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Digital Life: Nokia and its new BFF Microsoft have smartened up their acts


Rumours of Nokia's death have been greatly exaggerated. While it's true the brand failed miserably to counter the rise of the iPhone, the Finns still sell a hell of a lot of mobiles.

Just last week, it revealed it had flogged 1.5 billion of its basic phones since 1999.

But at the smartphone end of the market -- where most of the profits are made -- it badly needs a hit.

Climbing into bed with Microsoft and its Windows Phone software in 2011 was Nokia's way of trying to catch up with iPhone and Android.

Almost a year later, the first fruit of this partnership has arrived in the form of the Nokia Lumia 800. The Lumia's physical design may be recycled from an earlier Nokia and the Windows Phone software has been available on other handsets for months -- but this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Microsoft has struggled to make headway with Windows Phone -- a fresh and slick rival to the icon-based system on iPhone and Android.

But it lacked a truly sexy device to show it off until Nokia's experienced hardware designers got to work their magic.

The Lumia 800 has been lovingly sculpted from a single piece of rigid plastic, its rounded corners and soft matte finish crowned with a 3.7-inch screen.

Only the iPhone 4 and perhaps Samsung's Galaxy Nexus are as distinctively impressive.

Minor quibbles include the lack of a front-facing camera and the silly flap that covers the USB port.

Long-time Nokia fans used to a week-on one charge will be disappointed with the battery life -- the same as any other smartphone at about a day.

Inside, the mobile works more or less like any other Windows Phone, which is to say it makes for a pleasing companion with good voice recognition and smart "tiles" presenting useful information and updates.

Nokia adds a couple of useful apps such as Music, with its free Spotify-like radio stations, and Drive, which provides a full satnav experience.

But the overall Windows Phone app catalogue still pales beside those of its main rivals.

Certainly, the Lumia is a very agreeable first effort from Nokia but with a sense that it's an interim design. The inevitable iPhone comparisons see it fall short on-screen sharpness, camera quality and integration with music/books/movie stores.

But with more Lumia models on the way in the coming months, Nokia's future no longer looks so bleak.

The Lumia 800 will be available tomorrow exclusively from Vodafone for a month and then on other networks. Pricing is unannounced but expect it to cost less than the iPhone -- perhaps €150 on the cheapest contract, down to free on the most expensive.


Irish Independent