Does Nokia Do Windows Phone Better?

As a long-time Nokia fanboy, the minute they announced their shift from Symbian to Windows Phone, I picked up a Windows Phone device, the HTC HD7, to try out this new-fangled system. I’d used Windows Mobile before and hated it, but Windows Phone is entirely different. You can click through to read my first thoughts on Mango (the latest update).

Since the Nokia Lumia 710 is one of Nokia’s first Windows Phone devices, I thought it would be interesting to see how the ‘Nokia’ Windows Phone experience compares to the ‘HTC’ Windows Phone experience. So if you’re expecting to read a review of the Nokia Lumia 710 or of Windows Phone 7.5, you should check out MobileBurn.com’s review. This post will simply compare the manufacturer-specific aspects of the HTC HD7 and the Nokia Lumia 710.

Hardware:

Hardware is difficult to compare, mainly because the HTC HD7 was one of their headliner devices with the original Windows Phone launch, while the Lumia 710 is an entry-level device in the middle of the Mango releases. That¬†being said, the Lumia 710 feels alot like a more solidly-built 5800 XpressMusic. It doesn’t feel quite as cheap as the plastic used on the 5800 XpressMusic, but the Lumia 710 also doesn’t feel like a Nokia smartphone should.

It’s also really weird to see a Windows button on a Nokia phone, and to have a Nokia smartphone that doesn’t have a front-facing camera. For those of us in the U.S., the front-facing cam on Nokia’s have always been pretty useless anyways, but it’s still weird.

Software:

This is where Nokia really has an opportunity to differentiate from its competitors. It’s also the place that Nokia has really sucked it up over the past few years, to be honest. Nokia has already said that the differentiation in Mango devices is limited since Mango was pretty much finished by the time they joined the party, so anything that stands out is only just the start.

As it stands right now, though, HTC has more apps to offer its users. At last count, there were 14+ different apps on the Market from HTC:

  • HTC Hub – similar to the old homescreen from Windows Mobile, this offers swipeable views from stocks, news, weather, etc.
  • Notes – sticky notes for your phone
  • Flashlight – self-explanatory
  • Photo Enhancer – duplicates the Instagram-like ‘filters’ from HTC’s Sense-enabled Android handsets.
  • HTC Watch – HTC’s movie-rental/purchase service
  • Connected Media – DLNA client that allows you to browse uPnP devices on your network and play content to/from them
  • Connection Setup – Automatically sets up the proper access points for various operators. This app has also been used to help ‘root’ (or whatever they’re calling it for Windows Phone) your device.
  • Compass – self-explanatory
  • Dock Mode – like Photo Enhancer and HTC Hub, this duplicates the ‘dock mode’ from HTC’s Sense user interface
  • Converter – self-explanatory
  • Lists – simple to-do list manager
  • Locations – HTC’s geotagging solution for pics, voice notes, etc.
  • Stocks – self-explanatory
  • Calculator – self-explanatory

At first glance, it would seem as though HTC is winning – they have many more apps. However, at least half of those apps are small utilities that are easily found for free from other developers on the Windows Market – they offer nothing really specific to HTC’s Windows Phone devices. On the other hand, Nokia only has a few apps available, mainly Nokia Drive & Maps and Nokia Mix Radio. Unfortunately, (and unsurprisingly) Nokia Mix Radio is not available in the U.S. on the Lumia 710, so we’re pretty much stuck with Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps.

Mapping

Nokia has two mapping apps for Windows Phone – Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive.

Nokia Maps is free and will eventually be released as an app for any Windows Phone device regardless of manufacturer. It lets you browse around and whatnot, basically the same as the built-in Bing Maps app does. It works well and has a great user interface. Unfortunately, while the Lumia 710 prompted me to login to my Nokia account, I didn’t see how that information was used. I have about a dozen landmarks saved in Nokia Maps from previous phones, but I didn’t see any of those downloaded to the Lumia 710, which was unfortunate.

Nokia Maps

Nokia Drive is an off-shoot of Nokia Maps that gives you voice-guided turn-by-turn directions and will be exclusive to Nokia’s Windows Phone devices like the Lumia 710. When you first start up Nokia Drive, it asks you to download the maps and voice packs for your area. It defaulted to download the entire U.S.A., along with the U.K. female voice pack (which I thought was rather odd), a total of 1.8GB. After selecting just Texas, it was down to ~150MB. It also wouldn’t allow me to download via T-Mobile’s 3G/4G network – I had to be connected to a WiFi network. While I appreciate the savings to my data plan, I would also like the option to choose.

Nokia Drive

Overall, I was pretty impressed with Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive. They’re pretty much just as awesome as I remember them being from Nokia’s Symbian devices, and that’s a good thing. The navigation was spot-on, voices clear, and maps beautiful.

It’s nice to see that even though Nokia has only a few specific apps, they’re actually adding unique features that aren’t currently available elsewhere, as opposed to easily-replicated utilities like HTC is doing. It can’t stop with Maps and Music, though – Nokia is going to have to put some serious resources behind differentiating software for its Windows Phone devices if it’s going to be able to stand out in the crowd.

Another place that the Nokia Lumia 710 really shines is the addition of the ‘Nokia Blue’ accent color. You’ll recall that the default accent colors included in Mango are “the most drab versions of those colors that you could possibly have imagined” and I stand by that. There is already a ‘Blue’ accent color, but Nokia Blue is just enough of a difference to make the whole color tolerable. You can see side-by-side below that Nokia Blue is a bit more deep and slightly darker.

Nokia Blue vs Default Blue

If I had the choice today, I would easily go with the Lumia 710 over the HD7. The HD7 has a bigger screen and better hardware, but Nokia’s offering me more truly useful software enhancements, and I’ll be honest, I really, REALLY hate the default blue color scheme. I got much better battery life with the Lumia 710, as well. Shoot, I was honestly tempted to sneak the HD7 in the box when I mailed the Lumia 710 back to Nokia.

So, what would I like to see Nokia doing to further differentiate?

Nokia Lumia 710

For starters, get some of that legendary camera knowledge baked right on in – make the photography experience with a Nokia Windows Phone just plain head-and-shoulders above any other Windows Phone experience. That’s not just in the photo-taking experience – buy up Pixelpipe (which they should have done YEARS ago) and bake that service right into the Nokia level of the phone, or release is as a for-Nokia’s-only app like Nokia Drive.

Next up, keep on improving Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive – work endlessly to basically replicate the Symbian Nokia Maps experience on Windows Phone. That includes easier map downloads, custom voices, live traffic, cloud-synced landmarks, etc. Really make that shine.

Nokia also had some really great N-Gage titles on their last run with that – games like Reset Generation, Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep, and System Rush: Evolution. Get those on Xbox Live and start connecting gamers.

It’ll be interesting to see how Nokia is going to differentiate when they’re able to get a bit deeper in the software. According to most speculation, Nokia got in with Microsoft a little late, and so missed the window (excuse the pun) with Mango, but has an opportunity with Apollo, the next major Windows Phone release. They’ll have to do something spectacular to avoid becoming just another OEM.

I really want to see Nokia succeed with this, and I think with the Lumia series, they’re on the right track.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>