The Nokia Lumia 900 enters the market as the latest flagship handset for the Finnish firm, sporting the look of a slightly super-sized Lumia 800.
We've written much about the Lumia 900, and virtually all of it praises the hardware. With good reason: Nokia has outdone itself with this stylish 127.8mm tall and 68.5mm wide slab, and at 11.5mm thick, it's one of the best-looking smartphones out there.
Available from £399 ($449.99) SIM free, and for free on 24 month contracts starting at £26 per month, the Lumia 900 finds itself rubbing shoulders with the high society of the mobile world, such as the iPhone 4S, Sony Xperia S and Samsung Galaxy S2.
The Lumia 900 features a classy, unibody frame made from polycarbonate. It's tough and feels absolutely wonderful when held in your hand; Nokia's industrial design work has clearly not been dulled by age.
However that unibody design comes at a cost, which in terms of the Lumia 900 is weight. It's a hefty old device tipping the scales at 160g – a full 16g heavier that the iPhone 4S and Xperia S and a huge 44g more than the Galaxy S2.
Nokia provides a range of three colours for the Lumia 900's chassis; black, white and a rather striking blue, which was certainly our favourite.
ClearBlack technology allows the 4.3-inch screen to be used outdoors (even with polarized sunglasses at any angle), while Corning Gorilla Glass protects a vivid AMOLED display.
The front of the Lumia 900 is primarily a 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, matching the Galaxy S2.
The screen is raised slightly from the body, leaving a lip around its perimeter which gives the impression its popping out of the case – making it feel out of place on what is otherwise a very sleek phone.
A 1MP front-facing camera for video chat sits at upper left, while a very thin gap at top hides the earpiece; three capacitive Windows Phone buttons sit below the display for Back, Start and Search.
The left side is devoid of buttons, all of which reside on the right, with volume rocker at top, power/lock button at centre and a two-stage dedicated camera button below.
At first this arrangement seemed a strange choice, but when held with the left hand, our middle finger was conveniently aligned with the power/lock button.
However when held in the right hand, the power/lock key was simply to far down the side of the Lumia 900 for us to hit easily, which meant a lot of awkward shuffling in the hand just to lock the device.
Atop the Lumia 900 is a 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-USB port (for charging and data transfer) and micro-SIM card door, while a large speaker grille resides at the bottom on the handset.
There's a SIM door key included in the box, allowing you to pop the tray out, which is then pulled out completely to reveal the card slot.
It's a bit more flimsy and complicated than the microSIM card tray on the iPhone 4S, and we reckon this could easily be broken if treated without care.
Luckily the card itself is held in place quite well and it's realitivly easy to slide back into the Lumia 900, and then press down the flap to return the handset to its sleek and slender form.
On the back of the Lumia 900 is an 8MP auto focus camera lens with Nokia's customary Carl Zeiss optics next to an unobtrusive dual LED flash.
While the silver band around the lens is a nice touch, we're concerned that over time it may attract scratches from without using a case – however, we prefer the look of this flush lens to the obtrusive lenses found of the likes of the HTC One S and Galaxy S2.
The Nokia Lumia 900 comes with a modest 16GB of storage, which will suffice for most needs, but those who consume large volumes of content will be disappointed to learn there is no way to expand on this.
The unibody frame means you can't open up the Nokia Lumia 900, meaning no access to the battery or hidden microSD card slot.
The Nokia Lumia 900 comes packing the Windows Phone Mango operating system, also knows as version 7.5 for those of you who like your figures.
We've been intrigued by Windows Phone since Microsoft debuted it nearly two years ago.
While Apple's iOS looks largely the same as it did when the original iPhone launched in 2007 and Android has borrowed liberally from that look to varying success, there's certainly no mistaking the unique Metro style.
The Lumia 900's lock screen displays signal levels for cellular, Wi-Fi, and battery at top, with time and date more prominently at bottom.
