My first phone was a Nokia 3300. It had a monochrome display, plasticky keys and released so much radiation that it would probably be illegal according to SAR standards now. Back then, it was one of the coolest phones money could buy – it had Snake, a mobile chat feature for SMS and a battery life so good that I charged it only occasionally.

That was eleven years ago. Times have changed, and despite Nokia maintaining a strong foothold in Asian markets, it hasn't been able make the cut for picky smartphone buyers, yet. So when Nokia announced that it would be working with Microsoft to release a Windows phone, there were a lot of faithful fans, myself included, who wanted to see our old favourite come out with something that could blow away the competition. Luckily for us, it did.

There's a lot more hype surrounding the Lumia 800 than the HTC and Samsung Windows Mango phones – probably because the Lumia was supposed to be Nokia's great ‘comeback'. Nokia has played its cards carefully with the Lumia, and the company supposedly worked very closely with Microsoft to bring the full Windows Mango experience to users. I'll be the first one to admit that the result is beautiful.

It's all in the details

The Lumia 800 is available in three colours – Black, Fuschia and Cyan. While the Black unit looks a lot more professional, the Fushcia and Cyan units are younger and more playful. The body is encased in a polycarbonate shell, which is durable and not prone to scratches, unlike its metallic counterparts. The 3.7-inch glass display has a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass which makes it scratch-resistant, and Nokia has sucked all the air out between the display and the body, so there's no gap between the screen and the side – it looks like one big, smooth unit. If you observe the phone from the sides, you'll see that the glass curves towards the edges, and adds softness to the four sharp corners.

The volume rocker switch and power button are on the side, as is a dedicated camera button which turns on the camera with a single press. The bottom has a speaker grille which also encases the microphone. There's some fancy engineering on the top panel which houses the micro SIM and mini USB port. The USB port opens with a sort of lever mechanism which requires you to press down on one side of the panel to snap open the flap. Next to that is the SIM card slot, which you have to push sideways for it to pop open – but you can only do this when the USB slot is open. It's fancy, but a bit too much effort for my liking. It's also quite flimsy - when I accidentally dropped the phone the SIM card slot popped open. There's no micro SD card slot for storage expansion – you have to make do with the 16GB of internal storage you get.

Display and interface

I really fell in love with the Lumia when I looked at the screen. The 480x800 pixel AMOLED display is stunning, and really brings Mango's colourful interface to life. Mango looks best with the dark theme, and the black background is really ‘black' – Nokia calls this Clear Black – and I could tell the difference. The live tiles literally jump out at you, and unlike other Windows phones, they look like they're almost touching the surface.

Microsoft doesn't allow any customisation for its Windows mobile operating system, but there are a few touches which are distinctly Nokia. One of the first apps I used on the phone was Contacts Transfer, which imported all my contacts from another phone over Bluetooth. It's simple, but really convenient. Another Nokia-specific app is Nokia Drive, a turn-by-turn voice navigation system. Unlike Nokia Maps which uses your data plan to update the maps as you go, (which you also get) with Nokia Drive, you first download a map of the area you're going to be driving around. Once that's done you can simply input your final destination, and you'll get a voice guided navigation system that could beat some of the better car sat-navs out there. Maps are displayed in 2D and 3D and are accurate and easy to use. Another addition is Tune-in Radio, a great little app that utilises your Wi-Fi or data connection to stream live content from a bunch of global radio stations. The app is neatly divided into categories and sub-categories, and the audio quality is pretty clear too. Mix Radio, another popular radio service will be available on Lumia smartphones in India in the next couple of months, Nokia said.

Lovers of the N8 might be pacified by the f 2.2, 8-meg camera with Carl Zeiss optics which can record videos in HD, but it does come as a bit of a surprise that there's no front-facing camera on the phone. Microsoft was recently in the news for adopting Tango, the Voip service for video calls, and sadly Lumia users won't be able to avail of this feature. Future updates won't be able to help the problem, but I am hoping they will fix a couple of other issues. The first is that the Lumia has no notification light, so you have to keep checking your phone for alerts. The second is that there's no NFC, something that Nokia's currently making a big deal about with its Symbian Belle devices.

Performance

Unlike some of its hardcore Android buddies, the Lumia's processor is relatively subdued – you get a 1.4 Ghz Qualcomm MSM 8255 single-core processor and just 512MB of RAM. The good news is that these tech specs seem to do just fine for Windows Mango. The phone rarely froze or slowed down, there were one or two instances when it got stuck for so long that I had to reboot.

The capacitive screen was smooth to the touch, and supports pinch to zoom and double tap, working just fine for the browser and photos. Though users get the more powerful Internet Explorer browsing experience, I actually prefer browsing on Opera Mini , which displays mobile versions of sites in a much better format. The one thing users can be thankful for is the beautiful keyboard – a world of a difference from the clunky Symbian keyboards Nokia users have had to bear with. The keys are well spaced out and typing is fairly accurate.

The 1450 mAH battery gave me average results by smartphone standards – I got just about a day of use, but on most days I had to charge my phone by late-evening. Of course, this was with heavy data usage, a few hours of calls and apps in the background.

Call quality was a mixed bag, because callers at the other end frequently reported that my voice was echoing. I also sometimes noticed that call volume was a bit too low for my liking, but later figured out that the phone has to be angled correctly to avoid both of the above issues.

Our verdict

The Lumia 800 isn't perfect, but its one of the best products that Nokia has released in the market in recent months. I have no complaints about the hardware - Nokia gets it right every time. Windows Mango is a refreshing and vibrant operating system that's already got a big fan list, and the Lumia 800 is just the first of a spate of Mango smartphones Nokia is going to be working on. Until the others arrive, this will do just fine.

Love: Beautiful build, great screen, Nokia Drive

Hate: No NFC, no front camera, average battery life

Rs 29,999

ketaki@thehindu.co.in

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Keywords: Nokia Lumia 800