you configure each app you have on the device.
Windows Phone 7.5 can be controlled through voice only - you can dictate, have the phone read out the reply, you can initiate searches and so on. Other OSes are doing it too - Android's got Google Voice, Apple has Siri and there are a number of third party "virtual voice assistants" available.
People Hub for a phonebook
The first tab of the People hub that shows you a list of all your contacts (phone contacts, social network friends, email pen friends - everything), with a search shortcut and an add contact button.
Contacts are ordered alphabetically, indexed with colored squares with a letter. You can tap any one of those letter boxes and the screen shows you the entire alphabet highlighting the letters actually in use. You can tap a letter to scroll to that part of the list.
Call history • Contacts • Contact search
Contacts can be sorted by either first name or last, and they can be displayed as "First Last" or "Last, First" (the two settings are separate), you can also filter contacts by choosing which services are used to make the list of your contacts (so you can hide Twitter contacts, for example).
Swiping to the side brings you to the What's new tab that shows new events from all contacts in social networks. Another swipe shows the recent contacts. Instead of favorites, you can pin a contact to the homescreen.
One of the new features of the hub is Groups, a handy way to organize your contacts, with "text everyone" and "email everyone" features. All the status updates from the grouped contacts are pulled in from their various social networks, and you get access to their online photo albums too.
Groups can also be pinned to the homescreen for easier access.
Groups handle everything from mass messaging to SNS updates
The Me card is your own profile. From here you can post status updates, set chat status, check into locations (there's more location goodness coming on later). You can also change your profile picture (only for Facebook and Live though, not Twitter).
Another tab in the Me card lets you view notifications (e.g. Twitter mentions) and, finally, What's new lets you view your own status updates.
The Me card manages your social networks
Much of the functionality available when viewing the list of all contacts is there when viewing a single photo. Below the contact's photo and their latest SNS update, there are actions - "call mobile", "text mobile", "write on wall", "view website" and so on. Below each action, in smaller type and grey or blue letters, are the target for the action (e.g. phone number, email, site URL) and where that info came from (Google, Facebook, etc.).
The soft keys let you pin a contact, link two (or more) contacts from the various services and edit. Swiping to the side brings out the What's new tab, which shows the latest updates and events just from that contact. Pictures is where the contact's Facebook albums are.
A contact's profile
The History tab displays the complete history of exchange with a contact in one place, listed chronologically. Everything but status updates is listed here - calls, texts (actually threads from the Messaging hub) and emails.
When editing a contact, you can add multiple phone numbers and email addresses of different types (home, work, etc), a custom ringtone, a note or a variety of different fields (like birthday, website, office location and so on).
The phone application shows you the call history, with shortcuts to voice mail, dialer and phonebook. The phone live tile will show the number of missed calls as will the lock screen.
The dialer itself is as simple as it gets - a phone keypad with a Call and a Save button. The lack of smart dialing is an annoyance, but the People hub is good at finding contacts.
You could use voice dialing instead - the Lumia 900 did well in recognizing our commands, though it did have issues separating the two Dexter's in our contact list - "Dexter" and "Dexter Morgan". Still, it did recognize the unusual name of "Mandark".
Dialer • In-call screen • The call log
An interesting option is the International assist - it comes in handy for dialing while abroad or calling someone outside the country. What's missing is the ability to set any song from your collection as a ringtone - a feature some of you might miss. You can download new ringtones from the Marketplace though (possibly at some cost though).
Upon an incoming call, the contact's photo will appear full screen and for you to slide up and reveal the call buttons. This will prevent any accidentally answered or rejected calls.
A side note - status indicators are hidden by default (except the clock) but you can bring them up with a quick tap at the very top of the screen.
Pink noise/ Music, dB
Ringing phone, dB
Apple iPhone 4
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Apple iPhone 4S
Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
LG Optimus 4X HD
Nokia Lumia 900
Motorola RAZR XT910
LG Prada 3.0
Messaging was heavily retooled for version 7.5. Threads are the building blocks of all non-email messaging. Although a sort of conversation view, threads mash together SMS, Facebook and Windows Live messages.
