Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lumia 900: The other smart phone


Walk into most mobile phone stores and you quickly get the idea that there are only two types of phones: Apple’s iPhone and those that use Google’s Android operating system. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find the Lumia 900. For some people, it will be worth the effort. 

This is a phone for people who don’t believe that they need to carry a computer in their pocket. It’s attractive and easy to use, it performs the functions that most people want from their phones, and it’s less expensive than you might expect.

The Lumia 900 is the offspring of two tech giants. Nokia, the company that once ruled the mobile phone universe, built the hardware, and Microsoft created the operating system called Windows Phone 7. The phone has a 4.3-inch screen in a sleek black case with color accents. It looks as sharp and classy as any high-end handset and it feels solid in your hand.

And the operating system looks just as good. Unlike Android, Microsoft  did not set out to copy the iPhone. Instead of rows of little square icons, the home screen on the Lumia has a bold, colorful boxes that take you to each of the phone’s functions. There’s no squinting or fumbling to make a call, read a message, check for email, shoot a photo or open the web browser.

While the Lumia 900 might focus on the basics, it’s more than a basic phone. It plays music and movies using the software that Microsoft built for its Zune media player, which some critics liked more than Apple’s iPod. And it has a front-facing camera to use with video conferencing programs.

Nokia also has a library of third-party applications, a must for any smart phone that hopes to compete with Apple and Android. You won’t find everything that Apple and Android offer, but it covers all of the big names. There are apps for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, and Foursquare. You can install Amazon’s Kindle app, travel apps from Kayak and Trip Advisor plus news and weather apps from AP and Bloomberg.

Nokia’s game library includes Angry Birds, but not Words With Friends. You can find plenty of other time-wasters at Microsoft’s Xbox Live service which is integrated into the phone. The Lumia 900 is the first mobile phone to get the ESPN Hub app, which delivers news, videos and scores. And, as you might expect from a Microsoft product, the Windows Phone 7 system lets you easily view and edit Microsoft Office documents like Word or Excel files.

One more advantage to the Lumia 900: it costs just $99 with a service plan. That’s about half of what most phones with similar specs would cost. So far, it’s available only through AT&T.


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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.


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