Getting Into Nokia – Can Windows Phone aid Travel?

December 13, 2011 · 4 comments

I’ve never really travelled much with a smartphone, I’ve always had a cheaper phone mostly as an emergency back up rather than an aid to help my travels. I’ve been asked to develop a travel app before but never got that into it as it’s not something I’d use myself.

However earlier on this year I got an iPhone 4 after reviewing the Nokia N8 which I was kindly sent to play around with. I thought the Nokia, whilst a good phone didn’t offer much value due to the lack of apps and a awkward operating system, and with my Panasonic compact camera giving up after 5 good years of service I decided to invest in a smart phone for basic snaps rather than a new compact. I chose an iPhone 4.

However recently after that Nokia announced a new partnership with Microsoft and their flagship phone will feature the Windows Mobile operating system. Once again, Nokia went on a campaign choosing the internet to advertise, and I got my hands on another new Nokia, the Lumia 800, this time with windows phone, a whole lot more effort in marketing, see the video below to see what it’s about (only viewable on website not for subscribers I’m afraid).


As you can see, they decided to get an ex-rockstar (from Brit band Blur) now cheese maker (how does that happen?) Alex James to help design it, and the idea is to promote the use of a phone to get you more into the things you like, so I’m seeing how into travel and photography it can help me get.

They have a Facebook page detailed more info about the whole into campaign, but I’m not going to go over what the video and the facebook page covers (oh yeah, you can win a trip to Finland for 2 if you go over there and like it too), so I’ll put my geek hat on and start with my opinion of the phone and pretend I’m running a phone blog for half a post:

Nokia Lumia 800 phones

The 3 colour options

Firstly the physical design. It’s nice. Made out of a solid bit of plastic holding the colour throughout, so any scratches won’t take the colour away leaving an awful finish. The Nokia Lumia 800 is available in black (which I have), blue and magenta (so pink then). For some reason it’s only available in 16Gb, which is a shame as I quickly went over 16Gb with my iPhone 4 and certainly will reach 32Gb sometime too (something to do with being addicted to apps and carrying a lot of music around).

Next the virtual design, so this is the windows bit then. Ever since I bought my macbook pro last year, I’ve only glanced at windows (I have win 7 installed on my mac but never use it) and am so happy I made the big switch. After that I got my iPhone this year, so it’s going to take a lot for windows to claw me back to using them.

I did want to hate windows phone as an operating system, but I just can’t. It’s utterly fantastic and beautiful to watch and use. The tile start menu including live updates (e.g. if you have the BBC app, it’ll display the latest headline) is great, and works well. All your apps are stored in an alphabetical order menu, but you ‘pin’ your most used to the start menu to get the tile functionality. It works well, but if you end up with a few hundred apps (I’ve got around 170ish on my iPhone) then I can imagine it gets a bit laborious to use and is not so handy or fast. But for light users who have less than 50 apps, I think Windows is the better choice.

Even when off, and you go to the lock screen, you see a nice full screen picture of your choice, with the date laid over it, or if you’re playing music, then a artist picture (if available) scrolls through at a high resolution, unlocking in this mode brings the album art forward too, it really is well thought out and makes the iPhone look quite dated and fussy. To unlock just push the picture up. Simple.

Nokia GPS

Nokia Drive in action

So far so good then. In terms of features, it’s relatively empty like smartphones tend to be, maybe even more so than the iPhone, there isn’t a calculator for example. But you do get the brilliant Nokia drive. A GPS system that works very well and as good as the expensive TomTom app available on other mobiles. The map’s can be downloaded for specific countries, so it doesn’t use your data connection either, which is important as some cheap alternates on Android and iOS do.

So what about music? Well if you want to buy within the phone from Zune (think Microsoft – iTunes) then it’s great. Of course you also need Zune software on your computer, and this is where the problems start. If you’ve invested in music using iTunes (and a lot of people have, not just Apple users), then you’ll need both bits of software and have to sync music from iTunes, to Zune and then to the phone. Zune doesn’t play well on mac either. I know Microsoft won’t primarily be targeting mac customers, but they could at least make the decision a hard one for mac users rather than go for the default choice of an iPhone by making it a lot easier to use (i.e. sync music straight from iTunes).

I’m sure someone will program a get-around for this, but I’m quite fed up after 15+ years of windows constantly setting it up to avoid crashes and get decent consistent performance (and doing the same with family members and friends) and don’t want to add it’s hassle back into my life just to use a portable device.

In terms of functionality it’s ok, but the limits are soon hit (like every other smartphone). The integration of facebook, twitter, your own contact list (easily transferable over bluetooth to your new phone) and linkedin makes the experience of communicating a pleasure and more importantly quick. But the lack of apps (only 40,000 now) and overall higher price of them puts me off in a similar fashion to the old Nokia Symbian operating system did.