That's the thing about Windows Phone: the Messaging hub removes the old division between texts, IMs, social messages. The other hubs do the same for the other functionality, making the whole thing simple yet powerful.
Anyway, Messaging is separated into two tabs - threads and online. Online shows you who's online with the people you've talked to most recently on top. This makes finding someone to talk to very easy.
Messaging • Threads
Threads is where this hub's impressive features kick in. A new thread is created for each person you start a chat with. Messages are displayed as speech balloons and a label on the left shows the type of message - text, Facebook or Live Messenger. Labels are placed only when the conversation moves to a different platform so it's not cluttered.
You can choose which platform to use to send a reply and the text box will remind you what you're currently using with a message like "chat on Facebook". Individual messages can be copied (the whole message is copied to be pasted later, you can't copy only a part of the message), they can be deleted or forwarded. Whole threads can be deleted too.
You can't attach anything to Facebook messages, you'll need to use MMS for that.
Composing a message
The visual voicemail functionality is also part of the OS (but its availability is dependent on your plan and the carrier). It works as you would expect, by letting you read your voicemail messages instead of listening to them.
Windows Phone 7.5 delivers a unified inbox for email, a highly requested feature. You can link multiple inboxes (and unlink them individually later), so that you have a single place to check for new messages.
Linking several inboxes will also automatically combine their live tiles. You can browse individual folders for each account, which lets you view messages from only one email account even if it's linked.
The email client
Conversation view was expected - it lists emails between you and a contact chronologically, grouping them by subject. It's the display style that Gmail popularized and is the best way to keep track of a conversation over email.
Each email conversation is listed with a subject and number of messages, plus how many of those are new. A tap on a conversation expands it to show the messages plus a line from each message.
You can tap on an individual message to read it, as well as skip messages back and forward to navigate the conversation. You can't swipe between the messages though.
You can mark individual emails, make them as read/unread, set flag, clear flag and more. Finally, you can search your entire mail for individual emails - it's a very useful feature, especially for those with large inboxes.
Marking emails • Email options • Searching emails
Text input on Windows Phone is limited to the default QWERTY keyboard and offers portrait and landscape modes - that's it. The layout remains the same across all WP devices and the only options you have are changing the language of the keyboard and resetting the dictionary that displays word suggestions.
The WP QWERTY keyboard is very comfortable to use and offers sound feedback. There's no haptic vibration feedback and there's no way of enabling it.
Portrait and landscape QWERTY keyboards
Selecting text is very simple, but does require some getting used to. You hold your finger over some text for a second or two and then release. The text area gets highlighted and then you can move the beginning and end cursors to adjust how much text you want to select. A little icon pops up for copy and the selected text is available to paste anywhere in the OS.
Full-res Picture tile is great
The Pictures hub has been polished up a bit in Windows Phone Mango. There's a new People tab, which lets you browse photo albums by individual contacts or groups.
You can set a single photo as a background for the hub (it used to be the last photo viewed) or you can set it to shuffle different photos.
And of course, the point of hubs is that they are the go-to place to do things, instead of apps. New functionality allows apps to integrate into the Pictures hub, so for example, a photo effects app can make its options available right in the hub. Devs need to enable that into apps however.
The main view of the Pictures hub offers four options - camera roll, albums, date and people. A swipe to the left reveals what's new, which displays your Facebook friends and liked pages' new picture galleries. Another swipe shows your favorites section, where the photos you've faved are displayed.
Albums feature the camera roll, the preloaded system pictures and all of your Facebook albums. A flick to the left shows all your pictures sorted by date. You can't assign individual camera roll photos into albums, though.
Albums • Date • Favorites
The people section is where you can select your friends or closed ones so that their galleries on Facebook get displayed right there in your Pictures hub. It's a nice feature for social network users but will be only an empty section for those that aren't too fond of Facebook.
The camera roll unifies your entire collection of photos and videos, taken with the device, in a grid of 4x5. You cannot change the view of the camera roll. Viewing a photo can be done in either portrait or landscape mode. Zooming in on a photo is done by either double tap or pinch to zoom. We appreciate that the camera roll doesn't downsize pictures and you can enjoy them in full resolution.
