If you want to buy a phone right now, and you're shopping based on quality rather than price, you have two choices in terms of size. You can get the iPhone, with its 3.5-inch screen, or you can choose from a handful of top-tier Android and Windows phones, all of which will have, at the bare minimum, a four-inch screen. Most of them will be bigger--4.3 inches is much more common right now, and an increasing number are even larger, including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (4.65 in), HTC Titan (4.7 in), and the Samsung Galaxy Note (which, at 5.3 inches, is more lunchtray than phone).
The Nokia Lumia 900 is essentially a 4.3-inch version of the Lumia 800, a phone I absolutely loved in its 3.7-inch iteration (a Europe-only model). So reviewing the Lumia 900 presents an interesting question: with most other specs remaining constant, how does the experience of using a phone change when it grows to the size most phone manufacturers insist we really want?
The Lumia 900 is Nokia's first "flagship" Windows Phone that's available in North America (the Lumia 710, a cheapie, has been available on T-Mobile for a little while already). It's the sequel to the much-admired Lumia 800 and its changes are mostly in size (of various sorts). It's got a 4.3-inch screen, compared to the Lumia 800's 3.7-inch screen; it has 4G LTE (on AT&T), compared to the Lumia 800's 3G; it has a bigger battery and a front-facing camera.
This is mostly a good phone. Windows Phone is a great operating system; it's still maturing, but it's very usable, and it's an interesting and distinctly different approach to a smartphone than iOS or Android. (More on that here.) The physical design is pretty good; it's inoffensive, at worst, and is weighty enough to feel sturdy rather than cheap and plasticky, as many Windows Phones do (especially those made by Samsung). It's also nicely thin, only a millimeter or two thicker than the iPhone. The screen, though not thrilling in its resolution, has great deep blacks, which is important when using an OS with a predominantly black interface by default.
AT&T'S 4G LTE continues to be great. This is the first phone using AT&T's LTE I've personally used, and it feels just as screamingly fast as Verizon's. It's startling how quickly things load--LTE is as fast or faster than many people's home internet connections, so apps download instantly, web pages load instantly, music and podcasts sync instantly. I was impressed with AT&T's coverage too--I used the Lumia 900 all over New York City and it never dropped out on me. And the giant 1830mAh battery will get you through a full day with normal use, which is not always the case with the current crop of LTE-capable phones.
Bigger is not better. Gadget makers will tell you I'm wrong--they'll point to sales numbers, saying that people have embraced big phones by the millions. But you could just as easily point to the iPhone, the most successful phone line in the country by a long shot, and say that it proves that people love smaller phones. Or you could remember that if you want a good Android or Windows phone, you are basically forced to buy a giant one. There are no longer any top-tier 3.7-inch phones. There are a rapidly decreasing number of 4-inch phones (the Motorola Droid 4, an above-average but not particularly special phone, is the only high-end 4-incher released in the past six months). If you're shopping Android or Windows, your choices are limited to big or bigger. And that's not necessarily for the better.
Most gadgets need to be of a particular size to fulfill their particular roles. A phone has to fit in your pocket or purse. An ebook reader has to display a page of text. A tablet has to provide a full web experience. You can't just stretch it out, like it's a Gumby made of silicon and glass and metal and plastic, and say it's a better device because of it. And that's exactly what the Lumia 900 is. The phone is big--not as big as a Galaxy Note, but big. It's actually wider and thicker than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, a phone with a substantially bigger screen.
I have small hands (we all have our hurdles in life), and for me, any phone with a screen bigger than four inches is more difficult to use than it's worth. In regular use, I find myself constantly readjusting my grip--I can't hold the phone and reach all parts of the screen with my thumb. Beyond the overall size increase, I don't think the bigger screen has any real benefits in this case. The Windows Phone keyboard is excellent; I never found it awkward to type on the smaller Lumia 800, so unless you have the sausage fingers of Billy Joel (YouTube it, the dude has ten kielbasas attached to his palms), I can't imagine this being a striking improvement. The screen is also mathematically worse than the Lumia 800's. It's the same exact screen--a PenTile AMOLED screen with 800 x 480 resolution and Nokia's ClearBlack tech, which, if you don't understand that, congratulations for not having so much nonsense rattling around in your head. What matters is that it's the same number of pixels stretched across a larger canvas—the opposite of Apple's approach with its Retina Display—which means a visible downgrade in image quality.
