Lumia Review


It was the best of phones - it was the worst of phones...

WP7 Voice Recognition Error
I want to start this review by saying three things:

  • I got this phone for free - thanks Nokia!
  • I'm an extremely demanding mobile user. I recognise that I am an edge-case; what I find annoying, you may not.
  • I've tried to stick to actual bugs, not just "it does things differently."

Sergeant Elop's Lonely Phone Club

Imagine, of you will, you have just purchased a brand new copy of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on vinyl.

It is beautifully designed, an astonishing work of art. You play side one and it is sublime - perhaps the perfect start to any album.

The you flip the disc to side two - and it's Justin Bieber. A screeching, horrible, tune free noise that damages your calm and makes you want to smash your stereo.

That's the Lumia 800 from Nokia. It's Finland's first Windows Phone 7. It's beautiful and infuriating in equal measure.

The Good

There is much to praise the Lumia - and WP7 - for. So much potential - and nearly all of it squandered. But, we'll get to that... Let's start with what I love.

Beauty Is Skin Deep

The phone is gorgeous. Like a futuristic pop-tart. Sleek, shiny, and midnight black.
It pulls off the incredible feat of being discreet and eye catching.
A pure monoblock. As enigmatic and attractive as the monolith from 2001.

There's just one problem. We're in 2011.

A Brand New Operating System

Windows Phone 7 is different from all other phone operating systems before it. Sure, it has icons, widgets, lists, long presses, swipes, and ... you know what? It isn't different. It isn't a new paradigm. What it is, is gorgeous.

It's a sparse and elegant experience. Fast and user friendly.

The "Metro UI" is really easy to use, gentle on the eye, and a clever way to organise a phone.

Speed Demon

This is one of the fastest phones I've used. It's startup speed rivals that of BlackBerry. In day to day usage, I never found that it stuttered or slowed down - even while having several apps open at once.

Our Friends Connected

You can add in all your disparate social networks into your phone book. So, when you look up a contact, you can easily see their last status message, their Facebook photos etc.

Just like Vodafone 360 did years ago...

But, unlike 360, it works really well. It seemed to match up all my Twitter, Facebook, and address book friends without hassle.

Getting The Basics Right

Call quality was excellent. Good speaker phone. Fine reception. Basically, it works as a phone.

The camera is quick to focus and produces outstanding images.

Ok... ok... If you want to use it as a basic smartphone, the Lumia will do you fine.
It browses the web, plays music, links all your social networks together, and looks beautiful while doing so.

It is basically fine - until you scratch beneath the surface.

The Bad

I thought that the Nokia N8 was the worst phone ever made by Nokia. The Lumia may come a close second.

I've been posting a running commentary on Twitter of all the niggles I have with the Lumia.

Here are the highlights - and slightly more in depth explanations - of every bug and annoyance I found. I have suffered, so that you may not.

Let's start off with a gentle one...


WP7 Skeuomorph
For a very modern operating system, WP7 has a fondness for outdated UI elements. I can't think of the last time I used a floppy disk.

That was the warm up. What would you say to a phone that you can't switch off?

I have since discovered that this only happens when the phone is plugged in. Maybe I'm unusual but, before going to bed, I switch off my phone and let it charge overnight. I've had several WP7 fans say that I should switch my phone on to flight mode (go in to settings, scroll through) or switch my phone on to silent if I don't want to be disturbed during the night.

There's just two problems with that. Firstly - why doesn't the phone tell me that I can't switch it off? Secondly - it's impossible to switch the phone on to silent.

Silence Is Golden

This may fall under the "just how I am used to it" school of errors, but bear me out.
On every phone I've owned I've had three sound profiles that I can toggle through.

  • Ring and vibrate - what the phone is normally set to.
  • Vibrate - when I want to be notified, but having a loud ring isn't appropriate.
  • Silent - I don't want to be notified (I'm in a meeting).

With the Lumia, I can toggle between Ring+Vibrate and Vibrate. There's no way to get the phone to go silent without diving through a maze of menus.

In fairness, this is a problem which has affected recent Android phones - but there are multiple (free) widgets which solve it.

Screen Issues

The screen on the Lumia is a mixed bag. When it's displaying white text on a pure black background, it's perfect. When there's a white background, the screen seems - to me - to have lots of artefacts on it.
WP7 Crap lumia screen
The Lumia's screen is at its worst when dealing with greys, and solid blogs of colours. It suffers from lots of vertical banding which is really quite unpleasant.

I've scanned in the screen looking at a fairly normal grey image. While the scanner has overemphasised the problem (and my greasy finger prints!) you should be able to get an idea of how the problem manifestsLumia Smeary Screen.

Browser Bugbears

Internet Explorer is a reasonable browser - but very buggy.

