No Joke: With Lumia, Nokia Crushes The iPhone

In both physical and UI design, the struggling Finnish manufacturer delivers a solid rival to the reigning smartphone.

After attending CES earlier in the month, I felt something major had happened: The iPhone had finally met its rivals in the form of Nokia’s Lumia 800 and 900, equipped with Windows 7’s Metro UI.

Let me be clear, Nokia’s phones are better than Apple’s, both in terms of physical and digital design. Supple, amiable, vibrant, and durable, the Lumia 800 and the slightly larger 900 are the new kings of smartphone design. The body has an original signature corner that combines two forms: the vertical tubular main form meets a rounded window for the screen. It’s a fresh look at a detail many mobile phone designers tackled before. The Apple halo effect forced many design teams toward the familiar solution: a two-dimensional rounded form surrounding a screen. Nokia was brave enough to forge its own path to arriving at highly effective way of differentiating the Lumia from the rest of the pack.

The mono-block plastic body is light yet solid as a rock, and the satin finish feels great in the hand. It isn’t trying to be a jewel; it is a tool for modern, mobile living. It even has a normal USB port concealed under a color-matched door! Speaking of colors, by using vibrant cyan, light magenta, and lime, Nokia has created a youthful, Millennial-type feel—positive, dynamic, and cool without being pretentious. The phone also includes an amazingly cute earpiece that pops put of its pebble-shaped charging base and a wireless speaker made from solid aluminum with a fabric top.

The Microsoft Metro user-interface is a perfect complement to Nokia’s design philosophy. Unlike Android, it doesn’t kowtow to Apple’s styling paradigm. It isn’t trying to create a faux reality with drop-shadows, ugly wooden bookshelves, or even uglier leather-bound calendars. The UI is anchored in modern graphics and simple, legible, iconic icons. It is fast, easy to browse and navigate, without coming across as sterile, utilitarian, or cold. In short, it’s a triumph of class modern design from the European school, using Sanserif type, strong color logic, a well-executed grid, and elegant proportions.

[This video about the UI is insanely long, but well worth watching.]

It is impossible to know how the market will react to this bold and great design work. The mobile landscape is driven by many factors (the App store is a major one), and conflicting business interests could derail this effort and minimize its effect on our lives. But hopefully, the outstanding work evident in these products will catapult Nokia and Microsoft back into the forefront of mobile technology. Chapeau to both companies’ design leadership!

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  • Thompson

    You may understand technical stuff.  I'll leave that for a different debate.  But consumers have voted with their wallets, and they strongly disagree with you.  Guess who wins out in the end?  The consumer.

    Metro has been rejected by consumers, and now Microsoft is responding by propagating that reject into all of its other products.  Can you say "disaster"?


  • ArrowSmith

    Yes I prefer Windows Phone UI, especially the Panorma control. That is a game-changer.

  • Shaun Murray

    The Lumia 800 is not an original design. Nokia took it's N9, running MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan - an OS designed with the hardware form integrated with the software and bodged in Windows Phone 7.

    They took the pure gesture based N9 design, added superfluous buttons, reduced the screen size, added Microsoft's virtual buttons and came out with a poor replacement.

    The curved screen is curved because the buttonless N9 uses edge swipes to navigate. Your finger locates the beveled edges on the screen and you can feel your way around the phone. Windows Phone uses cheesy home buttons and back buttons.

    Please watch which shows you why the N9 is the true design icon and the Lumia is merely a cuckoo that's muscled in to Nokia's nest.

  • Frederick Edwards

    I've heard Elop describe the N9 and Lumia800 as a lessons learned to develop the lumia design language, one that will continue to evolve into other products like the future tablet.  I dont think the N9 was ever the end result of this lumia experience, but one step along the way.

  • lillracksingen

    Mostly talk about the UI. What about functionality? Is the Zune player a fully functional replacement of a PMP? Resume where last left off on audiobooks, podcasts and videos? Gapless playback of live albums?

    I have the iPhone 4 but getting really tired of it but will only replace it once I find another phone with something as good as the iPod player in the iPhone. Worst case scenario: iPod touch and a phone since phone is lacking the features the iPod provides.

  • Lori Brooks

    the resume where left off on podcasts works. I use that all the time. I can't speak for the gapless playback. I can give it a go and report back if you like.

  • A. C

    Why are apple fanboys claiming anything that looks original to be "looking like a version of some iDevice ? " I think they need braille because there seems to be visual impairment going on here. No , it's not an extended version of the iPod dupes it's a a Nokia (spell it make sure you see it' not spelt A-P-P-L-E please). Personally i think it's the quintessential phone design and the true standard of design meets UI/UX for smart-phones. And for the fanboys "is there an app for common sense?" Maybe there is, please look for and download it. Stop believing your own dribble, it's getting really pathetic. 

  • A. C

    OK i get it, one man basically lead the whole world, who has no idea where their own left foot is to accept the iPhone/iPad as standards ? Somehow, there's a deniable plausibility to this thing. Standards are fully subjective. Each manufacturer set their own standards: OK maybe Samsung dropped the ball on allegedly xeroxing Apple iPhones and iPad). Someone actually attributed the shape and build of the Nokia Lumia 900 to an extended version of an early iPod/iPod nano design. That's not drinking Koolaid, that having Koolaid for blood.

  • Lori Brooks

    So I needed a carrier unlocked phone for a trip to the UK last year. I got a Samsung Focus on eBay. This phone also runs the WP7 Metro software. It is now February 2012 and I am still using the focus after taking the SIM out of my iPhone4.

    I just love how this thing works. example from last night.

    I was in the car, and i heard a song I liked on the radio. I had the phone listen to the song, recognize it, connect to the zune marketplace and download the entire album (I have a zune pass) within a minute I was listening to the artists entire album streaming over bluetooth to my car's audio - I did this without using an App, it was all built in the OS of the phone. and I did it with no typing (safer) and about three touches of the screen.

    I could never have done that on my iPhone

    I am going to be upgrading my focus to a Lumia 900 in March. 

  • Stefano Ricci

    I'm agree. It looks a great job, but most important is the number of apps available!

  • Muppet

    and get rid of the carrier logo too. I don't have BT written on my landline do it. 

  • Muppet

    change the name and get rid of the hideous windows logo dammit. just call it a nokia and have done with it. the windows brand is not cool and the logo is absolutely hideous and not something to be seen with. basically just get rid of windows. it's not "osx phone" is it. google need to learn this too, with their damn ugly not-a-logo.

  • Better left untold

    Ugghhh! The UI is ugly. Plus, with a lot of home pins, the "smarter" apps my fail to fulfill their purpose because of the useless flip effect. Oh, something is available 3 miles away from where I am? Instead of showing what, you have to tap and flip the box to know what it was. *Facepalm* Microsoft will never get it.

  • Ed111117

    You are out of your mind if you think the UI of a Windows phone is superior to iOS.