Camera roll • Zooming in on a picture
Windows Phone 7 used to be quite restricted when it came to sharing - it's still not perfect (it still downsizes photos before emailing them, for one) but you can now share videos too, either via email or on Facebook. Sharing options include messaging, email, Facebook or the cloud-based SkyDrive.
While uploading photos to Facebook or Windows Live, the OS will detect any untagged faces and allow you to tag them before proceeding with the upload.
Internet sharing options
The camera roll has a dedicated auto-fix setting, which tries to improve your photo. It's a nice feature but one that produces unrealistic results at times.
The video player is integrated into the Pictures hub. It has a very simple interface - you have fast forward and rewind controls, a time scroll and a video size button that toggles full-screen viewing.
The video player doesn't recognize .AVI files - in other words, don't expect DivX or XviD support. However, the Zune software on your computer will automatically convert such files to .MP4 - so, you can watch those formats on the Lumia 900, it's just that the transfer to the device can take quite a while (depending on your computer's capabilities).
It's interesting (and useful) that you can pin individual items to the homescreen - like a song or video, even an FM radio frequency.
Music + Videos and Nokia Music too
The media players reside together in the Music & Videos hub, which bears the Zune logo. When you start it, it shows the History, which gives you quick access to the last two things played, or you can go to the full menu and start the music or video player, listen/watch podcasts (both audio and video podcasts are supported), start the FM radio or go to the Marketplace.
The music section is made up of albums, songs, playlists, genres and artists. Videos features all, television, music videos, films and personal - think of them like more of categories you can assign your videos to when synching with Zune. The third section is podcasts where you can store all of your downloaded audio and video podcasts.
Music + Videos hub
The music has a simple and straightforward interface. You won't have any difficulties using it. However there are some things missing, like an equalizer. Another missing feature is the ability to scrub through a song with your finger - you have to press and hold on the FF/rewind buttons to simply jump back and forth.
Browsing the music library • Now playing screen • Music controls on the home screen
Mango brings along a slight change in design to the now playing screen. The favorite, repeat and shuffle buttons are now placed horizontally next to the album cover instead of hidden behind it.
You also get radio and marketplace links in the Music & Videos tile. It doesn't offer the option to listen to online radio stations so you would need to insert the headgear to get reception.
You have the current frequency in very large digits - swiping left and right changes the frequency and a swipe and release automatically searches for the next available station in that direction. You can mark some stations as favorites, which will allow you to pin them to the homescreen. RDS is on board and you can switch between headphones and loudspeaker.
Nokia Music works as a general music player but with a location-aware twist. You also get access to the Nokia Music store, which is an alternative to the Zune Marketplace.
As a music player, it's pretty standard - your tracks are sorted by artist, album, playlists or you can view all songs. The interface is very similar to that of the stock music player, but under the album art it lists the next three songs to be played - really helpful if you're using shuffle. There's no way to manually reorder the upcoming songs, but you can reshuffle them if there's one you don't like.
Nokia Music app
The location-aware feature is called Gigs - as the name suggests, it finds concerts near your location.
Gigs looks for concerts nearby
8MP Carl Zeiss camera
The Nokia Lumia 900 has an 8MP camera with a lot to brag about - it has a 28mm wide-angle F2.2 lens by Carl Zeiss and a cleverly designed sensor, which allows you to produce 8MP photos with 4:3 aspect ratio, or 7.1MP photos if you want 16:9 aspect ratio.
The camera UI is pretty simple - you have your viewfinder and some controls on the right. From top to bottom they are the still/video camera toggle, virtual zoom buttons and an extended settings menu. On the left you have an arrow that takes you to the images taken with the camera, alternatively you can do a swipe gesture too.
The camera app on Windows Phone offers extensive settings, ranging from scenes and effects to white balance, contrast, saturation, sharpness, ISO and more. You have a dedicated Macro focus mode but no face detection. The flash can be set to auto, forced or off.
The camera key will wake the phone with a single press - that is unlocking it, and start taking shots. Unfortunately it doesn't utilize the proximity sensor as before for pocket/purse detection and now the camera app can be accidentally started in your pocket.
