The Lumia

Joshua Topolsky on the Lumia 900, via John Gruber
Let me just put this bluntly: I think it’s time to stop giving Windows Phone a pass. I think it’s time to stop talking about how beautifully designed it is, and what a departure it’s been for Microsoft, and how hard the company is working to add features

I think this is a really great take from Topolsky. I think that Nokia is doing some great stuff with the hardware in the Lumia series, but Windows Phone does not yet meet the grade.

A short time ago I had a Lumia 800 given to me by Nokia for a review that I never published. The 800 and 900 are pretty much the same device with the main differences being that the 900 has a larger screen and LTE. Aside from that they are effectively the same phone. Gruber even pontificates that the 800 may be a superior experience

I found the design of the hardware to be pleasant overall. It looks and feels really good in the hand and is striking compared to its competitors. Additionally it felt snappy and the processor seems more than capable of handling the general functions of the phone, at an OS level.

However there are so many inconsistencies with Windows Phone 7. For example, scrolling is a nightmare. If you are scrolling through a long list – like contacts – you reach about half-way and want to go back to the top, then you have to start scrolling again; there is no jump-to-the-top process (like in iOS). As well as this there is no scroll selector; you can’t grab a tab on the side and scroll faster (like in Android), you have to flick all the way up to the top.

Another interesting issue in regards to scrolling is how you stop lists whizzing by. In iOS if I’m flicking through a list a tap to the screen will stop the motion, in Windows Phone 7 this would frequently recognise this as a deliberate tap and select whatever contact or item I had therefore selected. This was never my intention when stopping the scrolling action as was always infuriating as I would then need to back out of this selection.

The app ecosystem is poor. For example trying to find a good Twitter app was basically impossible. Every app that I tried seemed to be lacking a feature or two that I needed. A glaring example of this was the official Twitter app, that didn’t hold its place in the timeline when re-launching from last time. This is such an important feature (that may well have been updated now) and was a total deal-breaker. Overall scrolling performance and responsiveness was poor, third-party apps did not perform well with scrolling and it frequently became stuttery when scrolling through long lists.

On the whole I enjoyed the ‘tiles’ on the homescreen. It’s a fresh take to an OS that I thought could continue to be implemented well. Especially, the contacts tile added some personality to the phone. I would constantly see my friends faces scrolling by and flipping over, this is a nice touch.

These are just some of the observations I made whilst using the Lumia 800, but my main take-away was that Microsoft had done some good work on Windows phone 7 and had created something different to the competition, but not without flaws. The main issue I see is that third-party support is still not good enough. It was hard for me to find an app that did what I needed to do, in a way that I felt was even barely comparable to the experience I get from iOS. And this is their main failing, for as long as it’s difficult for me to find that apps I rely on, I have no incentive to switch.