The phone is light, thin, easy to hold and has a beautiful interface. But is it a useful smartphone for travelers? Nokia sent me a trial phone and I set out to discover if a Windows Phone was a viable replacement for Android or iOS.
There are two major benefits to traveling with the Nokia Lumia 800: it’s size/weight and the Nokia maps. Other than that, the phone works and is certainly pretty to look at, but the lack of apps and some of the functionality make it a difficult travel tool.
Probably the most brilliant part of the Nokia Lumia 800 are the maps. Nokia knows how to make a good map—way better than the Google map on you iPhone. The app on the Nokia phone has restaurants, nightlife and tourist hotspots all embedded into the map which you can turn on and off with just the touch of a button. It also highlights regions popular for whatever you’re looking for. This can be really useful for a tourist because you might not know where to go in a city.
Other useful travel apps
I also tried out the following apps from the Windows Phone marketplace:
- Nokia City Lens
This very cool (and very beta) app uses your phone’s camera to search the surrounding area for places to visit. It’s tied in with the map and uses augmented reality to help you discover what’s in your immediate vicinity. I tried it out and got it to work at least once, but it was often persnickety. Very cool app, though. More information (and video)
- Social sharing apps
The Windows Phone tries to embed all your social networks. I found this both useful and annoying at the same time. When I synced with Facebook, it put all my Facebook contacts into the phone—more than I wanted or needed, but then again you could hide them pretty easily. And with Facebook and Twitter synced, I got notifications inside the Windows Phone operating system – rather than having to open up separate apps. You could share or post to either network through the phone’s native notification app which was useful and probably saved on battery life.
What I didn’t like
Quite a bit, actually.
- Selection of apps
While the social sharing integration was useful, there were plenty of social networks that just don’t have apps on the Windows Phone marketplace. This, to me, is the biggest drawback for a Nokia phone. A smartphone is only as good as its apps and the Windows apps just weren’t any good. I was surprised to find many more than I was expecting, but in general I was pretty disappointed with the selection.
- Native apps pre-installed
There was neither a native recording/microphone app nor a note-taking app which I found surprising and frustrating. Both had to be downloaded separately and the recorder app I had wouldn’t even let me save my own recorded sounds without a subscription and a Windows account.
- Battery life
The phone’s battery was also remarkably weak—possibly even more so than my previous iPhone.
The camera was good, actually, but I missed having a front camera in addition to the back one. It’s certainly a luxury but any traveler who uses Skype understands the value in having a front-view camera while you travel.