Upcoming calendar events handily appear below the date, along with icons for incoming email or message counts as they come in.
While locked, notifications appear in a band of colour at top, which varies depending on what theme you have selected – with the preset being a rather fetching shade of blue, known as "Nokia Blue" in the settings menu.
If you hold down the shutter button on the right of the Lumia 900, you can jump straight into the camera app from the lock screen, perfect if you fancy taking a quick snap.
Swiping a finger from the bottom of the screen unlocks the Lumia 900 and reveals two columns of tiles representing apps, services and contacts.
Many of these are "live" tiles, which can display information such as missed calls, text messages, email inbox counts and more – think of them as simpler versions of Android widgets.
Simply hold down on a tile to manipulate it, with the choice to either change its position in the grid, or remove it from view, which is known as "unpinning".
It's a refreshing departure from the grid of icons we're used to seeing from Apple and Google.
Tap the arrow at the upper right of the display, or swipe from right to left to reveal the list of installed apps, sorted alphabetically.
At first, this is one continuous list, but Microsoft has cleverly enabled the ability to group apps by letter once you've installed 40 or so titles.
To quickly jump to an app, tap any letter and choose from an A to Z grid – for example, "T" for Twitter.
Frequently used apps can also be pinned to the Start menu; simply tap and hold on the desired app, then select "pin to start" (the same method is used to "rate and review" or "uninstall").
Once pinned, many apps include live, updating information like photos, weather or news in place of a dedicated notification area used by competitors.
To quickly jump between open apps, hold down the Back button for a moment to bring up the basic multi-tasking menu, then swipe and tap to select.
Windows Phone Mango only offers you the options for the five most recently used apps in this list, where as iOS and Android show all open apps in their multi-tasking menus.
Much like earlier versions of iOS, not all Windows Phone apps support background running yet – a plus for battery life, but the short wait required as they reopen can be a bummer when you're in a hurry to answer an incoming IM, for example.
Some say specs are dead, and in the case of the Nokia Lumia 900, that may be a good thing. The hardware runs on a humble single-core Qualcomm APQ8055 + MDM9200 processor clocked at 1.4GHz with a mere 512MB of SDRAM, but don't let the numbers fool you – we were able to flick, tap and swipe our way through each day without noticeable lag.
A bit of a bug bare for us is the Lumia 900 doesn't constantly show you your network signal, Wi-Fi connection or any other icons in the notification bar at the top of the screen – with just the clock getting a permanent fixture.
A swipe down from the top of the screen will display the additional icons, but it seems somewhat unnecessary and we'd prefer to see them all permanently.
Overall, although as not fully featured as Android, or elegant as iOS, Windows Phone on the Lumia 900 is a joy to use, running smoothly on a phone which, on paper, lacks in power compared to the competition - providing an simple, but pleasant user experience.
Contacts and calling
On Windows Phone 7 devices, contacts live in what's known as the People hub. Contacts can be added from a variety of services with Windows Live and Hotmail getting preferential treatment (little surprise given this is Microsoft's party).
However, Google and social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are also well integrated here.
The People hub is capable of linking the same contacts from multiple services into one profile, a method Palm pioneered with Synergy on their late, great webOS platform.
In practice, linking creates the undesirable impact of unwanted contacts showing up in your address book – for example, Facebook friends you may not actually know in real life and have no interest in connecting with outside that service.
Microsoft gets around this in Windows Phone by allowing contact lists to be filtered, displaying only the services you actually care about.
It's a well executed method, although Windows Phone does bury the option in People settings where average users may never discover them.
Tapping on the name of a contact brings up their profile, where you can call a phone number, text or chat via SMS or connected services like Facebook, send email or map addresses.
A swipe to the left displays that user's "what's new" activity; another swipe shows their pictures and still another, a history of your contact with that person.
Should Windows Phone mistakenly link any contacts – a problem we certainly didn't encounter – tapping the link button allows you to link or unlink at will.
