It’s easily the most interesting Windows Phone 7 device in the world, the Dos Equis of WP7 devices. Nokia, a company whose name is rarely seen these days, and for the past few years has been mostly absent in the US (though their presence in the states has always been slim, though they’ve been the largest worldwide phone maker for years), is finally coming back in a big way. Not only did they just release the Lumia 710 (another WP7 device that we’ll take a look at soon) with T-Mobile, the Lumia 900 will be exclusive to AT&T. It won’t even come out internationally. Not right away, anyways.

In the hand the Lumia 900 has a unique shape. The specialized plastic is firm and good to grip, and doesn’t give way. It’s the sort of material that you might wish you had if you’ve broken an iPhone’s glass or the case has fallen apart if you dropped an Android phone. It’s strong as an ox, and uses a unibody design more similar to a laptop than to a smartphone. The two colors I’ve seen, black and sky blue, contrast each other so much that if you saw them both in a store, you might think they were completely different handsets.

The 800, left, and 900

The 4.3″ display is sharp, but the WP7 max resolution of 800×480 is starting to take it’s toll. Larger phones like the 900 and the HTC Titan II are all too easy to see individual pixels. The speaker takes up the entire bottom of the phone, more similar to Apple’s mono-speaker design than most Android phones which place the speaker on the back and make it directional for when it’s resting on a flat surface. On the one hand I think this design is much better for listening to music and for audio quality in general, but on the other hand the bottom of the phone is best left for the charging/data port for the use of docks. When I asked Nokia representatives about it, they told me that they had a choice: put the speaker on the back like everyone else and lower the quality, or put it on the bottom. I think it could have gone on the top instead of the charging/data port and SIM card slot.

Aside from that the only physical controls are the three standard WP7 touch buttons on the front and a volume rocker power, and dedicated shutter release on the right side. What is interesting is that unlike most Android phones from Samsung (since Samsung is the only company that places the power/standby button on the right side of the phone instead of the top), Nokia has placed that button below the volume rocker, almost in the middle of the handset. They say that it’s easier to reach that way, which thereby makes the phone more comfortable because users don’t have to use two hands to use it ever.

I like the way the phone feels. It’s light yet sturdy, though a bit angular at the top and bottom. It doesn’t stand up straight on it’s own, though the top and bottom are both flat surfaces. The unibody design does mean that there’s no battery removal or expandable memory, which is a shame, and so far only a 16GB variant has been announced. This likely won’t matter to WP7 users until more and larger apps are available in the store, which may take some time.

However, the 8MP camera capable of shooting in 720p may change that. Nokia has always been known as one of the best camera phone makers, which is one of the main reasons some US users have stuck with Nokia through the rough of Symbian all these years. The 900 is no different, with a Carl Zeiss f/2.2 lens, and an f/2.4 front-facing camera. I’ll reserve my thoughts on the camera in my full review, but I honestly can’t wait to try it out. It’s been too long since I’ve had my hands on a serious contender from Nokia, and with the upgrades to camera quality from companies like Apple, Samsung and HTC, seeing what Nokia can do against such stark competition should be interesting.

The Lumia 900 will release within the next few months exclusively from AT&T.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.