If there's one reason for us to choose the Lumia 800 over any other Windows Phone, or even other smartphones, we can answer that with two words: Nokia Drive. The preloaded and free navigation app is by far one of the best feature that Nokia has to offer, one that Nokia is hoping to leverage with Microsoft to strengthen its market share over the next few months.
To understand the advantage Nokia Drive has over various similar turn-by-turn navigation apps, you'll have to ask yourself this - how much do you spend on these navigation apps? Companies such as TomTom do have these navigation solutions, though its pricing leaves much to be desired. Take for example, an iPhone user who purchased the TomTom app. The greatest issue arising from these apps purchase, is the various pricing for each region. As you travel across various countries, the purchased app might not have the necessary map, prompting you to purchase yet another TomTom app for a different set of maps.
Nokia Drive has none of that. In fact, it's extensive list of maps are free to download, along with a wide range of navigation language. Till now, the only contender to this free offering comes from Google Maps Navigation, which is only available in limited countries. On the contrary, Nokia Drive covers more than 100 countries in over 50 languages.
When we brought the Lumia 800 out for a drive, we realized that its maps and voice navigation aren't preloaded onto the device. The former requires a Wi-Fi connection to download the maps which could run hundreds of megabytes in size, while the latter is downloadable through a 3G connection. Consider this - once the maps have been downloaded through a (preferably free) Wi-Fi connection and loaded within the Lumia 800, there's no need for the device to constantly download any further map data. And that should provide you with a more power saving navigation system without the constant data connection draining the battery. Comparing Nokia Maps and Microsoft's Bing Maps (which requires you to constantly download map data) side-by-side, we believe that Nokia Maps will be a much better option.
Nokia Drive performed admirably in accuracy and re-routing even after we've deviated from the original route, but all that is for naught when the Lumia 800 couldn't sustain itself beyond half a working day when we tapped into its GPS features constantly. As much as we approve of the Drive app and its usefulness, we aren't too sold on the idea of a Lumia 800 with a flat battery after a short day of travel.
However, to put things into perspective, you'll have to understand that such intensive usage of its GPS feature isn't common on smartphones. Any other smartphones and its battery would perform similarly with a constant power drain from the GPS chip. For the Lumia 800, the prospect of a free navigation software gave us more reasons to constantly use it, but we had to live with the downside of a lower battery mileage.
If you have been hoping to do online music purchases, you're in luck - the Nokia Music Store is available through the Nokia Music app within the Lumia 800. Early users of Nokia's Music Store won't be able to copy their DRM-protected music onto the Lumia 800, but the good news is, any future purchases on the music store will be free of DRM. This allows you to transfer songs that are downloaded through the store onto your PC via Microsoft Zune.
If you'd rather enjoy your music through streaming services, the Mix Radio feature within Nokia Music gives you a wide genre of songs. And if a particular song catches your fancy, you can download it through the Nokia Music Store. Unfortunately, this feature is currently unavailable in Singapore, though Nokia mentioned that they are committed to bringing it to this region within the first half of 2012, subjected to its agreements with record labels.
Similar to how apps are recommended on the Windows Phone Marketplace, top songs are also found within the music store, if you're not too sure of the genre that gets your groove on. Our test unit has a gigs option, which will supposedly provide you with a list of music acts that's happening near your location. However, the app wasn't able to retrieve any information or find any gigs that were happening in the vicinity when we gave it a go.
From all aspects, the Lumia 800 is a top-of-the-line Windows Phone device from Nokia, and it has given us a few practical features such as Nokia Drive that's exclusive only to the Nokia portfolio. With Windows Phone 7.5 running the show, the Lumia 800 seems to have everything under control.
Or so we thought. As we scrolled through its settings, there was one missing feature - Internet Sharing, or what is commonly known as wireless tethering. As such, you won't be able to create a wireless hotspot through your cellular data with the Lumia 800. This missing feature, which is a common sight on rival operating systems such as Apple iOS and Google Android, is a clear disadvantage to the Lumia 800.
According to Nokia, the company could have loaded the smartphones with the feature, but unless they offer significant value to a large number of people, they often take away from the experience elsewhere (in battery life, available screen size, alternative features, price etc.) without delivering sufficient value in return. The Finnish company further added that with Microsoft unveiling the Mango update just three days after the Nokia-Microsoft partnership was announced, agreements had already been made and development work was already underway. Regardless, Nokia is looking at various opportunities to include more features in upcoming Nokia Windows Phones.