Individual contacts can also be pinned as a live Start tile for one-tap access to a spouse or significant other. Once you get the hang of this approach, it's hard to go back to the static, unconnected world of iOS or Android.
Swiping left while in People hub also shows you recent status updates from your friends and a history of contacts you've last interacted with. Tapping "all accounts" in blue will filter "what's new" updates to specific services.
If you make a new friend then it's also simple to add them to your contacts list, just hit the plus sign at the bottom of the screen and select new contact, and you'll be whisked into the data entry screen. Simples.
Calls can be made direct from a contact's profile or through the dialler tile. Here you can cycle through call history or visual voicemail (which easily matches or surpasses that on the iPhone), or tap the dialler icon to enter a new number.
Sadly there's no smart dialling options, meaning the Lumia 900 won't give you contact suggestions when you start tapping out a number (and you can't type in a name either).
Call quality on the Nokia Lumia 900 was quite good, and switching calls to the speaker were also loud and clear.
We didn't experience any issues with dropped calls or loss of signal, however we did find the Lumia 900 wasn't always able to get 3G in areas where other phones could.
We were happy to discover the free third-party GoVoice app in the Windows Phone Marketplace – while this Google Voice client isn't as tightly integrated as the one on its native Android, it at least duplicates the experience of making calls we're used to with iOS.
Messaging gets its very own tile on the Lumia 900 Start screen, and once launched, cycles between traditional SMS/MMS threads and integrated Facebook chat, which can be disabled in settings if you don't want it.
Tap the + icon to create a new message, where you can attach a photo via MMS or record a voice memo to send instead.
Sadly, videos can't be sent with the Lumia 900 (or any Windows Phone device), but are promised for a forthcoming update. (Receiving videos works just fine.)
Contacts are easily added with a tap, and the Windows Phone keyboard makes good use of the display with tall, well-spaced keys providing a board to match the stock Android one, although like the Android offering, we did find ourselves hitting the wrong key on more than one occasion.
We liked the pleasing, understated "tock tock tock" sound as we hit keys, compared to the more shrill sound used on competing mobile OS platforms.
If you require a bit more travel between keys you can always turn the Lumia 900 landscape and the accelerometer with flip the keyboard round, providing a more spacious layout.
Conversations are threaded in coloured boxes which echo the Start screen tiles, and can be individually deleted by selecting "delete thread," a function tucked away under three small dots in the lower right corner, which is a system-wide method used for accessing additional features.
An annoying quirk with the Windows Phone platform is if you haven't flagged a friend's number as 'mobile' in their contact profile, you won't be able to find that number in the auto-search box of a text message's contact field.
This means if our mate Dave's number is set to something like "home", when we start typing Dave into the "to" box in a new message, his number won't show up – a highly frustrating issue we hope will be ironed out in the next software update.
While in People hub, if you have linked contacts you can initiate a Facebook chat, write on that user's wall or even mention them on Twitter as well as send email to any of their connected accounts.
New accounts are added via Settings > Email + Accounts, where you can choose from Windows Live, Outlook, Nokia Mail, Yahoo! Mail, Google, LinkedIn or any POP/IMAP email.
New accounts are added via Settings > Email + Accounts, where you can choose from Windows Live, Outlook, Nokia Mail, Yahoo! Mail, Google, LinkedIn or any POP/IMAP email.
Push email only works with Microsoft and Google accounts, which our iCloud account was none to happy to hear about.
Initially, each email account appears on its own tile, which can get pretty messy for those of us with more than a few of them.
But Microsoft comes through again with linked inboxes – simply add all of your accounts and like magic, they'll appear in a unified "Linked Inbox" tile.
Email is done quite elegantly here, but we stumbled across a few nagging issues, such as being unable to move an email between account folders.
Aside from traditional SMS and Facebook chat, instant messaging is otherwise MIA on the Nokia Lumia 900.
