The Lumia 800 looks like the N9, but is the first Nokia smartphone to run Windows Phone 7.5. SEAN BACHER finds there are major ‚ and encouraging ‚ differences.
When Nokia released the N9 last year, it repositioned itself as a serious competitor in the smartphone market once more. This had a lot to do with the in-house developed, Linux-based MeeGo operating system. The OS represented a complete shift away from the Symbian operating system that Nokia had used on all its previous smartphone handsets.
But the MeeGo operating system’s life was very limited. Soon after the launch of the N9, Nokia announced that all future handsets would be based on the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system.
The first of this new generation of phone is the Lumia 800, which runs the Mango or Windows Phone 7.5 OS. But, while the phone uses a completely different OS, the Lumia 800 looks almost identical to the N9.
This is significant at Gadget, because the N9 scored an unusually high 80% in the Gadget Ten Question Task Test (click here to read the review), putting it marginally ahead of the iPhone 4S (click here to read the review). How does the Lumia 800 compare?
1. General look and feel (aesthetic judgement, differentiation in look and feel)
The Lumia 800 looks nearly the same as the N9. It uses the same unibody design, meaning there are no removable batteries or battery flaps, and the shell is finished with curved edges. Unfortunately, it still uses the flimsy flap that covers the mini USB/charging port.
There are one or two changes though. The most obvious is colour. The Lumia 800 is available in bright pink, blue or black, while the N9 is available only in black. In addition to the Power and volume controls on the right-hand side of the phone, the Lumia 800 also has a dedicated camera button.
If you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty, the Lumia 800 weighs 142 grams, making it slightly heavier than the N9, which comes in at 135 grams.
Overall, like the N9, the Lumia 800 looks and feels solid and strikes you as the type of phone that will handle the odd drop ‚ unlike, for example, the iPhone.
2. Slippability (Weight and size, ability to slip into a pocket unnoticed)
The Lumia 800 uses a 3.7‚ AMOLED screen, compared to the N9’s 3.9‚ screen. Why a smaller screen if the phone has the same dimensions? Blame Windows Phone OS: The three virtual control buttons below the Lumia 800’s screen make the difference. It will, however, be hard to notice the actual difference in screen size, even when you have both of them lying next to each other.
The Lumia 800, like the N9, won’t exactly slip into your pocket unnoticed, but it is compact enough to fit there comfortably. Its smooth edges also give the phone a great feeling when you’re holding it, and the bright colours may lead to the phone to being in carried in a hand or being displayed on a coffee table more often than it hiding in a pocket.
The physical dimensions are exactly the same as the Nokia N9, but the Lumia 800 is still a little too heavy for a cutting edge smartphone.
3. General performance (speed, responsiveness, multi-tasking)
The Lumia 800 uses a 1.4Ghz Qualcomm processor, which is coupled with 16GB of internal storage and only 512Mb of RAM. The RAM falls rather short when compared to other smartphones, where the standard is 1GB, but the processor is on a par and makes up for the RAM. The N9 uses 1GB or RAM but uses a slower 1Ghz Cortex A8 CPU. Overall performance was great. Angry Birds launched in no time and birds were soaring through the air glitch-free. More processor-intensive apps ran fine too, even with an arsenal of apps open in the background.
This seamed a bit strange, as I thought that I would eventually exhaust the meagre 512MB of RAM and start getting some warnings about low memory, or at least see a performance drop. But it turns out that Windows Phone 7.5 does not support true multi-tasking. Yes, music and other apps will run in the background but, once you hold down the virtual Back button, you find only a few applications remain in the memory. The others seem to ‚disappear‚ from the list, and the only way to get them back is to restart them. I also found that I couldn’t manage open applications like I would on Android phones: I could switch from app to app, but had no way to force an application to close.
Even though every task ran effortlessly on the 512MB of RAM in the phone, the limited multitasking ability offered Windows Phone 7.5 is a slight disappointment.
4. Life as we know it (How’s the battery life?)
Nokia’s operating system choice has been questionable in the past, but it has always been constant when squeezing the maximum amount of operating time out of the battery ‚ and the Lumia 800 is no different.
The Lumia 800 uses the same 1 450mAh battery as the N9 but, according to Nokia, the Lumia 800 offers 13 hours of talk time, compared to 11 hours on the N9. Although I didn’t talk on the Lumia 800 for 13 hours, I used it for taking calls, checking Twitter and Facebook, performed a few Internet searches and played games on it for a full two days before I was warned that I was running low on battery power. Even then, though, the battery management app popped up and asked me if I wanted to tweak the phone to get even more life from the battery.
Once again, Nokia’s battery life ‚ and management ‚ is unrivaled. This feature alone puts the phone in a different league.