The 8 MP shooter on the Lumia 900 was a reasonable capable performer in terms of image quality. There is a good amount of resolved detail and colors were good, if slightly oversaturated. The camera also boasts pretty good dynamic range and even though noise levels could be better they are still tolerable.
Here go some Nokia Lumia 900 full-res camera samples:
Nokia Lumia 900 camera samples
Photo quality comparison
The Nokia Lumia 900 has joined our Photo comparison database and will strut its stuff against the likes of Android front-runner Galaxy S III and the 4X HD by LG.
The tool's page will give you information on what to watch out for.
Nokia Lumia 900 in our Photo Compare Tool
Great HD recording
The video camera interface is identical to the still camera one and has plenty of features too. You can use scenes, calibrate contrast, saturation and sharpness, change the white balance or exposure compensation and also add image effects. You can use the LED as a video light too.
Windows Phone has yet to break the 1080p barrier and the Lumia 900 isn't the phone to do it. It's limited to 720p, which is now within the reach of cheaper smartphones. Still, it's quality, not quantity that we're looking for.
The video quality is really good like it was on the Lumia 800 - there's a lot of resolved detail for a 720p shooter, the image looks crisp and free of noise and artifacts. Videos are shot with 14Mbps bitrate, which is more than some 1080p shooters and double of what the N9 does. Videos have stereo sound but at a low bitrate (it hovers around 80Kbps).
Video quality comparison
The Video comparison tool will show you the Lumia 900 compared to its peers, the Omnia W and Xperia U but feel free to choose an opponent of your liking.
The tool's page will give you information on what to look out for.
Nokia Lumia 900 in our Video Compare Tool
Connectivity has plenty of options
The Nokia Lumia 900 has quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support and tri-band 3G with HSPA.
The local connectivity is covered by Wi-Fi b/g/n with DLNA and stereo Bluetooth 2.1. Bluetooth is currently limited as to what it can do - there's no file transfer support, for one.
Syncing with a computer is done with the Zune computer application. It's the only way to transfer files directly between your computer and your Windows Phone - there's no Mass storage mode.
You can sync files with Zune over the USB cable and Wi-Fi. There's a Mac version of it available too - Windows Phone 7 Connector.
Additional SD storage isn't available on Windows Phone so the Lumia 900 doesn't offer such an option.
Another syncing option is the cloud. SkyDrive is a free Microsoft service that gives you 25GB of cloud storage. You can even have your photos automatically uploaded as soon as you snap them.
Mango brings Wi-Fi hotspot functionality too. All you need is an active SIM card with a data connection and you're all set.
Internet Explorer mobile is easy to use, limited by the hardware
The Internet Explorer on Widows Phone was updated to the latest version for the 7.5 update and it improves the user interface.
The URL bar is always visible (but the status bar at the top of the screen is auto-hides, so you don't actually lose any screen real estate) and next to it is the refresh button. You can, of course, bring up the extended settings, which offer a great deal of options.
The URL bar also serves as a search bar, which is a handy shortcut for looking things up if you're not sure which site exactly will do the job.
The browser interface is quite minimalist - you have only the URL bar at the bottom with a reload icon to the left. Swiping the bar upward reveals shortcuts for tabs, recent, favorites, add to favorites, share page, pin to start and settings. The settings menu offers the usual options like location, allow cookies, delete browsing history but it does offer a very neat option to choose a global preference for mobile or desktop site versions.
Internet explorer mobile
The browser makes the controls in web pages look just like their equivalents in native apps. So, a web app can look just like a native app with practically no extra effort from the designer.
The six tab ceiling hasn't been lifted - it's not too bad, but competing OSes don't have such limitations. We were also hoping to see text reflow, but no luck on that either.
In-browser options • Tabs
Bing search on Windows Phone
When you search on Bing, one of the things that might be offered as a relevant result is an app from the Marketplace. For example, searching for "travel" will offer a travel tool app. This feature is called App connect.
Bing also grew two new search modes - song recognition and barcode scanner. Those are features popular with apps, but with WP7.5 you get those natively as part of the OS.
The camera scanner can also snap a photo of text, perform OCR and translate it into another language.
Of course, Bing does regular web searches for pages or images and can look for interesting locations nearby.