Thankfully, there are a few apps in the Marketplace to add this functionality, including the excellent (and free) IM+, which works with almost every service you can think of – from stalwarts like WhatsApp, AOL and Yahoo, all the way down to a few you've probably never heard of.
While both Twitter and Facebook are well integrated into Windows Phone for casual users, power users will probably want to download the official free apps from Marketplace, or seek out one of several paid third-party options.
Microsoft's official port of Facebook is actually one of the slickest we've used, which even allows users to decorate backgrounds using their own images.
If you're in the US then you'll be able to pick up the 4G LTE version of the Nokia Lumia 900, but for those outside of the states you'll more than likely have to settle for the 3G version.
We had no problem connecting to networks, although we didn't hit anywhere near that (4G LTE) maximum, but we did hit a respectable 7.05Mbps download (upload speeds were sadly under 1Mbps), which is comparable to what we've seen on the iPhone 4S.
The Lumia 900 also packs Wi-Fi b/g/n, which we found to pick up the majority of wireless networks and provide a strong link once connected.
Perhaps the weakest link on the Lumia 900 – and Windows Phone in general – is the choice of a mobile version of Internet Explorer 9 for its browser. Render speeds were noticeably slower with IE9, and fonts looked downright chunky when finished.
Clearly, Microsoft has a way to go before the browser is up to snuff on Windows Phone, but a few third-party contenders are trying to get discovered in the Marketplace in the meantime.
IE9 includes a setting for selecting mobile or desktop websites by default, but the browser frequently seemed confused as to which one it should display.
Unlike its desktop big brother, IE9 for Windows Phone features the absolute minimum bare essentials when it comes to settings, and like early versions of Android, suffers from no way to sync desktop bookmarks.
We were able to mostly get around the bookmarks limitation thanks to Xmarks, a free app available in the Marketplace to Premium users who pay $12 (around £8) per year for the service.
Xmarks allowed us access to all of our synced bookmarks from desktop Safari, Chrome and Firefox (which are get synced to iOS via iCloud) as well as open tabs.
Not a perfect solution, but we were happy to have it at all.
To no one's surprise, Adobe Flash is missing in action from the Windows Phone 7 platform – but fear not, Flash fans, the $4.99 (£3.99) FlashVideo for WP7 app promises to right that wrong, should you be so inclined.
While Nokia has delivered handsomely on industrial design and Microsoft has checked off most (but not all) of the OS boxes for us, the sky clouds up when it comes time to snap photos with the Lumia 900.
On paper, the specs nearly match the desirable iPhone 4S, but the end result reveals a much wider gap.
First the good news: Microsoft requires a dedicated camera button for all Windows Phone handsets, and the Nokia Lumia 900 is no exception.
Better yet, this button uses a two-step mode like most point-and-shoot models – press the button halfway to lock focus and exposure, then push the rest of the way to actually take the photo.
This button can also be used to jump straight into camera mode – even when the device is locked or sleeping – by holding it down until the viewfinder appears. (Users can override this method in the Pictures + Camera settings.)
Another preference setting allows the entire screen to be used as a trigger for snapping pictures, something that confounded us as we tried tapping to adjust focus and exposure as we do with the iPhone. (Don't bother trying – it doesn't do anything.) Like it or not, focus and exposure is set with the dedicated camera button.
The 8MP camera shoots 4:3 images up to 3264x2448 pixels, but options are available in settings for 7MP 16:9, 3MP 4:3 and 2MP 16:9 as well.
Focus can be switched from Normal to Macro and basic effects can be applied while shooting (Black & White, Sepia, Negative or Solarize).
The camera also allows for centre weighted, frame average or centre spot metering while scenes, ISO and white balance can be manually or automatically adjusted.
It all sounds amazing, but unfortunately the end results don't quite live up to the specs. Contrast and colour saturation are above average in most cases, and the Lumia 900 is capable of quite decent outdoor images when the sun is cooperating.
We were less enthusiastic about our results shooting indoors, and the dual LED flash didn't seem to do us any favours, either, producing garish results and a lot of red eyes.
