Nokia Lumia 900 for AT&T review: Going all in
Xbox LIVE gaming
Xbox Live is at the heart of the Games hub. It carries over many features from the Xbox - from your avatar to your scores and achievements. The Spotlight feature is available too (it shows info on new stuff) and also Requests - which shows you game invites from your friends.
Anyway, the games themselves are housed in the Collection section. Nothing much to see here, the installed games are arranged in a square grid and there's a Get more games shortcut, which launches the Marketplace.
Not all games support Xbox Live - the ones that do are in the corresponding section in the Marketplace. We did test games like Need for Speed, Kinectimals, Angry birds and had no problems with the Nokia Lumia 900, the 1.4GHz processor and Adreno 205 GPU were more than adequate in handling more complex graphics.
Bing Maps lights your path
The basic mapping solution in Windows Phone is Bing Maps. They have driving (and pedestrian) navigation for free, but they're not a match for Nokia's bespoke applications (we'll discuss them in the next section).
Now, it's not quite voice-guided navigation. Here's how it works: first you set up a route and listen to the first instruction, then when it's time for the next instruction, the phone will beep and highlight it. If you tap it, the phone will read it out to you, but only then.
The Maps app uses a big font with white letters on black background that make reading easy. It still requires you to take your eyes off the road though, it won't put SatNav apps out of business.
Real-time traffic information is also available.
That's not all the new Maps can do for you though. The app will locate nearby points of interest with the new feature called Local Scout and it will even show you indoor maps of malls.
Local Scout has a tabbed interface to sort the various points of interest - eat+drink, see+do, shop and highlights. You can pick items from a "I care about" list to get the relevant options only.
A cool functionality of Local scout is you can pin places to your homescreen. So let's say you like a pub and like to check it out from time to time, read reviews, call for a reservation - it's right there on your homescreen - that's neat.
Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive
The Nokia Lumia 900 managed to get a GPS lock quickly (about a minute) and you can make that even faster if you have a data connection for the A-GPS. Wi-Fi and Cell-ID positioning is also available if you only need a rough position.
Nokia Maps wasn't preinstalled on our unit - there was an app that showed screenshots of Maps plus a link to the Marketplace to get it. It's a simple operation and once you're done, you can start using Nokia Maps.
It's an alternative to Microsoft's Bing Maps. It lets you view maps in three different modes - map, satellite and public transport. You can use pinch zoom to navigate the map (you can also enable old-school zoom controls) and panning around is fast and smooth. Nokia Maps does only 2D mode - there's no 3D option like Google Maps has for example.
It pulls its maps from the Internet, so you'll need an Internet connection to use it.
Moving on to the more interesting part of the duo - Nokia Drive. Unlike Maps, Nokia Drive lets you easily download maps for offline usage for any country in the world - free of charge, of course. Bigger countries are split into pieces, if you don't want to waste your internal memory with maps you'll never use.
Maps aren't that big though - the map for the whole US is 1.9GB, while the map for the whole UK, for example, is 274MB. The 16GB built-in memory is more than enough for any trip you're likely to take. It's easy to delete unneeded maps or download new ones on the go wherever there is Wi-Fi.
Drive does support a 3D view, unlike Maps. It also has 3D landmarks for some of the bigger world cities. You can also use 2D mode if that's what you prefer, but in 3D you get to see further down the road than in 2D.
Other than 2D/3D, settings are pretty scarce - you can toggle daylight and night color schemes, choose whether landmarks should be displayed and choose a voice for the navigation. Many voices in a big number of languages are available for free download.
We were hoping for options to fine-tune the routing algorithm - like avoid toll roads, find fastest or shortest route and so on - but there were none to be had. You just set your destination (with an option to review the planned route before you go), hit start and you're off.
While navigating, you can zoom in and out depending on your preference to see more of the road ahead or more details. At the top of the screen is an instruction for the next turn in big, easy to read white on blue letters and a big icon noting the turn. At the bottom of the screen you have readings for how much you have to travel before reaching your destination and also you're current speed. Those get pushed to the left side of the screen in portrait mode.
We like Nokia Drive's no-distraction's approach to navigation, but we are used to having more control over how the route is chosen. A few other options would have been welcomed too (the Symbian version of Nokia's SatNav solution is very feature-rich).
Still, with the Nokia Lumia 900 you get what no other Windows Phone handset on the market currently offers. The free voice-guided navigation might be just what it takes to convince people to go for the Lumia 900, instead of competing WP phones - at least in that price range.