Hot-selling Nokia Lumia 900 proves to be a pretty good phone UPDATED

An FMIT Labs report
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A week in FMIT Labs shows that the AT&T (NYSE: T) Nokia Lumia 900 may be the best Windows Phone available. The larger screen and faster processor, compared to other WP7 phones makes this already slick and intuitive operating system really shine.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) obviously went to a lot of trouble researching phone interfaces and took full advantage of what it found. The result is not an iPhone clone, but rather something that falls easily to hand, and requires very little in terms of a learning curve.

The Nokia Lumia 900, while a worthy platform for WP7, could have benefited from some of Microsoft's interface research. For example, all of the phone's controls are on one side of the phone, the right. Worse, they're not labeled. If it weren't for a sticker that AT&T puts on the back of the phone when it's delivered, figuring out what the buttons do would take a lot of trial and error.

Once you get the Lumia 900 up and running, it performs very well. The LTE performance is extremely fast. I measured it at about 40 megabits per second in a strong LTE signal area near Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C. This is significantly faster than the LTE service from Verizon Wireless, although at the time I did the testing I may have been the only LTE user on that part of the network. You can probably expect speeds to slow as more users accumulate. HSPA+ performance was nearly identical to that of T-Mobile, with both services running at about 7 mbps.

Unfortunately, testing was delayed because I was unable to use the data connection during part of the time when I had the Lumia 900. This may have been due to a network outage, or a bug in the phone software. An AT&T spokesperson reported an outage in the Washington, D.C. area during the test.

UPDATE: After this review was published, Nokia issued a statement to the Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD website acknowledging the problem we experienced, saying that it was a memory management issue. Nokia U.S. Chief Chris Weber told AllThingsD that Nokia would replace the devices or issue an update at the owners' choosing, and would issue a $100 credit for devices purchased until April 21. This would effectively make the AT&T Nokia Lumia 900 free.

The Nokia Lumia 900 has been heavily promoted by AT&T as being a potential rival to the iPhone. One of the major points that AT&T and Nokia have pushed are the Carl Zeiss optics in the 8 megapixel camera installed in the Lumia 900. Because of the hype surrounding the camera, I did some comparison tests. In short, don't buy this phone because of its camera. Images were disappointing, and the lens performance was poor. When I compared it with the 5 megapixel camera in a BlackBerry Bold 9900, the BlackBerry produced superior results.

One of the primary criticisms of Windows Phone 7 devices has been the relatively small choice of software. While the app Marketplace does indeed have fewer apps available than you'll find from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) or Android, the number is growing rapidly. In addition, as I found when downloading a beta version of Skype, Windows Phone 7 will let you download apps from anywhere. This is convenient, but does add an element of risk.

Windows Phone 7 still lacks a means of syncing directly with Microsoft Outlook, a strange omission. However you can sync with an Exchange server, which should work for most IT departments. Otherwise you can sync the phone with your computer using Zune software for Windows. WP7 also offers a cloud-based storage solution called the SkyDrive that allows both sharing and backup.

During the days following its introduction on April 8, the Nokia Lumia 900 was the top selling wireless device on Amazon, taking the number one position for the black version, and the number 2 position for the Cyan version. AT&T stores weren't open for the first day of sales because the phone was released on the Easter holiday.

Overall, the Nokia Lumia 900 is an excellent phone for business use, as long as you don't need to rely on the camera. I found it fast and reliable, easy to use and (dare I say it?) more intuitive than an iOS device.

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