5. Vision of the future (picture, video and browsing quality)
Located at the back of the phone is an 8MP Carls Zeiss camera with a dual-LED flash. The camera is able to capture stills at a maximum resolution of 3264X2448 pixels ‚ exactly the same as the Nokia N9. However, the addition of a dedicated camera button really does enhance the picture experience, as taking quick snaps doesn’t require taking the phone out of stand-by mode, locating the camera app and then activating it. Simply press the Camera button and snap away.
Camera features include geo-tagging, auto-focus and a range of other features that take normal happy snaps to a new level. Unfortunately, the lack of a pinch-zoom interface was a let-down: clicking on the zoom-in and zoom-out buttons took too much time.
The Lumia 800 lacks a front facing camera, so no video conferencing, unlike the N9.
Videos are displayed in vivid colour and have a great contrast ratio on the AMOLED screen. This, combined with the good battery life even when using video, are a big bonus.
6. Talk to me (quality of audio)
At the bottom of the phone is a mono speaker, which is great for speaker calls or listening to the odd song, but there are numerous smartphones with better-made built-in speakers. The 3.5mm headphone jack will offer a far better sound experience, as this is where Dolby’s Mobile Sound Enhancement feature kicks in.
Overall, not the greatest combination of sound features on a phone, but enough to keep most users satisfied.
7. Message in a bottle (range, speed and efficiency of messaging solutions)
With the Nokia Lumia 800 using Windows Phone 7.5, most applications are tightly integrated with a Microsoft Live account, much as all Android devices are linked to a Google account. This means, before you can properly start using the included messaging applications like Twitter or Facebook, you need to register or sign in to a Microsoft Live account. That said, the included Twitter and other social media accounts are less than ideal. They are all included in one option labelled ‚Me‚ . Clicking on it brings all the feeds together on one screen, but with little differentiation, making it confusing when trying to work out which feed supplied which message. This is especially problematic when replying, not knowing where the post will be shown.
On the other hand, the Microsoft Live account also gives you access to Xbox Live games, a market from where you can buy Xbox Live and other games. It also provides access to the Windows Phone Marketplace, from where you can download 3rd party social media apps and keep the feeds separate.
Speaking of the Windows Phone Marketplace, there is less of an app variety when compared with more mature online stores like the Android Marketplace or Apple App Store. Free versions of commercial apps are in short supply: for example, the full version of Angry Birds costs R24, although a free trial version is available from the Windows Phone Marketplace, whereas the equivalent is free for other platforms.
As the Windows Phone operating system becomes more popular, however, the number of apps available will increase quickly.
But that shouldn’t have to be the workaround to make up for the confusing integration of social feeds. The N9 didn’t score too favourably here either, but its improved use of the Ovi Store counted in its favour.
8. Keep control (How effective are hardware and software controls?)
In addition to the four hardware control buttons, the Lumia 800 uses three software buttons located below the screen. The Back button works like a Back button on an Internet browser and, when held down, shows all open applications.
The Windows button allows for a quick return to the phone’s home screen, no matter what application is open.
The third button is a Search option, which can be accessed from any application. When tapped, it launches the phone’s Internet browser, with Bing as the default search engine.
The addition of the three software buttons makes navigating and operating the phone far easier and less time consuming.
9. The new new (innovations, unique features)
Windows Phone 7.5 offers a user interface that is quite different to anything on Android or iOS. It uses Live tiles, which can be thought of as square widgets (applications that automatically update themselves). The Live tiles are continually changing in accordance with what they represent. For instance, the Calendar Tile changes with the date ‚ nothing new there, but it also displays upcoming appointments. The People Tile displays images of the people ‚active‚ in the contacts folder, either on a Gmail or Microsoft Live account. A click on the tile will launch that application and allow for a more in-depth view.
Unfortunately, besides changing the location of the tile (you can move it up or down, or off the home screen), and changing colours or automatic updating, there is not much else Windows Phone offers in the way of customisation at this stage.
On the plus side ‚ and this is a massive plus – the Lumia 800 includes Windows Office 365, which in turn gives direct access to a SkyDrive account, allowing for files to be saved in the cloud.
Office 365 opens up an entirely new collaboration world. Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents can be created, viewed and edited directly on the Lumia 800, with the changes or additions being automatically updated and ready for any other colleagues to review from their Windows Office 365 account. This knocks flat any equivalent ion the iOS.
Although the new interface does seem a bit confusing at first, it won’t take long to figure out how to operate it properly. The settings, application management and phone customisation options are all easy to locate.
The addition Windows Office 365, with its seamless integration and collaboration tools, are a huge bonus and will benefit any organisation with more than one employee.
10. The wallet test (Is it competitively priced?)
The Lumia 800 was launched late last month, and is available from all Vodacom outlets nationwide. It costs R279 per month on a Business Call Contract and includes 100MB of data. At the time of publishing, the N9 was available from Vodacom on the same contract for R299.
