Nokia Lumia 900 for AT&T review: Going all in

GSMArena team, 17 April 2012.
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Connectivity has plenty of options

The Nokia Lumia 900 has quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support and tri-band 3G with HSPA.

LTE connectivity however is possibly the most important of all connectivity features, which the Lumia 900 packs. If you are in an area, where it is available, you will hardly need any other means of data connectivity. It is simply great.

The local connectivity is covered by Wi-Fi b/g/n with DLNA and stereo Bluetooth 2.1. Bluetooth is currently limited as to what it can do - there's no file transfer support, for one.

Syncing with a computer is done with the Zune computer application. It's the only way to transfer files directly between your computer and your Windows Phone - there's no Mass storage mode.

You can sync files with Zune over the USB cable and Wi-Fi. There's a Mac version of it available too - Windows Phone 7 Connector.

Additional SD storage isn't available on Windows Phone so the Lumia 900 doesn't offer such an option.

Another syncing option is the cloud. SkyDrive is a free Microsoft service that gives you 25GB of cloud storage. You can even have your photos automatically uploaded as soon as you snap them.

Mango brings Wi-Fi hotspot functionality too. All you need is an active SIM card with a data connection and you're all set.

Internet Explorer mobile does without Flash

The Internet Explorer on Widows Phone was updated to the latest version for the 7.5 update and it improves the user interface.

The URL bar is always visible (but the status bar at the top of the screen is auto-hides, so you don't actually lose any screen real estate) and next to it is the refresh button. You can, of course, bring up the extended settings, which offer a great deal of options.

The URL bar also serves as a search bar, which is a handy shortcut for looking things up if you're not sure which site exactly will do the job.

The browser interface is quite minimalist - you have only the URL bar at the bottom with a reload icon to the left. Swiping the bar upward reveals shortcuts for tabs, recent, favorites, add to favorites, share page, pin to start and settings. The settings menu offers the usual options like location, allow cookies, delete browsing history but it does offer a very neat option to choose a global preference for mobile or desktop site versions.

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Internet explorer mobile

The browser makes the controls in web pages look just like their equivalents in native apps. So, a web app can look just like a native app with practically no extra effort from the designer.

The six tab ceiling hasn't been lifted - it's not too bad, but competing OSes don't have such limitations. We were also hoping to see text reflow, but no luck on that either.

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In-browser options Tabs

What has changed is performance - the new browser relies on hardware graphics acceleration to provide smoother graphics (and video) and animation and the JavaScript engine has been retooled as well.

Microsoft are so confident that they've set up a page specifically for testing the performance of your phone - both JavaScript and graphics. You can find the page here.

Don't be afraid to pit the phone against even a desktop browser - the tests are pretty demanding and if you're not running a recent version of the major desktop browsers, your computer will surely break a sweat.

Bing search on Windows Phone

When you search on Bing, one of the things that might be offered as a relevant result is an app from the Marketplace. For example, searching for "travel" will offer a travel tool app. This feature is called App connect.

Bing also grew two new search modes - song recognition and barcode scanner. Those are features popular with apps, but with WP7.5 you get those natively as part of the OS.

The camera scanner can also snap a photo of text, perform OCR and translate it into another language.

Of course, Bing does regular web searches for pages or images and can look for interesting locations nearby.

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The Bing search app

Marketplace just now catching up

The Windows Phone Marketplace is playing catch up with the Apple Appstore and the Android Market. As of April 2012, it hosts north of 80 thousand apps available. It's organized into four main sections - applications, games, music and the HTC apps store. A fifth section called Updates shows up when one of your installed apps has received an update - there's an Update all button, which will save you the hassle of updating each app individually.

Anyway, each app will be listed with a short description, a rating and user reviews, and a few screenshots. If the app can use something that can potentially breach your privacy (e.g. location information) the Marketplace will let you know.

It's not as comprehensive as the Android Market (which lists just about everything the app can use) but on the upside it only warns you about the important things.

Big downloads (anything north of 40MB) need a Wi-Fi connection to work. Alternatively, you can download those jumbo apps using the desktop Zune software.

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Marketplace

The Application section starts with a featured app, then it's on to the categories (including all and free), followed by the top apps, a list of new ones and a longer list of featured apps.

The Music section is actually the Zune Marketplace. Its structure is similar to the Application section. First, a featured artist of the week, three more featured artists, then a list of new releases, top albums and genres.

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The Zune music store

Genres themselves are separated into sections too - new releases and top artists/albums/songs/playlists. For each song, you get a 30 second preview (same as iTunes). If you have a Zune pass, you can stream the entire song, just like you would on a Zune player (it's 10 US dollars a month).

An app preloaded by Nokia is App Highlights - it gives you an assortment of apps into several categories to give you a start. The first category is actually called Starter kit - a list of what are considered vital apps (e.g. YouTube, Netflix, etc.), then there's Addictive (games go here), Health+ and Foodies have apps to keep fit and to gorge yourself respectively.

The app is accelerometer-enabled and can reshuffle the lists of applications every time you shake the phone, which is a fun way to find new apps. Also, the tile for the app would occasionally change to advertise some of the apps it recommends to get your attention.

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App Highlights

The Games section is divided into Xbox Live, New, Featured and Genres, which is the categories version. A great thing about games in the Windows Phone Marketplace is the try option, which is available to many games and apps. It gives you a trial of a game before you decide to buy it.

The new and featured sections act as a what's new/hot reference.

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Exploring the games section

The Marketplace on Windows Phone can be accessed via your WP device, the Zune software on your PC and the windowsphone.com website.

Search is available for the Marketplace but right now it pulls together search results from all sections - games and apps alike. Microsoft have fixed the issue where songs would get mixed up in the search too, which was annoying.

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