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What’s not to like about the Lumia 900 – Not much

It’s been a week since I picked up my L900 and the honeymoon is definitely not over. Is this the perfect phone? Hardly. But it does have enough going for it to deserve “Hero” status on the AT&T Wireless network. Yeah, there are a few little nits, but doesn’t every electronic device (unless you built it yourself).  After a week of use here is my breakdown of the Lumia 900:

Screen – What can I say. Beautiful. Crisp. Bright. These can all describe the L900s Clear Black AMOLED Display. I avoided the Samsung Focus when it was first released because the screen appeared over saturated. As if Samsung turned up the contrast to 100% just to see what it would look like, and then forgot to turn it back down to 50-60%. The colors pop on this screen, but not so much as to appear unnatural. It’s just right. Is it a Retina display? No, it’s not. But with my failing eyes, I can stare at it for hours without any eye strain. Works for me.

Scrolling seems normal and natural to me, but I honestly only have the Surround to compare it to. Sure, I have flipped the Focus or Titan tiles up/down a few times while hanging around the AT&T store, but never paid much attention to how fast or slow they move. My thumb has to stretch a bit more to reach across the 4.3” screen, the largest I have ever used, but didn’t take long to get used to that.

Camera – OK, I get it already. The Titan II has a fantastic camera. The L900, maybe mediocre. Not trying to make excuses for Nokia here, but I didn’t buy this phone for its camera. I bought it for its faster processor, good looks, beautiful 4.3” screen, LTE speeds, FFC, and Nokia’s expected support. If a phone camera is your “most important” feature, then I urge you to take a look at the Titan II. But if a good shooter will satisfy your needs, then the L900 will fit the bill. 

Tell you what. I took the photo below with my Surround last September. Only took one shot. Don’t even remember if I focused. This is what I wound up with. Didn’t realize what I got till I synced with my PC and looked at it on the big screen. I call it Heavens Dock. Probably the best picture I have ever taken, and the only one I have printed in a couple years. The water was rising on our lake and my former neighbors dock was about 1.5” from being under water. I snapped a quick shot to text to him. But the combination of light and the reflection off the water produced this image of a dock floating in the clouds. If my L900 can take a shot as good as this, I won’t have any complaints.

Sound – I was prepared for a little disappointment in this department, being spoiled by my Surround’s “better than average” speaker system. The L900 is brighter ( that’s polite for tinnier), more like every other phone out there. Ok for viewing a YouTube video or conversing with Ziggy. But if you plan to do any serious listening, get a good pair of headphones. I have listened to a bunch of tracks with my Bose OE2 Audio Headphones and my Jabra HALO BT Headphones. They both sounded good to me (Bose sounded better of course).

It took me a day or two to get used to the (non music) sound on the L900. The volume for music, alerts, ringtones, etc. seems about the same as on my old Surround. But certain functions, like tapping the keyboard keys or tapping the power button, are muted or toned down, which I personally think is a good thing. I used to keep my Surround at 15, which was a little low to hear the phone ring, but resulted in everyone around me hearing my clickety-clack each time I typed on my keyboard. Now, my phone is set at 20, so a ringtone is easier to hear, but you can hardly hear the keyboard. Well done, Nokia.

Yes, the vibration sound is a little different. And yes, it is reminiscent of  an old fashioned electric razor. Don’t know why Nokia chose to do this. Maybe to save some money or maybe to save some energy. But the important thing is it works. In my belt pouch while driving, I know when I have gotten a new email or text. Same goes for the phone sitting on my desk. Everything changes.

Speed – Guess I am a lucky L900 owner as I have not experienced any data connection problems as all. Despite that, I will still be receiving a $100 credit on my next bill. Thank you for that. At home and the office, my phone spends most of its time on LTE. When out around town though, I have noticed it drop to 4G occasionally, but usually within 5-10 minutes of getting home the signal will again change to LTE. Been using the Bandwidth app to check speeds whenever I think about it. So far, my top speeds have been 18.49Mbps download / 4.98Mbps upload over LTE. Today, I recorded a 4G speed of 7.05Mbps down / 1.94Mbps up. Damn, that’s fast. Even the 4G speeds are 3 to 4 times faster than anything I ever got on my Surround. So not sure if it’s 100% the upgraded network, or partly the phone.

Still keeping WiFi on all day, probably out of habit. Can’t check my data usage till after the 25th of this month, as my plan technically changed from Unlimited 3G to Unlimited LTE (they reset your data when you switch plans). Once I can track it though, I will turn off WiFi for a month and monitor my battery/data usage to see which radio is more efficient.  Before turning WiFi on all the time I was close to 2GB/month data usage, so I would be well within the Unlimited data threshold  (that really sounds dumb, doesn’t it) that AT&T imposes. Assuming of course that LTE can meet my needs in less time and using less energy. We will see.