The Lumia 800 is very well priced and is a viable alternative to many of the Android smartphones available in South Africa.
Total score: 84/100 (the best a phone has scored so far)
Overall, the Lumia 800 works well, is superbly designed and offers a new, yet uncomplicated user interface. Nokia has come a long way from its archaic Symbian operating system, and the Windows Phone 7.5 is in some cases even easier to use than the Nokia N9 running MeeGo.
In the end, the combination of battery life, Office 365 and competitive pricing makes this a killer phone.
* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher
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Just to clear up some stuff…Windows Phone does support multitasking. If the tasks arent showing on the list, it means that they have been tombstoned and if you press back enough you will get to them. (You will see it says “Resuming…””) This is because they are removed from memory so other apps can use it. A total of 5 apps can be present in memory. Also, to close an app just press back from its main menu screen…it closes it. No need for pesky task managers like Android…it handles it so the user doesnt need to worry about it 🙂
Amazfit Bip – An unassuming smartwatch competitor
The Amazfit Bip has everything a smartwatch needs: notifications, heart rate monitoring and a month-long battery life, writes BRYAN TURNER.
The Amazfit Bip is one of the most appealing devices in the smartwatch lineup from Huami, a low-cost brand backed by Xiaomi.
Coming in at around R1500 depending on where you shop, the price point puts the Bip into the budget smartwatch space. Combined with a large set of offerings, it makes one wonder: “Why aren’t more smartwatches like this?”
Aesthetically, the rectangular face is similar to the Apple Watch but, on closer inspection, is more reminiscent of the Pebble Time smartwatch. Ergonomically, the Bip has a single button which mostly acts as an unlock button and a back button in menus. The watch strap is made of hypoallergenic silicone and is replaceable.
The Bip has an always-on transflective colour screen with a backlight for darker situations. This kind of display is very similar to a 90’s Gameboy, and happens to be quite the power saver. The display is covered with 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla glass with an anti-fingerprint coating, giving that extra bit of knock resistance.
The unit is 18 grams without the strap and 32 with it on, making for an extremely light smartwatch that’s roughly half the weight of the Apple Watch. While the Bip is rated IP68 in terms of waterproofing and dustproofing (meaning it can withstand 30 minutes of being under 1.5 meters of water), Huami’s website says that it should not be used while swimming, diving or bathing, and should not be taken into a sauna. When the Bip we used got dirty from rock climbing, it was washed with a soap-free cleanser (as Fitbit recommends) and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
The number of sensors in the Bip is astonishing: heart rate sensor, accelerometer, geomagnetic sensor, barometer, and GPS. This sensor set is usually reserved for the premium smartwatch market but budget Bip packs all of these. Most interestingly, the geomagnetic sensor allows for compass readings (as well as assisting the GPS in locating the watch while it’s moving) and the barometer for measuring elevation by detecting changes in pressure.
Battery life has been optimised to a month of regular use, with some reports measuring up to 45-days with the heart rate sensor off. Huami claims the smartwatch can last for 4 months with only step and sleep tracking on. The 190mAh battery was run down in 28 hours with the GPS, barometer and heart rate sensor set to permanently on.
The built-in software is basic and lacks app support but redeems itself in other areas. Firstly, the customisation of watch faces is limited but can be easily changed with a third party app. Notifications are handled well, available for viewing only, and require the phone for replying or other interactions.
The menu options become available with a swipe left, notification settings with a swipe down, past notifications with a swipe up and the weather with a swipe right. The menu has options for checking one’s current status (steps, heart rate, distance, calories), followed by quick activity tracking (running, cycling, walking weather (a five-day forecast with icons), alarms, timers, compass and settings.
The companion app, Mi Fit, is well-designed and syncs quickly with the Bip. Mi Fit is where the watch and sync settings can be fine-tuned. Mi Fit also gives very detailed sleep analytics, including showing how much time one spent sleeping compared to other Mi Fit users.
Overall, the Bip is an attractive smartwatch for those who are looking to purchase a device that provides value for money while being highly-functional.
Samsung A51: Saviour of the mid-range
For a few years, Samsung has delivered some less than favourable mid-range devices compared to the competition. The Galaxy A51 is here to change all that, writes BRYAN TURNER.
It’s not often one can look at a mid-range phone and mistake it for a flagship. That’s what you can expect to experience when taking the Galaxy A51 out into the open.
Samsung went back to the drawing board with its new range of devices, and it shows. The latest Galaxy A range features some of the highest quality, budget-friendly devices we’ve seen so far. The Samsung Galaxy A51 is one of the best phones we’ve seen in a while, not just aesthetically, but in what it packs into a sub-R7000 price tag.