The URL bar keeps disappearing. I've had this a couple of times. The URL bar just vanishes when you're using the web. As far as I can tell, there's no way to bring it back.

The scrolling for the web browser sometimes stops responding.

Meeting You, Meeting Me

It's really hard to accept meeting invites on the Lumia. On my Exchange email, it works perfectly. For some Gmail invites, I have to click a link and go to Google Calendar on the web. The Lumia doesn't recognise .ics files - so there's no way the email client can talk to the calendar.

But, worse is to come. I asked someone at Microsoft to send me a meeting invite to my Gmail account. While the invite worked fine on the web, the Lumia gave me literally no way to answer the meeting invite - as this video demonstrates.

Crapware

This is Nokia's flagship phone - so you think they would have taken more care with it, wouldn't you? As well as a buggy OS, they've filled it with... let's just say "non-premium" apps.

Some apps, like this one from BA, need updating as soon as you switch on the phone. Sadly, you can't click a button to update - you have to go into the app store.
BA Update

The greatest opprobrium is reserved for TripAdvisor. I know that deals like this take a lot of time and money to organise - but they really could have done better than this pathetic effort.


Lumia Tripadvisor

Still, at least they let you easily uninstall the bloat.

Things Go Better When We're Together

Microsoft may - or may not - be buying Nokia. One thing is for sure, they're working closely together. What's weird is why they've decided to duplicate some of the services on the phone.


I'm all for customer choice - but here, it just seems confusing.

Finally, Nokia seems to have its own app store. Once again, we see just how little Nokia care for UX.


Nokia App Store WP7

Paperback Writer

The keyboard is a very strange beast. It's mostly fine, but has some oddities.

Weirdly, the word "Lumia" isn't in the Lumia's dictionary. So there's a little red squiggle ever time you write it. Or other common words.

That said - the in-line spell check is very nice. I miss it on my Android - I think I first saw it on the BlackBerry many years ago.

My Baby's Got Me Wrapped Up In Chains

We're living in a post-PC age. Unless you're Microsoft. You have to connect to a Windows PC to update software, copy across music and videos, change the BlueTooth name of the device, or even subscribe to podcasts.

What's worse, is you have to install the Zune software if you want to get music or photos off the device. You can't send via Bluetooth, you can't just shove in a USB cable and drag them off. You have to install the 100MB behemoth that is Zune, restart your PC several times, fire up the software, wait for it to detect your phone, then let it sync before you can get your photos out.

Of course, you could email your photos off the phone - but the UI for that is terrible. There's no way to select multiple images, so you have to attach each one individually.

It seems that any time you want to do something to your phone, you have to connect it to a PC running Windows.

Let's Talk About Text, Baby

Do you ever use read receipts for SMS? Perfect for seeing when someone has received your message. In every other phone on the planet, the read receipt is integrated in to the SMS app - so you can see at a glance which messages have been received.

With WP7, you get a long list of phone numbers which have received a message. It doesn't even do the simple task of showing you the name of your contact.
WP7 Lumia SMS Read receipt

No Thanks

I hope that what I've shown you is a litany of bugs, errors, gotchas, and foul ups. I don't think any of the points I've raised are unfair. I like to think that I judge other phones just as harshly - see my treatment of BlackBerry and of iPhone and of Android.

I know this is a brand new OS - but you don't get credit for trying.


If you are prepared to stay in the walled garden, and put up with the bugs, the Lumia is a decent device. But there are devices which do more, cost less, and have more apps on them.

I'm not giving up on Windows Phone 7. It is still a work in progress. There is a great deal of potential here - and I look forward to seeing what the future brings.

For now though, avoid the Lumia. Wait until Microsoft fixes the bugs and until Nokia decides release a phone that they are happy with. Because, honestly, I don't think anyone at Nokia can believe this is the best that they can do.

14 thoughts on “Lumia Review

  1. Nicely done review!

    I would like to suggest that any Nokia executives reading this give Mr Eden future editions of the phone before releasing it to the public, rather than after.

  2. Great and thorough review Terence. Having used a Windows phone for some time now ( HTC Trophy), there are bugs here and there but overall the experience is pretty good.

    WM and the device manufacturers still have some work to do to make it an experience as slick as the iPhone.

    In my view they are on the right path, and its WM powered phone tend to be decent products that I would recommend as they stand. Let's hope Windows take this great feedback in and make the necessary changes to improve the overall experience.

    Few of the bugs seem to be Nokia specific rather than WM specific. I do hope that we don't start seeing discreprancy across manufacturers.

    Hakim

  3. First time I've been to this site, but it may well be the last. Why is this review full of enormous twitter screen shots? Was it really too much work to actually write a properly formatted review? Just smacks of laziness.

    1. Hi Phil,

      I use Blackbird Pie to import my comments from Twitter. They're not screenshots - you can copy the text and click on the links.