So on the Lumia 900, the picture is worse. It creates a bigger bulge in my pocket. What's the point?
All the buttons are on the right edge of the phone, even the power/hold button, which is often found on the top edge. That's essential, because it's not really possible for anyone besides Hakeem Olajuwon to reach the top edge of the phone while holding it with one hand. But with it placed on the side, I found myself accidentally hitting the hold switch often, since it falls directly under your right thumb.
The design is also somehow not quite as enthralling as the sleek Lumia 800, even though it's nearly identical. It's the little things, which add up to a different impression when you're dealing with a very simple design presentation. Example: the 800's screen was curved, with the screen seeming to melt off into the sides of the phone like an infinity pool. The 900 has a typical flat screen, with a more definitive bezel between the screen and the sides of the phone, and a weird raise ridge around the edges. It's a very minimalist design, which worked for the 800, because it had nice little touches and felt compact and sharp. The Lumia 900 isn't bad-looking, and it's certainly well-crafted, but it's also not that interesting.
The camera remains not very good. I was surprised at this with the Lumia 800, and I'm still surprised--the Nokia N8, probably the worst phone I've ever reviewed, had a stellar camera, and Nokia is well-known for their phone cameras. The Lumia 900's is average at best--I love that it has a dedicated shutter button, and shutter speed is pretty good, but I wasn't impressed with image quality. The Lumia often came up with very dark shots, and color reproduction was sometimes off. And in lower-light situations, photos were extremely noisy.
The hardware handles the Windows Phone operating system pretty nicely; it's responsive and fast, for the most part. The way it scrolls still feels not quite as organic as iOS--there's a little lag, and sometime the "flick" motion results not in a super-fast scroll, like you wanted, but a slow trudge downwards through a list. Otherwise the software has the same ups and downs (and it's mostly ups, to be clear) as any other Windows Phone, plus a few Nokia-specific apps (Nokia Drive, a free turn-by-turn GPS app; yet another mapping app, Nokia Maps; and a little Nokia-curated section of the App Marketplace).
It's available on AT&T for $100 with a two-year contract. That's half the price of other 16GB phones like the iPhone, and probably a good way for Microsoft and Nokia to worm their way back into the public consciousness. It's a good deal, though given the fact that you're signing a two-year contract that'll cost you several thousand dollars in voice and data plans, it doesn't really make sense to care much about an extra $100 up front.
The Lumia 900 is a pretty good phone--I still think the iPhone is a smarter buy on AT&T, due to its gigantic and thriving App Store, sleeker hardware, and more polished software, but the Lumia 900 is very nice. And yet I don't think it's as good a phone as the Lumia 800 (though the LTE speeds are delightful). It's a weird feeling to be disappointed while still recommending a product, but that's how it goes--the 900 doesn't live up to my expectations, but it's still the best Windows Phone in America. Still, it feels a little dull, where the Lumia 800 felt fresh and new and stylish. But most of all, I'm turned off by the size. Dear phone manufacturers: I know it's an easy sell to say that your phone is bigger and therefore better--but for some of us, it's simply not the case.
and I have bigger hands and prefer the bigger phones. Bad call to judge the product harshly because you have small hands. That's like saying "Mini Cooper's suck because my legs are long". Glitchy scrolling, sure, but size? That's too much of a personal preference...
I came and read this article just because of the headline.
The Note is selling fine, and it's large. It's not an "everyone phone" like the iPhone aims to be. We don't all have to use the same device. I'm pretty sick of reviewers slamming devices over personal issues. You redeemed yourself some in the end, but you started out stating you disliked it due to size.
I have a Galaxy Nexus and it just FEELS like a top notch phone. I'm also pretty surprised that you bashed the phone on its size just because you have small hands.....people can use two hands to operate a phone you know. IMO the only reason that iPhone is still reigning supreme is because it has the Apple logo on the back ie "fanboyism", for example one of my friends is a hardcore Apple lunatic, showed him my Galaxy Nexus, he turned around and purchased one a week later after looking up some reviews. If people could just get past that Apple logo they'd be shocked to realize that there are some much better phones out there.
