Thoughts on the Nokia Lumia 900

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I’ve written before about how excited I am about the merger between Microsoft and Nokia. More so when the folks from Fleishman-Hillard kindly invited me to an exclusive pre-launch as well as “seeding” me with a device so that I may rip it to shreds! But seriously, I like to thank the team from Fleishman and from Nokia for this opportunity.
The Nokia Lumia 900 is their flagship and should epitomize all the goodness of the strategic alliance between Nokia and Microsoft. Does it? Read on to find out.
Generally the Metro operating system is not too bad. The overall UX design is what I had expected, which it is essentially a large notification screen with direct access my information. Not only that, I do like the new squared tiled GUI. Swiping is snappy and the touch screen is responsive. The screen resolution and color is awesome. I also like the screen size when compared to the Samsung Note, which I find too big.
I like the industrial design of the phone. It feels solid, though not as solid as the iPhone. The SIM card tray is a little wobbly, but that could just be a tolerance issue on my unit. I do miss the curved glass available on the Lumia 800. It does make the phone more finished as well as sliding off the face better. I smell an engineering or budgeting compromise here? The phone casing is also painted in a shiny gloss color, which unfortunately turns the device into a large bar of soap. It has pretty much slid off everything I put it on, so I now need a case…

One of the key “promises” of the Metro UI design is the ability to get to the information fast, and then out again(see above). One of the key hubs for this feature is the “People Hub”. It basically consolidates all your social networks such as Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live (who uses this anymore?) and email into one place. It is great in theory, but in reality it is a fish market! I can’t tell which message is from which network, and how I can respond to it. Having to slide through the different screens gets a little confusing. One of the problems is that the Metro OS uses font sizes to differentiate headings and different parts of the text paragraph. It makes for a unique GUI, but when you are scrolling through large amounts of data, it becomes a mishmash of words.
I think there is a lot that can be improved, for example the use of Twitter or Facebook icons to see which message is from where. If Microsoft can somehow organize each stream, and also allow me to see it all consolidated in one place, this feature would be a killer!
In reality, the thoughts that I’ve shared above are things I can accept and have managed to get around it. But I do have one big complaint and it can be a huge turn off when using this phone.
We have the makings of a brilliant UI/UX, but it’s all totally messed up by the inclusion of all kinds of software “droppings” on it. I’m not sure if this is a Microsoft thing, but it’s like buying a typical Windows PC, it comes with all these little bits of software “droppings” I don’t really use/need. In the Metro OS they have, for example, include a phone welcome App and some Tango VoIP phone App.
However what is really annoying is that you have a double of almost every standard App! You have the following Apps with similar functions: Nokia Music / Zune, Nokia Maps / Maps, Nokia Market Place / App Highlights, and Nokia Drive / Maps etc. I know some of these Apps may do slightly different things, but logic and sanity should prevail. Things like Nokia Drive and Maps should really be the same App as people expect it to be.
With that, it is quite clear to me that there is a huge business agenda between Nokia and Microsoft with both wanting their value add services on the device. The alliance seems to be some kind of 50/50 partnership mash-up where the person that loses out in the end is the user.
Both companies need to look at this device from the point of view of the customer, identify the benefits they provide, and determine what roles each organization will play. Otherwise they risk killing off a great interface at its infancy.
Before I sign off, I like to say that I won’t go to much into the Apps in this article as I’m still “getting into” the phone but suffice to say I’m currently not as productive as I am on my iPhone. As they say, the survival of any phone platform has to do with the range of Apps available. Microsoft has to decide if they want to create a new market, or convert existing users who already have a long relationship with Apple. If it is the latter, Microsoft will have to convince developers such as Instagram, Path or Instapaper to come on over to Metro OS.

  • Brian (Design Sojourn)

    July 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm Reply

    @Cameron: You know what, I’ll double check with Nokia. You might be right…

  • Cameron

    July 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm Reply

    That’s odd. In the US, all black and cyan 900s are the nice matte texture. Only the white is gloss. Did they switch the gloss tool to black/blue models as well for other markets maybe?

  • Brian (Design Sojourn)

    July 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm Reply

    @Cameron: Thanks for your comment. I agree, the Windows Metro UI together with the Lumia 900’s industrial design is a contender to the iPhone. If they really focus on the benefits of the UI a lot more it can be so much better. Finally, the Lumia 800 is textured, the 900 blue and black is all glossy.
    @Doug: Thanks for taking the time to clarify. You are probably right that the Nokia versions are better than the built in Apps, but to me they look and function the same. In my mind “droppings” are software Apps we don’t use, such as that Tango VoIP app. IMHO is this product needs to be taken to the next level, they will need to make some hard decisions. These days letting the market decide is ripe for confusion.

  • Doug

    July 6, 2012 at 9:30 pm Reply

    The ‘droppings’ as you call them kinda confused me too at first. Nokia wrote their own apps that basically duplicate but improve upon some of the built-in apps. IN any event, the Nokia ones can be installed easily enough.
    In any event, I have to agree with the previous poster. It is certainly one of the few true iPhone competitors out there. Perhaps one or two of the high-end Androids as well.

  • Cameron

    July 6, 2012 at 7:49 am Reply

    Glad to see you covering this. I have the 900 (wish it was the 800, but the screen stinks and I couldn’t get one at the time).
    IMO this effort by Nokia should be lauded as one of the only true iPhone competitors in terms of hardware design and UI. Sure, Windows Phone isn’t perfect, but it does what I need quickly, and is beautiful. I felt that I should vote with my wallet since I’m not a huge fan of the iPhone 4 hardware and I believe in windows phone.
    I don’t know if the gloss white is painted or not, but I do know that the blue and black are both matte milled polycarbonate, which feels VERY nice and is less slippery than the white version (otherwise I would have gotten white).

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