The Bing search app
Marketplace just now catching up
The Windows Phone Marketplace is playing catch up with the Apple Appstore and the Android Market. As of April 2012, it hosts north of 90 thousand apps available. It's organized into four main sections - applications, games, music and the HTC apps store. A fifth section called Updates shows up when one of your installed apps has received an update - there's an Update all button, which will save you the hassle of updating each app individually.
Anyway, each app will be listed with a short description, a rating and user reviews, and a few screenshots. If the app can use something that can potentially breach your privacy (e.g. location information) the Marketplace will let you know.
It's not as comprehensive as the Android Market (which lists just about everything the app can use) but on the upside it only warns you about the important things.
Big downloads (anything north of 40MB) need a Wi-Fi connection to work. Alternatively, you can download those jumbo apps using the desktop Zune software.
The Application section starts with a featured app, then it's on to the categories (including all and free), followed by the top apps, a list of new ones and a longer list of featured apps.
The Music section is actually the Zune Marketplace. Its structure is similar to the Application section. First, a featured artist of the week, three more featured artists, then a list of new releases, top albums and genres.
The Zune music store
Genres themselves are separated into sections too - new releases and topartists/albums/songs/playlists. For each song, you get a 30 second preview (same as iTunes). If you have a Zune pass, you can stream the entire song, just like you would on a Zune player (it's 10 US dollars a month).
An app preloaded by Nokia is App Highlights - it gives you an assortment of apps into several categories to give you a start. The first category is actually called Starter kit - a list of what are considered vital apps (e.g. YouTube, Netflix, etc.), then there's Addictive (games go here), Health+ and Foodies have apps to keep fit and to gorge yourself respectively.
The app is accelerometer-enabled and can reshuffle the lists of applications every time you shake the phone, which is a fun way to find new apps. Also, the tile for the app would occasionally change to advertise some of the apps it recommends to get your attention.
The Games section is divided into Xbox Live, New, Featured and Genres, which is the categories version. A great thing about games in the Windows Phone Marketplace is the try option, which is available to many games and apps. It gives you a trial of a game before you decide to buy it.
The new and featured sections act as a what's new/hot reference.
Exploring the games section
The Marketplace on Windows Phone can be accessed via your WP device, the Zune software on your PC and the windowsphone.com website.
Search is available for the Marketplace but right now it pulls together search results from all sections - games and apps alike. Microsoft have fixed the issue where songs would get mixed up in the search too, which was annoying.
Xbox LIVE gaming
Xbox Live is at the heart of the Games hub. It carries over many features from the Xbox - from your avatar to your scores and achievements. The Spotlight feature is available too (it shows info on new stuff) and also Requests - which shows you game invites from your friends.
Xbox LIVE tile
Anyway, the games themselves are housed in the Collection section. Nothing much to see here, the installed games are arranged in a square grid and there's a Get more games shortcut, which launches the Marketplace.
Not all games support Xbox Live - the ones that do are in the corresponding section in the Marketplace. We did test games like Need for Speed, Kinectimals, Angry birds and had no problems with the Nokia Lumia 900, the 1.4GHz processor and Adreno 205 GPU were more than adequate in handling more complex graphics.
Bing Maps lights your path
The basic mapping solution in Windows Phone is Bing Maps. They have driving (and pedestrian) navigation for free, but they're not a match for Nokia's bespoke applications (we'll discuss them in the next section).
Now, it's not quite voice-guided navigation. Here's how it works: first you set up a route and listen to the first instruction, then when it's time for the next instruction, the phone will beep and highlight it. If you tap it, the phone will read it out to you, but only then.
The Maps app uses a big font with white letters on black background that make reading easy. It still requires you to take your eyes off the road though, it won't put SatNav apps out of business.
Real-time traffic information is also available.
That's not all the new Maps can do for you though. The app will locate nearby points of interest with the new feature called Local Scout and it will even show you indoor maps of malls.
Local Scout has a tabbed interface to sort the various points of interest - eat+drink, see+do, shop and highlights. You can pick items from a "I care about" list to get the relevant options only.
Local scout can take you to interesting places
A cool functionality of Local scout is you can pin places to your homescreen. So let's say you like a pub and like to check it out from time to time, read reviews, call for a reservation - it's right there on your homescreen - that's neat.