It wasn't marked down because it didn't fit in his hand, that was a comment meant as a warning to those who also had small hands.
It was marked down for its size because while the screen is now larger, the resolution is the same as the smaller 800.
Thus a valid reason to mark down the phone.
I myself am torn, I do want to jump into the windows phone scene, but I wan't a phone I will be happy with hardware/design wise like my current iPhone 4.
*sigh* Changing is soo hard sometimes...
@4L3X - right on bro, you got the right mind set.
Good viewing outside the apple-groupies-close-minded box! You use your common sense instead!
Science sees no further than what it can sense, i.e. facts.
Religion sees beyond the senses, i.e. faith.
Open your mind and see!
I think this review is fair, and the title is also very fitting.
Dan explained very clearly that along with the bigger size it is reasonable to expect superior features to smaller phones.
Its like going from a 15" LCD to a 20" CRT monitor.
Yes its bigger, but it is definitely not better.
Personally, I think the only reason Apple gets so much business is because everybody knows Apple stuff is high-quality. It's also pricey. ditto for Windows. I would run Linux on my home computer if it were capable of stably running programs that are currently not available for it.
The Lumia 900 does NOT have a pentile display like the 800. It has a far better RGB display. If you're going to be in the product review business, please do you homework and stop "phone"ing it in.
"What's the point?"
$99. That's the point.
id rather have the 800 simply because i prefer a smaller phone. i have a big one now and i miss the smaller phones. i doubt my next phone will be a smartphone. if i can find a good phone with a great camera that isnt a smart phone ill get it instead.
I would like to point out some flaws in the article.
1. The screen is a rgb based anti glare screen
2. Is apple paying you to sell Iphones? Because everything you write seems to always say "go buy an Iphone!"
3.Quite biased and unprofessional. Like seriously what kind of photographic training have you had?!? Photo club in high school doesn't count, just FYI...
I don't have a Windows Phone (let's get that out of the way first). But this article has so many flaws. You should research a little before making statements like 'It's the same exact screen--a PenTile AMOLED screen with 800 x 480 resolution and Nokia's ClearBlack tech...'. It is NOT a PenTile display.
You can't claim that the larger display is a problem and then give us the line 'I have small hands...'. Come on. I could write an article about a phone saying the screen is terrible for usage and then write 'I lost both thumbs in an accident...'. I think you might find some interesting opinions on larger screen sizes if you asked people with regular sized hands. I have the GS2 and, like a lot of others who made the switch from the iPhone, I really couldn't go back to a small screen. The iPhone screen seems positively restrictive to me now.
I have owned the iPhone, several android devices and couple of windows phone 7 phones. Reason number one to bypass on the iPhone is the screen size. Anything with less than a 4" screen is unusable. It is clear that this person favors Apple . With so many great Android and WP7 phones out there, Apple is losing the market quickly. It is great that they jump started the market but it is being left behind and it is sad to read biased articles like this. To the users, go out to the store and try this phone, it is so much nicer than the iPhone and even most android devices.
Most comments below speak what I think. Whether bigger is better really depends on who you are - personally I love my GNex and its big screen. I've tried the Lumia 800 and couldn't imagine owning it, let alone the iPhone. Please don't criticize a phone like that just because you personally have small hands. And the popularity of a phone doesn't prove the popularity of its scree size - there are too many factors.
I like the look of this phone!!!
Phones are becoming our portal to a larger world and screen size is a vital part of this experience. Where the Nokia really falls down is weight and thickness -- greater weight makes the phone tiring to hold and thickness affects pocket comfort. My Galaxy SII is a year old design and has the same screen size as the Nokia (50% more area than an iPhone), but is much thinner and lighter. For comparison, the Nokia is 160g and 11.5mm thick; the iPhone is 140g and 9.3mm thick; the AT&T Galaxy SII is 122g and 9mm thick. With Android 4.0 upgrades and hot new phones this summer (including mid-range devices), there is little reason to invest in a Nokia running an OS designed by the company that gave us Windows Mobile and the KIN.
Obviously it is just like what they title says:Bigger Is Not Always Better,Nokia can not stand out again very easily,it is a much regret for us who was once nokia fans.
User experience is always the most important,that's why iphone has been the most popular in the world...
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A woman must have written this article.