Yuhnke Commentary: Is Nokia's Lumia 900 the best Windows phone yet?

PHOENIX - In the world of smartphones, Nokia is a monster. Here in the US, Nokia hasn't made much of a splash over the past few years but worldwide, they're still one of the biggest manufacturers  of cell phones.

Now the company is betting the farm on the Windows Phone 7 platform. Can it compete with the monsters that are Apple iPhone and Google Android?

Here's my breakdown of Nokia's 2nd Windows phone smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 900 on at&t wireless.

Hardware

The Lumia 900 is a rock, in a good way. It's built of a smooth textured plastic and a Corning Gorilla Glass screen. I can't spot a seam on the entire thing. It feels as solid as a rock. Nokia knows how to make a great piece of hardware and the 900 is proof of that. This is among the best built smartphones I have ever held. It is a tad thick at .45" (compared to the iPhone 4s which is .37")

The rear 8 megapixel camera takes great photos. I snapped a few and posted them to my Flickr account, check them out . There is a 1 megapixel front-facing camera (although apps that use it are limited.) The 4.3" "ClearBlack" AMOLED display is impressive. You can quickly see why they brand it as "ClearBlack," the blacks on the screen are some of the darkest blacks I've ever seen on an LCD. The biggest problem with the screen is the resolution. At 800x480 it's sufficient but falls short of the Retina screen on the iPhone 4 which is 960x640 packed into a smaller screen, 3.5".  This creates a much high pixel density and a much clearer image.

The 1.4 GHZ processor combined with the snappy Windows Phone 7 interface keeps the 900 screaming along. This thing is fast, snappy and responsive.

It zips along on the Internet using at&t's 4G LTE network (where available.)  

Software

The operating system is the real wildcard with the Lumia 900. There is a lot to love about Windows Phone 7. It's very fast and fluid. The tile interface feels intuitive and works well at dishing out quick snippets of information. Social media integration is easier and better than iPhone or Android. Sign into your accounts and it just works.  Some functions are so simple that I found myself saying, "Why do other phones make this so difficult?" I commend Microsoft for taking a step in a different direction. Windows Phone 7 does not feel like an iOS or Android copycat. On the other side of that, it means there will be a learning curve for some people. It's not confusing but it's very different than the typical home screen and app pages that we're used to on iOS and Android.

Windows Phone 7 has apps, thousands of them. The problem is, only about 50 apps actually matter. If it had the 50 most popular apps, we'd be good to go. That's not the case. There are some key apps missing. Most notably is the one app I use every single day, Pandora. It's one of the most popular apps on all of the smartphone platforms. It doesn't exist on Windows Phone 7. That's not to say there aren't plenty of other great music streaming apps. There are! It's just a clear sign that the platform has some room to grow when it comes to attracting all of the MAJOR app developers.

Conclusion

The Nokia Lumia 900 is simple. It's an amazing piece of hardware with a fast processor, a good 8 megapixel camera and a nice screen. The Windows Phone 7 operating system is good but I'm still not convinced that users are ready to accept it's simplistic design and tile interface. For only $99 with a 2 year contract on AT&T, the Lumia 900 is priced right. It's the best of the best when it comes to Windows phones. My only suggestion is that you spend 10 minutes with the interface in the store before you decide if Windows Phone 7 is the right smartphone platform for you.

The Nokia Lumia 900 goes on sale April 8th for $99 with a 2 year contract on AT&T.

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