Considering Nokia's reputation for excellent optics in mobile devices, the Lumia 900 camera is something of a disappointment, and next to Internet Explorer 9, easily the biggest flaw in an otherwise capable handset.
That said, the camera still runs circles around competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and it's a big step up for first-time smartphone owners as well.
Results are also quite mixed once you switch the Lumia 900 camera into camcorder mode.
With most top-end smartphones, such as the Galaxy S2, now recording 1080p HD video, Nokia's newest flagship device appears to bring a knife to a gunfight, capable of only 720p HD at 30fps (a less-desirable secondary mode is also available for 640x480 video).
Unlike many Android smartphones, the Lumia 900 wisely shoots in the higher quality MPEG-4 format, and the video is certainly better for it.
We didn't notice much in the way of artifacts or blocking in the video we shot, although outdoors in bright sunlight, the video tended to be a little too high contrast for our liking.
When in darker settings or indoors with less desirable lighting, the Lumia 900 mostly falls flat on its face. There was noticeable noise and grain once the lights went down, and the automatic white balance struggled to keep up in environments with mixed lighting.
The AMOLED display actually works against the video camera, making video look worse than it actually is while shooting – an unfortunate by-product of this technology, making colours oversaturated.
Once footage was imported back to our computer, we were pleasantly surprised to see an improvement – but it did little for the noise and grain.
On a more positive note, the Lumia 900 video camera includes built-in stabilization, the same four effects filters as the still camera and 3x digital zoom, but don't plan on doing any smooth zooming in or out with the latter, since it jumps from setting to setting.
The zoom also can't be toggled during filming, with the same going for the LED flash, both of which need to be set before hitting record.
The video camera also features a large time display in the lower left corner, which unobtrusively changes opacity while recording so you'll never be left wondering how long a clip is.
Lumia 900 owners also have little to worry about when it comes to media playback – Microsoft's Zune player lives on in the heart of Windows Phone, where it is called up with a tap of the Music + Videos tile.
From here, you can play music or podcasts purchased from Marketplace or synced from your computer (the latter option also includes videos).
Windows users again have the upper hand with superior Zune software on the desktop, but Microsoft offers a free Windows Phone 7 Connector application in the Mac App Store to sync iTunes media.
Files with digital rights management (DRM) protection are a no-go from iTunes, but thankfully that's now limited to movies, TV shows and music videos.
We did notice Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac was a little slow while syncing, especially compared to the same process using iOS devices with iTunes directly.
A preference option allows photos to be synced from either iPhoto or Aperture, while photos and video taken with the Lumia 900 get synced back to the same application each time you connect.
Ringtones can also be synced using Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac, but you'll have to start from scratch if you have existing Tones in iTunes – the software will only recognize MP3 or WMA audio files under 40 seconds with a maximum 1MB file size, which will have to be imported as a regular music file with a very specific "ringtone" (no quotes, all lower case) under the Genre category.
The Lumia 900 comes with 16GB of internal storage, which will be plenty for most people, but those of you with huge iTunes libraries or a passion for watching films on the move may find this slightly restricting.
Unfortunately there's no microSD card slot in the Lumia 900, meaning you're unable to expand on the 16GB of physical storage.
It's not all bad news, as Windows Live and Hotmail users get 25GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage, and media such as photos can be set up to automatically upload to the cloud from the Lumia 900.
A free SkyDrive app in Marketplace also allows you to view, upload to or delete from your account.
The large, 4.3-inch display on the Nokia Lumia 900 means that watching video is something that shouldn't be feared, and videos can be played back from all key formats including WMV 9, H.264, MPEG-4 and AVI.
There's a dedicated video player in the form of the Zune player app (which also includes a music player and FM radio), which we found straight forward to use.
The player itself is very basic, with just the main functions available, with play/pause, skip and scrubbing options on board.