Buttons/Ports – When I first checked the reviews of the L900, I was like, “why the hell did they put the power button in the middle of the phone”. But now I get it. My slightly larger than average hands would have a hard time reaching the preferred location, upper right. Furthermore, unless the button was really raised, which would probably cause false powerups, I would need to move my hand up to power on and then back down to hold the phone comfortably. I got used to the center power button quickly and can now appreciate the reason it’s there. Thanks for that.

Not nearly as enthused about the micro USB port on the top of the phone. My first problem with the port being on top has to do with wishful thinking. The wish that docking stations (not made of Legos) will find their way into retail. Maybe I am missing something, but until you can charge your phone and transfer sound without wires, at the same rate and quality you can with a connection, then designing devices with bottom ports will simply be easier. Secondly, if all devices put their ports in the same place, it is possible to make a single dock that can be used across multiple devices, increasing opportunities for accessory manufacturers.

Battery – Compared to my Surround’s feeble 1230mAh battery, the 1830mAh on the L900 is a beast. So far, battery performance has been as expected. No mysteries here. Talk time on the L900 is 7 hours, so you can expect about 7-8 hours of uptime (screen on/on a call). Things like streaming video or playing games will draw a little more, while basic browsing, reading mail and other tasks will draw a little less. I have noticed a little more drain than expected while at my office with screen off (up to 3% per hour) even though I have a fairly strong, 2-3 bar LTE signal. Will have to wait till I turn off WiFi later this month to fully understand what is going on. At home, the battery meter almost never moves when the phone is sleeping. Most of my monthly minutes roll over, but I do use my phone a lot. At least 4-5 hours of screen-on time per day. And this past week, closer to 7-8 hours. So yes, I have had to give my phone a little more juice a few nights before putting it on the charger for its overnight charge. When things get back to normal I do expect to get through a full day on a single charge.

Overall Device Performance – You have to admit, this phone looks good. The L900, with its radiused edges just feels right in your hand. A little heavier than some phones, but personally I like a device with some heft. The way it feels is a hard thing to describe though. You really need to hold this phone for a few minutes to understand what I mean. Everything about the phone is buttery smooth. And things like visual voicemail are just added bonuses. I have had no glitches. No spontaneous resets or mysterious power offs. The camera button did fail to turn the phone on a couple times. But each time I experienced the problem it was shortly after using the homebrew Screen Capture app. I changed a setting in Screen Capture and so far, so good.

Jim’s Nits – So, nothing is perfect, right. I have to admit I do miss the indicator light from my Surround. Not so much for the missed call alert (although that’s a nice feature for someone who seldom receives/checks for calls). But more for the battery status; charging, fully charged and dangerously low (flashing). Ran the phone down to 5% the other night, but didn’t know it because I forgot that the “Battery Low” toast had popped up (much) earlier. Also got used to seeing the “green” battery fully charged light, rather than having to check the Battery Meter (homebrew) app several times while charging. Another related nit is the way the optional black bumper was designed. The micro USB port, as well as the cutout, are offset Even though all the micro USB plugs, including the one that came with the L900 is centered. So when you plug in a cable it sits on top of the bumper. A little nudge and it could become dislodged. And without an indicator light, you wouldn’t know. They could have set the micro USB port back a millimeter or two, centering it on top of the phone. As it is now, trimming the bumper cutout any more than it is could impact the look and function.

Although the L900 is normally very comfortable to hold, lying back in a recliner or propped up in bed, I have found it less friendly than holding my Surround. It’s odd, as the Surround, with its hard shell, is definitely heavier than the L900. My best guess is it has to do with the phone being much thinner, thus having to hold it with a different grip. I am getting used to it, and the furthest it can fall is onto my well padded belly, but thought I should point it out.

Final Thoughts

So, a week into this new phone, and still a lot of joy. You can wait for Windows Phone 8 devices to debut, but until every OEM has shown off their goods, it will be hard to make any decisions. And that could be months. For me, life is too short to sit around waiting for the next best thing. And then the next better thing, which will be right around the corner, again. The Lumia 900 is a good phone, and until April 21st, AT&T will pay you $1 to sign a new contract. Even though the Lumia 900 would be a good buy at $199, the current deal is hard to pass up. Do yourself a favor and give it a test drive at your local phone store. I dare you to walk out empty handed.