Nokia Lumia 900 Delivers Solid Performance, Despite Glitches

News Analysis: Nokia's Lumia 900 made a very strong start out of the gate despite the fact that AT&T began sales on the Easter holiday when most stores were closed. The device jumped immediately to the top of Amazon’s wireless best-seller charts, with the black version of the phone being the No. 1 seller and the cyan model in second place during the first week of sales.

The strong early sales performance of Nokia's Lumia 900 smartphone shouldn't be surprising despite gloomy initial forecasts by industry analysts. This is a very nice phone as the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system works even better in the larger size and with a faster processor than it did in the Lumia 710.

It€™s even clearer with this phone that Microsoft paid a great deal of attention to the interface design, which is extremely intuitive. As a longtime iOS user on an iPad, I found the Windows interface to be easier and faster. Oh, and you can make phone calls on this device as well, although the phone appears as an app rather than having a button you can press for instant access to the phone function.

The Lumia 900 has a 4.3 inch active-matrix organic LED (AMOLED) display with a 1.4GHz processor. It€™s equipped with 802.11n WiFi (2.4GHz only) and supports a mobile hotspot. The phone is slightly larger than an iPhone at 2.7 inches wide, 0.45 inches thick and 5 inches tall. It weighs more as well at 5.6 ounces. This phone supports GSM networks, including EDGE, GPRS, Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) and Long-Term Evolution (LTE).

Tests of the LTE performance were hampered by two things. First, AT&T€™s LTE service is still being built out, and finding an area with LTE service isn€™t as easy as you might think since the coverage maps online and in AT&T stores are inaccurate.

In addition, there are reports of a software glitch that keeps the phone from using its data connection. You can fix this by taking the device to an area with LTE, removing the micro-SIM, restarting the phone without a SIM, then shutting the phone off, inserting the SIM and turning it on again. I went through three days of this before the phone€™s data service started working. AT&T is aware of this problem and apparently is fixing it.

Nokia has acknowledged the problem we found in connecting to data services and is issuing an update. In a note to the Wall Street Journal€™s technology website AllThingsD, Nokia€™s U.S. Chief Chris Weber said that the problem is a memory management issue with the phone€™s software.
Nokia is offering customers who bought one the opportunity to swap it for a new one that has the problem fixed or to wait for a software update that should arrive around April 16. In addition, Nokia will offer a $100.00 credit to anyone who has bought an AT&T Nokia Lumia 900 or who buys one before April 21. This would effectively make the device free.

Once I got the data service running, I tested the speeds of both the LTE and the HSPA+ networks using a variety of online testing services such as, which has the advantage of working with pretty much any device. This service and several others that I tried reported very similar download speeds for the Nokia Lumia 900. The LTE speeds that I had reported were in the neighborhood of 40M bps. It should be noted that the tests were run in an area near Washington's Dulles airport where I was probably the only person using LTE at the time.

Compare this with Verizon Wireless LTE that showed speeds of about 6M bps, and both AT&T and T-Mobile€™s HSPA+, which turned in nearly identical download speeds of 7M bps. Note that these wireless speed tests are probably useful for comparison, but will vary significantly with conditions and usage. Upload speeds were lower in all cases, and varied significantly with each test.

The physical design on the phone is well-done, but probably not quite as well-done as the interface design. The phone€™s controls are all on the right side of the phone, and they are unlabeled. Fortunately, AT&T delivers the phone with a sticker on the back with arrows pointing to each feature.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...