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The Nokia Lumia 800: It’s business-ready

I’ve been using the Nokia Lumia 800 for just over a week, full time now. It has temporarily replaced the BlackBerry Curve I normally use for business work (I also use a Bold 9900 and an iPhone).

I most certainly miss the physical keyboard of the BlackBerry, however I have to say that the Nokia Lumia 800 does appear business-ready. I’ve been able to hit the ground running — I’ve even managed to use the “I’m going to be late” function in the Windows Phone calendar.

I like the fact that when I reach for the Lumia, I can easily feel it. This might sound silly, but I can discern the identity of the device from the feel of it. In my pocket there’s usually another phone so being able to quickly find the one I want is rather important. The Lumia does feel gorgeous in the hand.

I used the British Airways app on the Lumia to fly from London Heathrow to Dusseldorf and found the experience flawless. What’s more, I felt good using the Lumia. It may not be Nokia’s absolute tip-top super-smartphone (I suspect the 800 dollar Luma 1000 or something will be along soon) however it most certainly looks smart. Looks are important. There’s a reason I wear a particular suit, use a particular pen, carry a particular bag. They create a specific impression. The Lumia, I’m pleased to say, adds to this impression. It doesn’t detract. To be clear, a Nokia N97 did detract.

I talked recently about the Lumia 800’s battery life feeling very much like the rest of the smartphones I have. This is true. I haven’t found it astonishing in terms of capacity at all. However, I did discover a ‘battery save’ mode. That fixes everything for me. It doesn’t limit the capacity of the phone as far as my experience concerned. It just stops a lot of the background location and connectivity services from running unless you actually want them. That has moved my Lumia experience from “good” to “great”. I am delighted that I can get through the day (and thensome) with the Lumia in Battery Save mode.

The fact I even have to think about this is seriously annoying. It’s an industry-wide problem though. I would love to see Nokia come to market with a (thicker?) handset that genuinely DOES last 2-3 days with proper usage.

Here in Germany I’ve been using Nokia Maps a lot. And goodness me it’s fantastic. I’ve known this. I’ve seen this. It’s just been a dire experience on previous handsets. You’ve had to ignore quite a lot of glaring annoyances on previous models in order to get much in the way of value from Maps — this is, at least, my impression. I routinely used Google Maps on my Symbian devices because it felt so much better.

Nokia Maps on the Lumia is brilliant. It works nicely. The features are limited, yet precisely what you need to get through the day. For example, I used Nokia Maps to check the taxi was taking me the right way to the hotel. I looked up ‘Mercure Dusseldorf’ and located my hotel with the next tap. My location appeared along with the hotel’s location. I sensibly saved that location as a ‘favourite’ (which I subsequently used to check the taxi back to the hotel that evening was going the right way). Everything worked as I expected. I felt good. The only omission? I wanted to leave a review for the Mercure Hotel (pretty good, I thought) but I couldn’t do that through the app unfortunately. At least I couldn’t find a way to do so.

I just used Nokia Drive in the back of the taxi on the way to the airport to see how long it would take me to get to the terminal building. There was quite a lot of traffic in Dusseldorf when I left so the taxi driver was stressing — and I was too. Nokia Drive worked perfectly and gave me both a speed reading (99km per hour for much of the journey.. nice) and a time-to-arrival status. Again, it worked wonderfully.

I’ve been giving Nokia Music a bit of use now and again. I have to say that their curated channels/mixes are proving a hit with me and the wee man (toddler Archie). He invariably enjoys the pop mix channel.

Spotify is working nicely on Lumia. So is SoundHound. I’m delighted the British Airways app is working to my expectations too. I have to say that the ability to ‘pin’ my boarding pass to one of the phone’s live panels on the main menu was rather joyous. I’d seen it demonstrated, but never managed to use it in anger before. Very cool.

Now and again I’ve been prompted to upgrade Nokia Drive, Music, Maps — those updates have gone through without a hitch. Microsoft and Nokia have clearly delivered something that’s working very, very well.

