Well, my time here at CES is quickly coming to a close, and it's a bit bittersweet. It has been an amazing trip and I've had the chance to meet a lot of awesome people, play with cool, new devices and I'm walking away with some sweet stuff. But I will be ecstatic when I can finally crash on my own bed again.
We didn't figure there would be a lot of phones at CES this year. Turns out, though, we couldn't have been more wrong. Verizon announced three new phones and a new color of an existing one; T-Mobile announced a phone; Sprint confirmed two LTE phones; and AT&T announced eight new phones total. To say the least, it has been a crazy couple of days and a lot has gone down in a very short period of time.
Throughout the show, the large majority of phones were powered by Android. However, Nokia and Microsoft seem to have stolen the spotlight with their latest and greatest, the Lumia 900, which will be headed to AT&T in the not too distant future. A single Windows Phone-powered device stole the thunder from over new 15 Android phones. If nothing else, that should be a testament to Microsoft's will to turn Windows Phone the "third ecosystem" and the partial success they've had early in 2012.
To date, I've owned or played with almost every Windows Phone that has ever released. The Samsung Focus, HTC Surround, HD7, HD7S, Dell Venue Pro, HTC Trophy, HTC Titan, Titan II, Lumia 710, Lumia 800, Lumia 900 and everything in between. Of all of them, there is only a single Windows Phone that has grabbed my attention beyond only "wanting something different" or wanting "something other than Android or iOS." That single device is the Lumia 900.
But why? Why did it garner more attention than, say, the Titan II? And what is it about the Lumia 900 that makes me want it over any other Windows Phone?
It's never easy to answer questions like that. But to be quite blunt, it's a combination of things – a perfect collections of specs, high-end hardware, better than your average mobile optics and something far from the beaten path, all jam-packed into a single device.
To expound a bit, the Lumia 900 one totally gorgeous device. The unibody polycarbonate design, while commonplace in Nokia hardware, gives Windows Phone an differentiation factor in the US market. And I would argue that it (along with the nearly identical Lumia 800) is the only phone that can currently compete with the hardware of the iPhone. The phone itself is pretty lightweight and almost feels ... soft in the hand, yet it does not feel fragile or cheap at all. Actually, if feels very solid and svelte. And it's a pretty big phone. Side by side with the Galaxy Nexus, the two phones are very similar in size. However, the slender body and heavily rounded corners make it feel much smaller than it actually is.
Beyond just the externals, the specs on the Lumia 900 aren't really anything particularly amazing. They're in line with all of the other Windows Phones. However, the Super AMOLED panels on the Lumia 800 and 900 are gorgeous. In fact, I don't like the way Windows Phone looks without a Super AMOLED display. The simplistic Metro UI begs for more contrast, and the AMOLED technology is currently the only display I have seen on a Windows Phone device that does it any justice.
What's more is the optics. If any of you have listened to a single thing I've said over the past six months, you likely know that I like phones with awesome image sensors. The Galaxy Nexus was easily the phone I was looking forward to the most in 2011, yet when I learned how overly mediocre the optics were, I was highly disappointed. The iPhone 4 and 4S have the only mobile cameras that I have been consistently pleased with. Nokia is known for their attention to image sensors and use of Carl Zeiss optics. And Microsoft has promised to make Windows Phone the best camera you have ever owned. That combination was one of the many things I got to play with over the past few days, and I am sold on the Nokia and Microsoft partnership, at least in terms of what it means for mobile camera technology.
Of course, one could argue that the 900 and 800 are nearly identical devices, but my one major problem with the 800 is the size of the display. At 3.7-inches, it's a tad small for my liking, while the 4.3-inch display of the 900 is perfect for what I've grown used to and come to expect out of high-end devices over the years.
For those who have been reading my recent Windows Phone content, you know that I'm not exactly a fan of the platform itself (at least not in its current state). I find it boring, unexciting, etc. Yet, throughout the day, I saw several people carrying Lumia 900s around the show floor and all I could think is, "Man, I really want one of those." I probably made a few Nokia reps nervous by hanging around so closely, eyeing their devices and semi-joking about a 900 disappearing if they left one alone unattended. Despite my disinterest in the platform, though, I want it to succeed. I want Windows Phone to be that third ecosystem, and I fully believe it's capable of sliding in the top three spot among Android and iOS. Of course, it has its problems – one of which was hardware. Nokia has solved that issue. Next stop, a UI and notifications update ...
My only issue with the Lumia 900 is that it is only coming to the US in a LTE-enabled version for AT&T for the time being. I haven't been an AT&T customer in a long time and I'm not willing to open yet another account just to mess with a phone for a while. That said, if there were a T-Mobile variant coming, or if the international version would work on T-Mobile HSPA+, I would jump on it immediately.
What say you, guys and gals? What do you think of the Lumia 900? Is it just another unexciting Windows Phone? Or is it actually Windows Phone you would consider buying? (Trust me, it's a lot different and more beautiful when you see it in person, especially that cyan model.)