Pin a location to the homescreen
Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive
The Nokia Lumia 900 managed to get a GPS lock quickly (about a minute) and you can make that even faster if you have a data connection for the A-GPS. Wi-Fi and Cell-ID positioning is also available if you only need a rough position.
Nokia Maps wasn't preinstalled on our unit - there was an app that showed screenshots of Maps plus a link to the Marketplace to get it. It's a simple operation and once you're done, you can start using Nokia Maps.
It's an alternative to Microsoft's Bing Maps. It lets you view maps in three different modes - map, satellite and public transport. You can use pinch zoom to navigate the map (you can also enable old-school zoom controls) and panning around is fast and smooth. Nokia Maps does only 2D mode - there's no 3D option like Google Maps has for example.
It pulls its maps from the Internet, so you'll need an Internet connection to use it.
Nokia Maps is an alternative to Bing Maps
Moving on to the more interesting part of the duo - Nokia Drive. Unlike Maps, Nokia Drive lets you easily download maps for offline usage for any country in the world - free of charge, of course. Bigger countries are split into pieces, if you don't want to waste your internal memory with maps you'll never use.
Maps aren't that big though - the map for the whole US is 1.9GB, while the map for the whole UK, for example, is 274MB. The 16GB built-in memory is more than enough for any trip you're likely to take. It's easy to delete unneeded maps or download new ones on the go wherever there is Wi-Fi.
Drive does support a 3D view, unlike Maps. It also has 3D landmarks for some of the bigger world cities. You can also use 2D mode if that's what you prefer, but in 3D you get to see further down the road than in 2D.
Other than 2D/3D, settings are pretty scarce - you can toggle daylight and night color schemes, choose whether landmarks should be displayed and choose a voice for the navigation. Many voices in a big number of languages are available for free download.
Nokia Drive settings
We were hoping for options to fine-tune the routing algorithm - like avoid toll roads, find fastest or shortest route and so on - but there were none to be had. You just set your destination (with an option to review the planned route before you go), hit start and you're off.
While navigating, you can zoom in and out depending on your preference to see more of the road ahead or more details. At the top of the screen is an instruction for the next turn in big, easy to read white on blue letters and a big icon noting the turn. At the bottom of the screen you have readings for how much you have to travel before reaching your destination and also you're current speed. Those get pushed to the left side of the screen in portrait mode.
Navigating with Nokia Drive
We like Nokia Drive's no-distraction's approach to navigation, but we are used to having more control over how the route is chosen. A few other options would have been welcomed too (the Symbian version of Nokia's SatNav solution is very feature-rich).
Still, with the Nokia Lumia 900 you get what no other Windows Phone handset on the market currently offers. The free voice-guided navigation might be just what it takes to convince people to go for the Lumia 900, instead of competing WP phones - at least in that price range.
The Windows Phone website is the cloud of sorts for all WP7 smartphones
All you need to do to use the site is register your email (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) and then setup an account on your Windows Phone device.
The options given to you on the windowsphone.com website are limited to billing information and security. You can update your billing information, view the apps you've bought and go to the web version of the WP Marketplace and buy new apps. Note that they will be sent to your phone to be downloaded locally on the device, unlike on the Zune app for your PC or Mac.
The features most important to users are the Find, Ring, Lock or Erase. To use them you'll have to input a phone number that comes from the list supported countries. After you've done this the website will have access to your phone's location so you'll be able to pinpoint its almost exact location.
The windowsphone.com interface
The other features are pretty self-explanatory - Ring will use your phone's ringtone to send a signal if you've lost it around the house, Lock will lock it with a 4-digit PIN code and Erase will wipe all your sensitive data off the device so you don't have to worry about it falling into undesirable hands.
What we didn't like about the windowsphone.com cloud is that it doesn't allow wireless sync like on the iCloud, for example. We just think that any cloud-based service should offer this. Also the number of countries that allow tracking your device is limited and many countries where WP is available won't have access to these much-needed features.
The rest of the website includes guides on each individual feature of your phone and depending on where you live there's a very detailed list of providers and operators that offer WP handsets.