Getting back to the Lumia 800, as mentioned, the phone’s hardware buttons are on the right edge. Up top are the volume rocker and screen lock/power buttons, both of which are perfectly positioned to sit conveniently under your fingers (for lefties) or thumb (for righties). Lower down is the camera button, which is a standard feature on all Windows Phone handsets. This can not only be used to set focus, take a snap and launch the camera app when the phone is on but also it will jump straight to the camera app even when the phone is locked, if you hold it down for a couple of seconds – very useful.
One potential slip up is with the connectivity along that top edge. The headphone socket is untroubled but the flaps could cause trouble. Press the little blip and up pops one flap to reveal the microUSB socket, while the other section slides over and pulls out, revealing itself to be a SIM card tray (as is becoming more common, the Lumia 800 uses a microSIM). The problem lies in the flip up flap. The combination of it being hard plastic and it needing to be open the entire time the phone is charging means you could easily snap it off if your phone takes a tumble.
Another problem with these flaps is they don’t hide a microSD slot, so you can’t upgrade the phone’s storage. You get 16GB built in, which is probably enough for most people but equally many others want more, and given the iPhone 4S now tops out at 64GB, 16GB seems fairly miserly. On a similar note, you can’t access the battery to swap it for a spare.
Below the screen are the main navigation buttons, which along with the camera button conform to standards stipulated by Microsoft. There are three and they must go in the right order; Back, Home and Search. They’re nice and responsive and are nicely integrated into the surface of the touchscreen. Our only complaint would be that we’d prefer if they completely disappeared when the screen was off, but it’s a very minor gripe. One thing to note, though, is that the N9 was actually able to fill the space occupied by these buttons with an even larger screen, as its ingenious gesture system meant you could do away with any navigation buttons on the front (okay, okay, we’ll stop the comparisons now).
Talking of screens, that of the Lumia 800 is truly dazzling. The contrast of the black chassis and screen of this particular phone probably helps but even on the cyan and magenta models it does look truly eye popping. Likewise the Windows Phone interface aids this impression thanks to its use of large blocks of colour. What really powers this impression, though, is the use of AMOLED technology. Because it doesn’t have a backlight, there’s no light bleed in dark areas of the screen. This really helps create an impression that the interface just leaps out from the glass panel of the screen, rather than some display behind.
However, all is not rosy. Where the Samsung Galaxy Nexus takes these basic AMOLED qualities then adds in a super high resolution (720 x 1,280 pixels) to make for the most impressive phone screen available, the Nokia Lumia 800 features a relatively paltry 480 x 800 pixel resolution. Add in the fact it uses a Pentile RGBG subpixel matrix and the result is that once you move away from the heavily stylised and optimised world of the phone’s main interface, things start to look a quite grainy. The most obvious problem area is the web browser where, particularly if you’re looking at non mobile versions of websites, when zoomed out text can look rather fuzzy.
The Nokia Lumia 800 on the left has a graininess to its screen that even the lowly £99 San Francisco II improves upon.
Another potential issue is the colour temperature of AMOLED panels. They can look a bit blue and produce overly saturated, almost unnatural looking colours as compared to LCDs. However, unless you plan to extensively use your phone for professional design work or as your home cinema display, this isn’t a huge problem.