Setting up email on the device is ridiculously simple. I’m sure many business people will be entirely delighted with the familiarity of Outlook. Everything seemed to be working fine — from the global address lookup to the integrated ‘people’ social media hub. Indeed, I have to say that I’ve found that highly useful too. For example I’ve created a ‘Family’ section within ‘People’ so I can see what crazy things my brothers have been up to. Or my wife’s latest Facebook status which, hitherto, I never saw.

The browser has been working nicely. I think it’s natural that I was moved to gag repeatedly for the first few times I ran “internet explorer”. That branding has such negative connotations for me. However the browser itself has worked nicely.

The camera has been super. I’ve really enjoyed the higher quality camera (compared to other smartphones I’m using). Using the nice Nokia hardware integrated with Windows Phone has been a real enjoyment for me. Sharing photos, for instance, is a total delight. One or two taps and you’re done. I like how it’s all completely and tightly connected.

What else? Well, I’ve touched on apps and Windows/Nokia are most certainly getting there. The Lumia has a rather nice App Highlights service (reachable by default from the Live Tiles). This is used to highlight new and potentially interesting apps. Ocado is currently at the top of the list, followed by MyFitnessPal (does what it says on the tin), Poynt (excellent) and Tesco’s Real Food app. In terms of an app economy, Windows Phone is most certainly getting there.

I’ve downloaded and paid for a few apps. I sat down and put my credit card details into the desktop version of Zune so that I could pay for stuff properly. Rail Planner gives me a nice quick interface into the National Rail directory. Sky News is working nicely. I’ve been using Seesmic to connect with Salesforce Chatter. Spotify as I’ve already said is working beautifully. Evernote is really nice. Amazon Kindle has helped me keep up with my books on the plane. I’m getting to the point where a lot of the key apps I rely upon every day are now available. This is good news.

(DropBox by the way is accessible through a third-party app called BoxFiles for Dropbox. Working nicely for me.)

I haven’t managed to check out the Sharepoint integration. I’ve had good success with the Office apps although I’ve been trying to find a reason to use them in anger — that hasn’t quite happened yet. They’re looking good.

Back to the keyboard. The on-screen keyboard is pretty good. It’s been very reliable in terms of correctly guessing what I’m trying to type. Indeed if you just trust in the engine and do a fairly good job of hitting the right keys (AND use familiar words) then there are next to no typos. Sometimes I’ve oriented the phone landscape for the bigger keyboard. Most times I just tap in portrait mode.

One of the most enjoyable functions of the Lumia 800 is the on/off button or the lock button. It’s brilliantly positioned just below the volume keys. I use it ALL the time. It’s so easy to locate when you’re grasping the phone. I very much appreciate the UI thought that went into this.

The one-click camera functionality is proving very nice on the Lumia too. I also love the fact everything is uploaded to Skydrive in the background (and shareable from there if necessary).

The combination of Nokia’s hardware and Microsoft’s Metro UI is really, really winning me over.

If you’re thinking about the Lumia 800, definitely go and get hands-on in one of the stores. Phones4U in the UK have got Lumia 800s available for inspection either on the shelves or as stand-alone handsets. Go and have a look. No longer do you need to take a huge, huge bet using up your operator’s subsidy on a Nokia that disappoints. I don’t think many people will be disappointed at all.

Anecdotally I’m meeting quite a few people who — interestingly — are aware of the Lumia brand. Nokia’s been making in-roads there over the last few weeks. For example, one of the chaps who cut my hair the other day in Richmond is “Definitely going to get a Lumia.”

“What about iPhone?” I asked, “Or Android?”

“Nah,” he said, making a disapproving face, “Everyone’s got iPhone and that Lumia is looking nice.”

When I took one out to show him he was significantly impressed. If anything, I’d go so far to say that he was finally sold, there-and-then.

There’s a lot of love in the room for Nokia, still. People still remember their old Nokias fondly. If those people begin to walk out and buy Lumia 800s over the next few months, it could very well herald the next wave in mobile.

We shall see.

I for one am delighted with the experience.

(Do consider a QWERTY keyboard, Nokia. Please!)

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