The Nokia Lumia 800 is the first phone to emerge from Nokia's controversial partnership with Microsoft and its exclusive transition to that company's Windows Phone platform. Ditching support for all other smartphone platforms in the process, Nokia has taken a huge gamble by going the Windows Phone route, but if the Lumia 800 is a sign of things to come it will be a gamble that pays off. It may not be quite the technical tour de force of many Android phones but it's a thoroughly enjoyable phone to use, and a damned good looking one too.
Starting with those looks, the Nokia Lumia 800 earns its praise thanks to a combination of subtle design, top notch build materials and a real attention to detail.
The design, in many ways, is simplicity itself. There's a seamless slab of glass on the front and the body is a single smooth matt plastic surface. There's no clever use of different colours, no strange lumps or bumps, and no controversial glass back like on the iPhone. What makes it shine, though is the elegance of it all. The back is only interrupted by the silver plate containing the Nokia logo and camera, with the twin LEDs for the camera alongside, all the physical buttons are kept neatly on one edge, while the connectivity is along the top, hidden behind flaps.
The tapered top and bottom and the nicely rounded left and right edges also give it an appealing smoothness. Quite simply we think it's the best looking phone you can currently buy. Even the Cyan and Magenta versions look seriously classy in person.
It's also a really nice device to handle. The top and bottom edges may be a bit sharp but otherwise all the tapered and rounded edges make it nestle comfortably in the hand. The modest size of the phone also helps a great deal. The screen is 'only' 3.7in so the phone itself is correspondingly a relatively modest 116.5 x 61.2mm. In contrast the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is 20mm taller and 6mm wider, and it's far from the largest handset going. It's nice to note the Lumia 800 isn't overly slim either. At 12.1mm, it's a whole 5mm thicker than the Motorola RAZR, and 3mm thicker than the iPhone 4S but it's also considerably nicer to hold because (or perhaps in spite) of this.
The plastic used to construct the bulk of the phone's body also impresses. Not only does the polycarbonate have a lovely matt finish, but it also resists scratches well and causes no issues with hampering phone signal, unlike some metal encased phones. Best of all, the colour runs right through the plastic, so no matter how much it gets scratched, you won't end up going through the paintwork, which would make it look old before its time.
If you want to make doubly sure your phone doesn't come to harm the Lumia 800 also comes with a protective sleeve that covers the back of the phone. It looks surprisingly good and feels nice too, though we'd still prefer a proper leather case that protects the whole thing.
Of course it would be remiss of us not to point out that all these design qualities were also present in the Nokia N9, the ill-fated first MeeGo phone that Nokia essentially killed before it launched, by announcing it was going to be sticking to Windows Phone exclusively (not to mention it never even launched in the UK). Having had a few plays with the N9, we really have to question Nokia's logic and motives with ditching all other platforms for Windows Phone. To all intents and purposes MeeGo was ready for prime time and we could've had it several months ago. Hey ho, bygones and all that…