So back to the original title of the post – is it going to get me into travel and photography like is has seemingly improved Alex James’s relationship with cheese?

Alex James eyeing up cheese

Alex James eyeing up cheese

I’ll start with travel first. Firstly the GPS navigation – this works on Microsoft Bing not Google maps which Android and iPhone uses. Bing actually gives a more clear view I found, but you don’t have things like satellite view, only map style view, so it’s not quite as good, but does the job well. Local scout is built into this and designed to find local businesses. How effective this is depends on how many businesses enter their details to Bing. There is of course an equivalent with Google and I don’t know many businesses who shy away from entering their details to Google.

That’s about it for built in items. There is a few options in the marketplace (app store) for Microsoft Windows Mobile, all the big companies like Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor are there as you may expect. I think third party support will increase too. To give you a comparison of options. I searched for travel’ and it took 3 flicks of my finger to get through the entire list of options for apps. In the iPhone one flick gets you down to a button which says ‘show 25 more’ I did this several times and got bored, there is over a thousand put it that way, and there is many destination specific options to choose from too.

The same thing happened with languages. Language is a important part of travel, and there is many more options, a lot are genuinely very good on the iPhone than there is on windows. Some of the basic things are there, phrase books, written kana, etc. But for something comprehensive, the iPhone is a genuinely useful tool for getting around language barriers and not just because the poor Indian kid is fascinated by a handheld device that’s more expensive than his parents house.

Nokia camera

Carl Zeiss lens on 8MP

Moving onto Photography, it’s worth mentioning the Lumia’s 8MP one with a Carl Zeiss lens. How does it perform? Well rather well. In fact it seemed to be exactly the same as the camera on the Nokia N8, which is not a bad thing. Compared to the iPhone 4? I’d say it’s better, and has similar features outside the box too. Compared to the iPhone 4S? I think Apple have the edge again, that camera really has taken things up to probably the best we’ll see on smartphones for a good few years (purely due to limitations of size to fit more glass in).

Again photography app’s – Apple unsurprisingly wins. I think the camera is one of the most used options for app’s so there is an impressive amount for both. Of course Apple like to shout about how the iPhone is now the most used camera in the world according to FlickR statistics, but it’s hardly fair to compare that to any SLR which naturally needs a more enthusiastic market to buy and upload photos compared to the casual needs of the iPhone.

Camera’s are important on phones. As I mentioned early on in this article, I justified the cost of a smartphone because I wasn’t buying a separate compact camera, and I still think this was the right choice. I work part time in a camera shop and although some modern compacts are impressive, you’re only really buying them for the optical zoom, something phone camera’s struggle to build in as it is a physical requirement that electronics can’t replicate currently (although Panasonic are working on this apparently).

Saying that, you’re not going to be disappointed in the lumia 800 camera, unless you want to take a photo of yourself (electronic mirror) as it has no front facing camera’s so video conferencing is off the agenda this time round.

Did windows get me ‘into’ my hobbies more? No. It doesn’t offer anything competing smartphones do in this respect. What it does offer is a much smarter interface and social integration though, which will be important for social butterflies who live on Facebook especially via mobile phone.

In conclusion, is it a good phone? Yes. Would I buy one? No.

I must admit, Apple’s ability to lock in customers is coming into effect here and already investing in iPhone apps makes the decision a harder one. The poor integration with Mac aid’s this too. If you are one of those weird anti-Apple people who’ve never even given their stuff a go, then I’d recommend the Nokia Lumia 800 wholeheartedly (Lumia is slang for prostitute in Spanish by the way). It’s a fine alternative to Android and Blackberry, and much better polished. Also it will play quite nicely with windows in comparison to Mac OS I imagine. But if you’re a Mac user, you’ll find the iPhone superior in nearly every way apart from the appearance of the UI and the Facebook integration.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Gregor December 13, 2011 at 8:41 PM

Will after reading your review I am incline to agree with your that the Iphone4 is is probably the better phone have. There is no doubt that the Iphone4 is the leader in technological development. Sorry Nokia Lumia!
Gregor´s latest blogpost – Does Digest It Provide a Natural Digestive Tract Cleanse?


AdventureRob December 19, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Yes, in business it’s good to get in first, and Apple seem to have not done this, but done everything well first, which has what has carved out their share in the markets they have entered.


Hamilton December 16, 2011 at 9:16 PM

I agree with your blog post I would choose the Iphone4 over the Nokia Lumia
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Cynthia December 27, 2011 at 12:26 PM

I do love Iphone 4 in terms of latest gadgets. In business attraction on latest invention is highly demanding. No satisfaction.
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