Video playback is smooth and images are generally vivid, although the clarity isn't quite in the same league as the retina-display touting iPhone 4S or Sony Xperia S with it's Bravia enhancement technology.
Quality is good enough to happily watch a feature film, although the weight of the Lumia 900 may put you off – as you're hand will begin to ache after a while of holding the handset.
Clocking in at 160g, it's significantly heavier than the 116g Samsung Galaxy S2 and 16g more than both the Xperia S and iPhone 4S.
We really liked the History pane on the Zune player, which gathers recently played tracks from all music apps, including third-party titles like Spotify and iHeartRadio; there's also a pane with convenient shortcuts to all such music-playing apps as well.
The Nokia Lumia 900 handles Apple-friendly AAC audio as well as WMA (including PlayReady DRM) from Windows.
Playback was generally very respectable, with the Lumia 900 able to produce decent quality audio and the internal speaker means you can also share you tunes with your nearest and dearest, although quality dips, especially at high volumes.
If you've got your tunes playing you can easily play/pause and skip tracks from the lock screen of the Lumia 900, as these controls have to be placed on it. Volume can also be adjusted at any point using the rocker switch on the right side of the phone.
An FM radio is also included in the Zune player, but you'll need to plug in headphones to use it, which doubles as the antenna. The radio feature worked well, with a strong, clear signal, even indoors.
On the Pictures front, images are separated by camera roll and album, with the latter adding those you've synced as well as from connected services such as SkyDrive and Facebook.
We really prefer Microsoft's approach to the more isolated iOS approach, particularly the ability to view photos sorted by date or contact.
Photos can also be tagged as Favourites, which then appear on a screen of their own. Like the Zune player, photo-specific apps also get shortcuts, with Nokia offering a free Creative Studio app exclusively for their handsets.
This fun app lets you apply a variety of face warps, live styles, panoramic stitching and other effects or adjustments. It's pretty capable, but isn't likely to replace the likes of Instagram for users moving from iOS or Android.
Battery life and connectivity
Nokia has favoured form over function with the Lumia 900, which includes a sealed, non-removable, yet sizable 1,830mAh battery.
This decision is likely only going to chafe Android or die-hard Nokia fans used to having removable batteries, allowing for hard resets – although we didn't require this during out test period.
Nokia promises up to seven hours of 2G/3G talk time and more than 12 days of standby time, but those figures will vary wildly depending on how many apps you choose to run in the background.
We had no problem getting through an entire day with frequent use on both Wi-Fi b/g/n and HSPA+ networks, but a night time charge was required afterwards to ensure a full second day's use.
This puts it on par with the competition, as most high-end smartphones will just about last a full day on a single charge with relatively large amounts of usage, although if you constantly hammer it, you'll need a mid-afternoon top up.
Nokia has chosen Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR for the Lumia 900, and we had no problem connecting it via Microsoft SYNC to our car.
We were a little disappointed to discover there's no way to connect via Bluetooth for hands-free phone use while using the built-in speaker for turn-by-turn navigation, a task that the iPhone 4S handles quite deftly.
Nokia offers a Bluetooth-enabled Contacts Transfer app free as part of its own collection in addition to those baked into Windows Phone, such as Google, Hotmail and Windows Live.
Nokia includes an "internet sharing" feature tucked away in Settings, allowing you to set the Lumia 900 up as a personal hotspot – although this will significantly eat into your data allowance, so proceed with care.
There's the standard microUSB port up top, however there's no microSD card slot, meaning you're stuck with the in-built 16GB of internal storage – although Windows Live and Hotmail users are offered 25GB of free SkyDrive storage, which is handy.
Maps and apps
Unlike the stock Google Maps offering we get on both iOS and Android handsets, Windows Phone offers up a different experience.
And with the Lumia 900 you don't just get one mapping service preinstalled, oh no, you get two!
First off there's Micrsoft's standard offering – Maps, powered by the software giant's Bing Maps service, which is possibly the biggest rival to Google's version.
