The Nokia Lumia 900 is the best Windows Phone available. The device is iconic in design, with a big screen that showcases what Windows Phone is capable of. The Lumia 900 is the first Windows Phone with 4G LTE, which delivers snappy speeds that match the surprisingly fast overall performance.
The limitations of the Lumia 900, and Windows Phone show up when you look at the screen.The low resolution and pixel density turns every rounded edge jagged, paling in comparison to the iPhone 4S and Android phones with HD displays.
Despite the display issues and limited number of apps, the Lumia 900 is a spectacular phone that we can highly recommend for those looking for an iPhone alternative. The real flaws are not the fault of the phone, but of the platform.
Nokia Lumia 900 | $99 | AT&T
Nokia Lumia 900 Review Guide
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Buy the Lumia 900
The Lumia 900 shares the same overall design of Nokia’s Lumia 800 and N9 smartphones. The body is polycarbonate with the color infused into the material and not just painted on. The Lumia 900 is larger thanks to a 4.3-inch display that is flat instead of curved, but looks familiar to Nokia users.
The phone seems huge coming from an iPhone 4, but it is still comfortable to hold thanks to its curves. The polycarbonate shell has a nice texture that makes it a pleasure to hold.
All of the buttons are on the right side of the Lumia 900, which takes some getting used to. I typically try to control my smartphone with my right hand, using just my thumb to navigate the screen.
The placement is good, and you won’t find yourself accidentally pressing buttons, but you will have to shift to press the camera button.
The left side of the device is free of buttons or ports. The bottom of the Lumia 900 is home to the speaker, and the top has the headphone jack, mini-USB charging port, and the microSIM slot.
The 4.3-inch 800 x 480 display on the Lumia 900 looks great, even outdoors, but the low resolution and pixel density prove tough to ignore.
The Lumia 900’s ClearBlack display produces great deep blacks and vibrant colors. The 900 has good viewing angles, delivering great colors until the extreme angles. You can share YouTube videos with your friends with no problem. If they can see the screen, they should see a good picture.
One standout feature is the ability to use the Lumia 900 in the sunlight. Many phones falter in the bright light of the sun, but the Lumia 900 works just fine outdoors.
The only downside to the display is that it’s very easy to spot each pixel. Maybe I’m spoiled by the iPhone’s Retina Display, but the 800 x 480 resolution is not enough for a 4.3-inch screen. The problem is especially noticeable when reading text.
I spent a lot of time reading Feast For Crows with the Kindle app on the Lumia 900. It was great to read on a large display, but the text just looked blurry because of the resolution. It was still legible, but I found myself hold the phone as far away from my eyes as I could just so I could read without having to see the fuzziness around the letters.
With a single-core 1.5GHz CPU, the Lumia 900 handles Windows Phone very well. Everything about the OS is smooth with very little lag. Some apps took a couple of seconds to load, but this was isolated to a few particular apps.
HD video, such as Louis CK: Live From The Beacon played on the device with no stuttering, as did the few music videos I loaded up.
Games like Bullet Asylum and Dodonpachi Maximi also performed well with no lag or stuttering.
The Nokia Lumia 900 has AT&T 4G LTE, which is a first for Windows phone. AT&T’s 4G LTE speeds are several times faster than 3G and on par with Verizon’s 4G LTE.
AT&T’s 4G LTE service is not available in as many locales as Verizon’s, which means you’ll be stuck with slower mobile data speeds until AT&T builds out 4G LTE in your home town.
In our speed tests, the Nokia Lumia 900 downloaded data at up to 18.55 Mbps per second and uploaded as quickly as 3.64 Mbps.
Download speeds were up to eight times faster than the iPhone 4S on AT&T’s 3G (HSPA+) network at the same location. Like all mobile networks, AT&T’s 4G LTE speeds will vary based on the quality of your connection and network congestion.
For a speed comparison of Verizon’s and AT&T’s 4G LTE networks, check out the video below with the new iPad on 4G LTE.
The Nokia Lumia can last a full day on 4G LTE with moderate usage. That’s great news considering many 4G LTE phones require mid-day charges. The Lumia 900 typically lasts from the time I get up in the morning until I go to bed.
