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This article was published on April 4, 2012

Hands on with Nokia’s Lumia 900

Hands on with Nokia’s Lumia 900
Alex Wilhelm
Story by

Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

Nokia’s Lumia 900 goes on sale in the United States on April 8th. Nokia and AT&T, the carrier that will sell the phone in the US market, have extensive promotional plans, some of which are already underway.

The Lumia 900 is Nokia’s bet to reenter the US market, where it hopes to carve out a slice of mobile sector for itself. Nokia, once globally dominant, is endeavoring to rebuild that preeminence. It’s actions to support its own products also support the Windows Phone line, which the company has selected to adopt; when that decision was announced, that the firm had decided against adopting Android was controversial.

Nokia’s Lumia line of smartphones run the gamut from ultra-budget, to high-end, where the Lumia 800 and 900 take their place at the top of the pyramid. This post is a take on the Lumia 900, which TNW has been fortunate enough to have in our hands for several days now. This post is very much less about Windows Phone itself.

Note, we are using images from our previous coverage of the Lumia 900, and not shots of our demo unit. This is due to the fact that Alex can’t take pictures to save his life.


The Lumia 900 is the best Windows Phone device that I have ever used. It’s fast, responsive, long-lasting, and attractive. Among Windows Phone handsets from both the first and second wave that I have tested, the Lumia 900 is the standout model. Of course, this is to be expected, as Nokia is depending on the unit for a revolutionary turnaround of its fortunes in the United States, and elsewhere.

However, I will say that the Lumia 900 does not radically improve the Windows Phone experience. It is the smoothest, most attractive Windows Phone handset, but it remains close to its software DNA. For fans of the Windows Phone platform, this will be welcome news; Nokia is not out to rewrite the firmware. However, for those who prefer other mobile operating systems, I doubt that the Lumia 900 will woo them.

Finally, the Lumia 900, being as attractive as it is as a package, especially once its low price is considered, I expect the phone to find a place in the market. For a more in-depth set of predictions, please head here.


There is much to like about the Lumia 900. I’ll be brief to keep from boring you.

The camera on the unit is an 8 megapixel camera imbued with a lens by Carl Zeiss. Nokia is proud of this, and on the back of the device the camera is branded with the Zeiss moniker. It’s a bit tacky, but the cameras that are on the handset are capable. The one megapixel front-facing camera was of a high enough quality that I felt ugly. It’s sufficient, in other words.

The device feels fantastic. After spending time with various Android handsets, Windows Phone units, and the iPhone line, I can say that the Lumia 900 is my favorite feeling phone. It has some sharp lines, but where your hand gets around the phone everything is smooth, soft, and yet quite firm. And happily, even with a 4.3″ screen (more on that in a moment), the 900 is pocket-friendly. Well, unless you have outgrown your trousers, but that’s hardly the phone’s fault.

As I always do with new hardware, I showed the device to a number of friends (who promised closed lips for the next few hours), to get some ‘outside of tech’ opinions on phone. Everyone liked the Lumia 900. I’m not sure if they would have liked one of its more colorful varieties, but the black edition went over well. I agree with them. Despite designing the phone to fit well in the hand, it also lands quite well on the eyes.

Finally, in the pro column, is speed. The phone is fast. Now, every second generation Windows Phone handset, in my experience, is speedy. The Lumia 900 feels a mite faster. There is no lag whatsoever in the interface, and everything is silky smooth.

All in all, the handset does what I wanted it to do, in style, and comfort. It’s positives are impressive, but about its negatives?


The iPhone 4S packs a pixel ratio of 960×640 into a 3.5″ display. The Lumia 900 spreads 800×480 over 4.3″. Is that a huge difference? Not exactly. Side by side it would be noticeable, but in normal use, I found the screen to be perfectly capable. Still, when buying a high-end phone, to be that far behind isn’t exactly heartening.

AT&T is still, well, AT&T. You can’t LTE your way out of that fact. The Lumia 900 is for sale on the AT&T network, where it will receive massive promotion. This means that most 900 owners will be on the carrier’s network. Pity on their soul. AT&T is a daily pain in my ass here in Chicago, and in every city that I visit. This isn’t the handsets fault, but its tethering to AT&T is not positive.

People who have not played with the handset before have a hard time finding the power button. It’s on the right, in between the volume rocker, and camera button. Discovering how to use the camera button is part of the Windows Phone learning curve, but putting the power button in a non-normal place is a bit confusing.

Finally, the Lumia 900 lacks what I would call a ‘feature of great distinction,’ to set if farther apart from other Windows Phone handsets. Its price, and its quality are strong things in its favor, but something totally out of the box would have been nice.


For $99.99, this phone is a steal. If you like Windows Phone, this is the handset for you. If you are tired of Android fragmentation, or need a break from Apple, this is the way to go.