As with Google Maps, Microsoft's app allows you to pan around countries, zooming in to view detailed street maps. There's a direction function, allowing you to plan routes and there's also a traffic filter, which will highlight the busy parts of the roads.
It's easy to use and the Lumia 900 was able to pinpoint our location usually within a couple of seconds, however it did take closer to 10 on some occasions, mainly when we were holed up in an office in London.
Zooming and panning is smooth, with the Lumia 900's 4.3-inch display proving to be a good size for map viewing.
Maps loaded relatively quickly, although it wasn't a quick as the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S2 or iPhone 4S.
As this isn't Google's offering, there's no street view option, which won't be too much of a bother to most people, but it's a nice feature and something Microsoft don't have access to.
However we're not finished there, oh no. If Bing maps doesn't float your boat then Nokia has also included its solution, cleverly named Nokia Maps.
It offers much the same functionality as Bing maps, with satellite and traffic filters, GPS locking of around two seconds and direction generation for both walking and driving routes.
Coupled with Nokia Maps, the Finnish firm has also included its free turn-by-turn navigation app, Nokia Drive, on the Lumia 900, which offers a wide variety of languages and worldwide maps.
You can download maps for each country (the UK is 210MB, while the US weighs in at 1.8GB), the app also allows you to download specific states for better managing available storage space.
It's handy, as it means the phone doesn't require a data connection to render maps, voices etc a la Google's navigation, which will save your data package.
Nokia Drive has to be one of the most barebones navigation apps we've ever seen.
While it performed well on the road with a clean UI and easy to understand directions, the app is incapable of looking up contacts from your device, forcing you to enter addresses by memory – an unforgivable sin in this day and age. Once entered, previous destinations remain available in your history as well.
For those of you in the US, the Nokia apps are not preinstalled, but rather relegated to a prominent "Nokia Collection" section. These free apps will mostly appeal to sports fans with the likes of ESPN, but Nokia Drive, Nokia Maps and Nokia Transit are welcome alternatives to AT&T's paid service.
AT&T Navigator provides the usual TeleNav-based service it offers on other platforms, with a 30-day free trial included. (A day pass can also be purchased for $1.99.) Other key players in the GPS space are notably absent from Windows Phone Marketplace: You'll find no TomTom, no CoPilot Live and no Magellan here.
We practically jumped for joy at the discovery that apps preinstalled with the Nokia Lumia 900 can actually be deleted. Imagine that!
Kudos to Microsoft for this little touch, a refreshing change of pace from carrier-branded Android smartphones plagued with an ever-increasing amount of "bloatware."
There are 100,000 apps in the Marketplace, and while that seems like a big number, it's nothing on the 500,000+ apps featured in both Google Play and Apple's App Store.
This means if you're transferring over from an Android or iPhone you're going to find a lot of gaping holes in the marketplace.
Familiar names like Amazon, eBay, Evernote, Flickr, Flixster, Groupon, IMDb and Netflix all have a presence with free, official apps – but others like Dropbox, Hulu Plus, Instapaper or most everything from Google require third-party alternatives, where available.
Windows Phone Marketplace does have two advantages: Apps can be purchased using carrier billing (US only) or credit card, and most paid apps feature a trial mode so you can get the hang of it before purchasing.
However, be careful: Whatever Windows Live or Hotmail account you first sign in with is the one tied to your purchases. The only way around this is to do a complete reset of the Lumia 900 to nuke its data, then start over from scratch with a different account.
Microsoft does bring one very large bat to this game, however, with the only authentic mobile version of Office.
Users can view, create or edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents as well as OneNote notes on the go and access them from onboard storage, SkyDrive, Office 365 or SharePoint.
Of course they are not the full desktop versions of the software, but the paired down offerings provide enough detail for working on the go.
The app works well, but as usual, making changes to an Excel spreadsheet even on a 4.3-inch display is an exercise in patience.