Looking at the device briefly, it’s very easy to mistake it for a flagship. It features a four-camera array on the back, and an Infinity-O punch-hole display – both of which are features of the high-end Samsung devices. In fact, it features a similar camera array as the Galaxy Note10 Lite but features an additional lens in the array. The cameras line up in an L-shape, clearly avoiding looking like a stovetop.
Apart from the camera array, the back of the handset features a striking pattern called Prism Crush, a pattern of pastel shades that come in black, white, blue, and pink. For the review, we used the Prism Crush Blue colour and it looks really great. The feel is clearly plastic, which isn’t too surprising for a mid-range device, but the design is definitely something that will make users opt for a clear case. It’s also great to see a design pattern that deviates from the standard single iridescent colours many manufacturers have copied from Huawei’s design.
Along the sides, it features a metal-like frame, but again, it’s plastic. On the left side, we find a SIM and microSD card tray while the right side houses the power button and volume rocker. The bottom of the phone features a very welcome USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which isn’t too uncommon for mid-range phones.
On the front, the device is pretty much all screen, at an 87.4% screen-to-body ratio, thanks to a tiny chin at the bottom and the small punch hole for the camera. The earpiece has also been hidden inside the frame in attempts to maximise this screen-to-body ratio. When powered on, the 6.5-inch display looks vivid and sharp. That’s because Samsung opted to put a Super AMOLED display into this midrange unit, giving it a resolution of 1080 x 2400 (at 405 ppi) in a 20:9 format. This makes the display FullHD+, and perfect for consuming video content like Netflix and YouTube in HD.
Hidden underneath the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is very surprising to find in a mid-range device. While it is extremely accurate, it takes some getting used to because the sensor is so large that one needs to put one’s entire finger over the right part of the display to unlock it. Most other types of non-in-screen fingerprint sensors don’t mind a partial fingerprint. The display itself feels nothing like the back and that’s because it’s not plastic, but rather Gorilla Glass 3, to prevent the screen from shattering easily.
What’s interesting about this device is finding accessories which aren’t quite available in phone stores yet. When browsing online for screen protectors, one has to be on the lookout for screen protectors that are compatible with the in-screen fingerprint sensor. Make sure to check out the reviews of users before purchasing them.
In terms of software, Samsung has made a great deal of effort to make the experience slick. Gone are the days of TouchWiz (thank goodness) and now we have OneUI in its second version. OneUI makes the phone easier to use by putting most of the interaction on the bottom half of the screen and most of the view on the top part of the screen, where one’s thumbs don’t usually reach.
Out of the box, the device came with Android 10. This is a huge step forward in terms of commitment to running the latest software for major feature updates as well as for Android security patches to keep the device secure.
It also has most of the cool features from the flagship devices, like Samsung Pay, Bixby, and Link to Windows. Samsung Pay is an absolute pleasure to use, even if it still confuses the person taking your payments. From linking my cards, I have stopped taking my wallet out with me because all merchants that accept tap-to-pay will accept Samsung Pay on the A51.
Bixby is useful if you’re in the Samsung app ecosystem, especially for owners of SmartThings devices like Samsung TVs and SmartThings-enabled smart home devices. Otherwise, Google Assistant is still accessible for those who still want to use the standard Google experience.
Link to Windows is an interesting feature that started with the Galaxy Note10 and has since trickled down into the mid-range. It allows users to send SMS messages, view recently taken photos, and receive notifications from the phone, all on a Windows 10 PC. This can be enabled by going to the Your Phone app found in the start menu.
The rear camera is phenomenal for a mid-range device and features a 48MP wide sensor. The photos come out as 12MP images, which is a common trick of many manufacturers to achieve high-quality photography. It does this by combining 4 pixels into a single superpixel to get the best colours out of the picture, while still remaining sharp. It also performs surprisingly well in low light, which is not something we were expecting from a mid-range device.
The 12MP ultra-wide angle lens spans 123-degrees, which is very wide and also useful for getting shots in where one can’t move back further. It’s not as great as the main lens but does the trick for getting everyone in for a group photo in a galley kitchen.
The 5MP depth-sensing lens supplements the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo – the same lens as its predecessor, the Galaxy A50. It features a 32MP wide-angle selfie camera, which is perfect for fitting everyone into a large group selfie.
The processor is an Exynos 9611, which is an Octa-core processor. It performs well in most situations, and there is software built in to give games a boost, so it performs well with graphically intensive games too. In terms of RAM, there are 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB variants, so keep an eye out for which one you are trying. For the review, we had the 4GB, and it performs well with multitasking and day-to-day tasks.
For storage, it comes in a 128GB model on Samsung’s website, which seems to be the standard size. This is extremely welcome in the mid-range segment and is the largest we’ve seen for internal storage capacity as a starting point.
At a recommended selling price of R6,999, the Samsung Galaxy A51 marks the beginning of a great era for Samsung, because it provides a feature-rich handset at an affordable price.