I recently had an opportunity to spend some time with the Lumia 900, the current hottest phone on the market (for this week anyway) from Nokia and AT&T. It was my first experience with a Windows Phone 7 ... umm ... phone, and I came away extremely impressed.
First, the hardware: Nokia, once the king of the handset makers, has produced an absolutely gorgeous device. It features a unibody polycarbonate case and feels extremely solid and well-built in your hand. The screen is 4.3-inch AMOLED display with a 480 by 800 resolution. After spending so much time with the iPhone and iPad's Retina displays, the text does look a little fuzzy to me now on anything with a lower resolution, but the screen is very bright and colors are vivid.
The rest of the specs line up pretty well with the current top-of-the-line smartphones, and it also runs on AT&T's 4G LTE network (which does us no good here -- I say again, C'mon AT&T: Verizon is eating your lunch in the Lowcountry with their LTE network!). My only complaint is the placement of the 8 megapixel rear camera -- instead of being near the top of the phone's backside, it's about an inch down and centered. This ultimately puts the lens directly where my right index finger sits when holding it, so smudges on the lens can be an issue.
As nice as the phone is, for me the unexpected star of the show was the Windows Phone 7 OS. Having never used it before (and knowing it was from Microsoft) I was prepared for the worst and was pleasantly surprised to find myself feeling right at home. The UI (called "Metro") is beautiful, and credit where credit is due: Microsoft has finally produced an OS that is completely original and a joy to use. While this is not an easy thing for a Mac user to admit, it's the truth. I am utterly in love with the concept of live updating tiles, so that you can see at a glance things such as social media updates, live weather conditions, latest eBay bids and unread emails.
I'm also enjoying the threaded conversations, organizing your social circle into Groups for easier updating and, if you're a heavy Microsoft Office user, the E-mail and Office apps are naturally top notch. The mobile version of Internet Explorer is not as fast or smooth as mobile Safari, but it's perfectly adequate. Many of the third-party apps aren't quite on the same level as their iOS and Android counterparts in look and feel or usability (one exception being the USA Today app, which is fantastic on Windows Phone 7), but to be fair, the first iOS apps had these same issues.
While the Windows Phone Marketplace is currently the low man on the App Store totem pole, its selection is expanding every day and will only grow, especially as Microsoft goes after iOS developers to lure them into the fold with cash and bigger revenue percentages than they currently get from Apple.
The Lumia 900 is a steal at $100 on contract from AT&T (and I've seen it for $50 on Amazon). If you're in the market for a new smartphone, the iPhone is still the king of the hill. However, if you have your reasons for wanting to look elsewhere, give this Windows Phone 7 ... umm ... phone a look. It's not only a worthy competitor to iOS and Android, but also the second-best mobile operating system out there for my money.
Morgan Bonner is pre-press manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and Gazette.