If you're a fan of Xbox then you can keep track of your mates with the official Xbox app which comes preinstalled on the Lumia 900.
You can send and receive Xbox friend requests and messages via the application as well as checking out your own avatar and achievements.
The app also works as a games hub for the Lumia 900, with an offering of games including the infamous Angry Birds.
It's an easy enough app to use, with the familiar metro layout dominating its appearance and will be handy for anyone who spends a lot of time on their Xbox.
Finally Nokia has also included the Tango Video Calls app on the Lumia 900, allowing you to make VoIP calls over Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G networks.
It's basically a Skype clone and works in a very similar way, allowing you to call your friends who also use the service for free, as long as you data package allows it.
It looks very much like the Windows Phone operating system, with a familiar looking contacts and calls list – which means it's simple to use for those used to the Windows way of life.
Of course if you and your friends all use Skype, just head over to the Marketplace to download the official app.
If you've got a US Lumia 900 you'll also get a handful of AT&T apps preinstalled, but these can be deleted and easily re-downloaded from the "AT&T Featured" section of Marketplace.
No need for AT&T Navigator, AT&T U-verse Mobile or AT&T Radio, all of which require a paid subscription? Tap and hold and select "uninstall" from the pop-up and they're gone.
Hands on gallery
It's not often a smartphone comes along which seduces us into parting with our iPhone 4S or Galaxy S2 voluntarily (if only for a short time).
The Nokia Lumia 900 not only did that, but also convinced us that Windows Phone is worthy of a much larger slice of the smartphone market.
It just works, plain and simple. The Windows Phone experience is slick and intuitive, making using the phone a breeze.
The metro interface offers something very different than the now familiar Android and iOS offerings and its good to see it implemented in a decent fashion.
Android could learn a thing from the nearly bloatware-free Windows Phone – and what does come preinstalled can be easily nuked in a couple taps.
We can't take our hand off the Lumia 900 – not since the iPhone was overhauled in 2010 have we enjoyed touching an inanimate object this much.
It's a shame the camera hardware doesn't live up to its software – you had us at "date view," and the rest is icing on the cake.
Bear in mind Windows Phone is still in its infancy compared to the big players it's playing catch up to, and with its excellent implementation on the Lumia 900, Mircosoft's offering is certainly an attractive one.
Although well implemented, the Nokia Lumia 900 just doesn't feel quite as polished as the likes of the iPhone 4S or Galaxy S2.
The 16GB of internal storage doesn't give us much wiggle room, especially when there's no way to insert additional SD storage, and little bugs in the Windows Phone software will no doubt irritate some after a while – although many should be addressed in upcoming updates.
Surely six months is long enough for Nokia to realize they need to step up their game where the camera is concerned, the Finnish firm has a great history in camera phones, but the Lumia 900 doesn't hit the mark.
Rome wasn't built in a day, but Microsoft was once a leader at selling apps with Windows Mobile, long before Apple stepped into the fray – simply put, there should be more than 100,000 apps by now.
All in all, Nokia Drive is likeable enough (and who can argue with free?), but the lack of contacts integration almost makes it a deal breaker.
We get push email for Gmail, Hotmail and Windows Live, but what about the iCloud and Yahoo service?
There's a lot on the line for Nokia and Microsoft with the Lumia 900. While one handset isn't going to sink either company, the right one could certainly do wonders for both companies' market (and mind) share, where iOS and Android have continued to thrive into a thoroughbred race with only two horses.
Now that Palm's webOS has been pronounced DOA and Research in Motion's Blackberry continues on life support, Microsoft's Windows Phone looks like the knight in shining armour, promising to rescue users from Apple or Android domination.
If Microsoft and Nokia can tighten up the OS, beef up Marketplace selection and slap in a better camera, they'll have a real shot at dethroning one or both smartphone giants.
Until then, the Lumia 900 may not be perfect, but it's plenty good enough to recommend with little hesitation for users looking away from the mainstream and ahead to The Next Big Thing.