That translates to about 18 hours according to the Lumia 900’s Battery Saver with moderate use. A typical day of phone use for me includes about two hours on Twitter, playing 30 minutes of video games and listening to two hours of audio. This while having the phone fetch email from two accounts and alert me in real time.
I don’t have 4G LTE at home, but it can definitely last a full day with 4G LTE enabled, according to a colleague who is also testing the Lumia 900. As far as we can tell, the Lumia 900 outlasts most Android phones with 4G LTE.
Calls are clear with the Lumia 900 and nobody’s complained about the audio quality of my voice so far. It functions just as well as any other AT&T phone, which is to say it sounds good enough when you have a solid signal. I never had a problem with dropped calls, but in my area I rarely drop calls on AT&T.
The speaker on the bottom of the Lumia 900 is a little louder than my iPhone, it has a tinny ring to it. It’s loud enough to listen to dialog without headphones.
The Nokia Lumia 900 produces a slight hum through the headphone jack. I tested the phone with a number of different headphones and heard the hum no matter which app was running. It was hard to notice with music playing, but with audio paused it was annoying.
The rear camera has an 8MP sensor with autofocus, Carl Zeiss optics, and f/2.2. The front camera is 1MP and mostly for video chat, but it has an f-stop of 2.4 so it can operate in low light.
The rear camera us great during the day and in well-lit rooms. The colors looked accurate in most instances. I did see a lot of blown-out whites in reflective surfaces, but that seems to go with the territory of smartphone cameras. The images also had a lot of noise in most cases.
At night and in poorly- lit rooms the camera performed much worse. Even with the flash, pictures either came out far too dark and noisy. Without the flash the images are very dark with a green tint. With the flash the subjects are visible, but there’s still a lot of noise in the pictures.
The front camera performs well for a front-facing camera. I was able to take a few decent self-portraits with the phone that I now use for avatars on Twitter and Facebook.
Overall, the cameras aren’t as bad if you don’t mind having a bit of noise on them. It is disappointing coming from the manufacturer that created PureView, a system that takes perhaps the best pictures of any smartphone. I can’t see the camera on the Lumia 900 replacing my iPhone, let alone a modern point-and-shoot.
If you’ve used Windows Phone before or have followed it at all, you’ll know that apps is where the platform falls to its knees. It’s just hard to find great third-party apps for the platform. Microsoft built in some great features like Local Scout, but there aren’t many stand out apps in the Marketplace.
Popular iOS and Android apps like Flipboard, Draw Something , Angry Birds Space, Path, Audible, Instapaper, Path and Instagram are all missing from the Windows Phone experience.
Nokia tries to address the limited number of apps by bundling Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive, Nokia Transit, and Creative Suite with the Lumia 900.
Transit is a great app for finding public transportation, and is arguably better than any transit app I’ve use on the iPhone. It’s nice to have an app that could help me with both the Long Island Railroad and New York City Subway.
Creative Suite is a photo editing app with a few filters. It’s not as robust as iPhoto or Camera+, but it’s good enough for making quick edits before posting photos to Facebook.
AT&T ships the Lumia 900 with myAT&T, AT&T Radio, AT&T U-Verse Mobile, AT&T Code Scanner, and AT&T Navigator. Only myAT&T proved to be useful to me. The rest were either useless because Windows phones already come with features built in (Code Scanner) or are paid services where similar services were free alternatives (Navigator, Radio).
USA Today and YP Mobile were also pre-installed, but I will never use them. Thankfully all pre-installed apps can be un-installed.
Is the Lumia 900 Worth It?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, as long as you can deal with the low screen resolution, mediocre camera, and lack of apps.
At $99.99 the Nokia Lumia 900 is perfect for first-time smartphone owners or those who just want a different mobile platform. The hardware is spectacular, it’s just the few nitpicks that turned me off to the idea of using one as my main phone.
If you are considering the phone, check out the Windows Phone Marketplace first to make sure it has the apps you’re looking for. You might not find Flipboard, Tweetbot, Tumblr, Instagram, Draw Something, Hulu Plus, and Comixology as important as I do. Microsoft’s platform could have all the apps you need.
Finding those few issues really depressed me. I wanted the Lumia 900 to be my next phone. I love holding the phone in my hands and using it. I love that the Lumia 900 has a bigger screen than the iPhone, but not that it comes at the expense of pixel density and apps that are part of my everyday routine.