      While I know that you have been following all my Tweets religiously, I thought I'd put them in there for people who aren't as devoted to me as you are.

      And, yes, I was too lazy to type them all up again. Please forgive me.

      T

  4. I have had a WP7 phone for 6 months and not found any of the bugs you have met.

    For instance I've never noticed the text flow issue as I've never needed it as I can read it perfectly easily. Also the browser bar used to be at the top pre Mango and it was a pain and it's much better at the bottom

    You obviously have too much time on your hands.

    1. Hi Paul,

      While you may have not found any of these bugs, they certainly exist on my Lumia. I hope the photos and videos prove that.

      With the URL bar - why was it a pain being at the top? I find that I go to click on the URL bar and then it immediately jumps in to the middle of the page. On every other phone, it just stays at the top and I don't have to move my thumb to click again.

      I'm sure you do like it how it is now - but can you please explain why you think it's better.

      Thanks for the comment.

      T

      1. I like the bar better at the bottom because you can refresh and edit the URL with one thumb (my standard mode of operation) whereas when it is at the top you need 2, or a very difficult stretch which makes you almost drop it.

        Btw I also understand perfectly well the little diskette icon ( as many millions will), I have never had a problem switching it off (it charges perfectly well switched on), on my Omnia 7 I can set it to it both silent and not vibrate very easily, the screen on the Omnia 7 is great, and I don't use Gmail as my main email address (I like some privacy), and I have more apps tham I need.

        Not to say its perfect in everyway (I'd like to have more than one Twitter and Facebook account in the Hub, for instance) and of course, worst of all its not based on Linux 😉

  5. The WP deal killer for me, regardless if it is the Lumia or the HTC or whoever, is the last section of this site, if I can't get my original photos of a mobile with USB or bluetooth the mobile is stuck in 2005. And in 2005, with my Nokia 7610 I could get all my photos off the mobile with USB or bluetooth.

    LIke Terence, I am an edge case. And I have no desire to run 100mb of Zune over on Virtual Box just to pull my photos off in their original size. Folks who have been sending their photos to Microsoft's Skydrive have found that they have been resized and are not the original size.

  6. As a long time Nokia fan I wasn't really thinking of getting one of these as I think they really can come up with something much much better but when they do I'll be coming back to see what you make of it before I think of buying it. Till then, if you don't want it.......

  7. On the start you seem to give some actually good points, but after that... well. Example the "Nokia Store" there isn't one. Most of the Lumia 800 buyers will be first time WP users and the app just shows Nokia recommended apps on marketplace.

    Needing your computer to use the phone ort tablet hasn't done much harm to iphone and ipad. Itunes actually is quite miserable on Windows compared to itunes.

    You sound... a bit whiny to say the least. "WP7 feels like it's conflicting itself" by offering business and fun apps? Don't really get the rational thinking behind the examples you give there. This was supposed to be power user look, right?

    Again i really do think you make some good points here also, you just seem to try way too hard and come out quite whiny.

    1. Thanks for the comment. My remarks about the Nokia "highlights" were that - to me - it looks like a different store. And that's it's extremely poorly made - take a look at the photo and tell me that looks like it has been tested.

      Regarding the need for a computer. BlackBerry doesn't need it, Android doesn't need it, even iPhone has done away with the need to be tied to a computer. It seems like a step backwards to me.

      On your final point. Is a business going to buy its employees a device which prominently features "XBOX" on the front page? Is a gamer really going to care about the BA app or the Excel client?
      Far better - I think - to release a "Lumia Office" and a "Lumia Gamer" SKU. One loaded with business apps which de-emphasises the gaming aspect, the other full of Ministry of Sound apps and their ilk.

      Sorry for appearing whiny; I have a cold 😉

      T

  8. Dear Terence,
    Excellent review! I confess I have the very same frustrations as you (and some more!) about Nokia Lumia 800 (just received it as a Christmas present).
    Oh, I already miss my good old friend Nokia Xpress Music...
    It's so annoying that such basic things such as closing/ exiting pages does not exist in WP7... or that there is no option for meeting/ silent!
    I also have a bad tooth against the idea of live tiles at any price!
    Maybe I want them still, not moving and changing all the time, and showing all my contacts faces etc.!
    Maybe I want them smaller/ re-sizeable!
    And the audio options are crap too! God, the volume is a pain - even if I leave the volume set at the lowest level (1/30), the sound is still howling in my ears whilst listening to music or radio.
    Let alone the fact there is no option for sound equaliser, mode etc. - but these are already a matter of finesse which Nokia Lumia lacks greatly.
    I have to look for applications, maybe there are some out there compatible with an Windows phone, to fix all these awful issues that Nokia Lumia bestowed upon us.
    Any suggestions would be more than welcome!

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