With yesterday’s announcement of the Lumia 900 on AT&T, Windows Phone 7 finally has a flagship phone in the US. While there have already been mid-to-high-end Windows Phones from HTC and Samsung, this is the first stateside offering from the Microsoft/Nokia alliance aside from the middling Lumia 710. What better time, then, to compare the flagship devices on the three major mobile platforms?
Design and dimensions
Attractiveness is a subjective area, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any better-looking handsets than these three. Apple, Nokia/Microsoft, and Samsung/Google have come to three gorgeous — yet distinctive — designs. Which is the most attractive? That comes down to personal taste.
The Lumia 900 has the same width as the Galaxy Nexus, but is slightly shorter and moderately thicker. It sits somewhere in between in the super-sized form of Google’s flagship and the smaller iPhone 4S.
Despite being much larger than the iPhone — and packing an LTE radio — Samsung has done a great job of making the Galaxy Nexus the lightest of the three phones. The Lumia 900, meanwhile, is a fairly beefy phone. Its display is smaller than the Galaxy Nexus’s, yet it packs an extra 25 grams. You could argue that the phone’s polycarbonate plastic build makes the tradeoff worthwhile; but on weight alone, the Lumia 900 is relatively heavy.
The Galaxy Nexus has a huge 4.65-inch display, but that’s taking its virtual buttons into account. In most cases, the actual screen real estate will be about the same as the Lumia 900. That means 4.3 inches, the same as most high-end Androidphones from the last couple of years.
Meanwhile the iPhone 4S maintains the smaller 3.5-inch size that Apple has stuck with since the first iPhone in 2007. The rest of the industry is going XL, but Apple has (thus far) stuck to its “3.5 inches is the perfect size” guns. We’ll see if that changes with the iPhone 5.
The iPhone and the Nexus, however, easily trump the Lumia in terms of pixel density. Basically, it has the lowest resolution and less pixels-per-inch by far. Images and text will appear sharper on Apple’s and Google’s offerings, but one thing the Lumia 900 has up its sleeve is ClearBlack tech on its AMOLED display. Windows Phone 7′s tiles implement lots of black, and the display makes the most of this. Is it enough to overcome the lower pixel count? Much of that will come down to personal taste.
The iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus both carry dual-core processors, but the Lumia 900 is stuck in the old days of single-core CPUs. With that said, it’s clocked fairly high (1.4GHz) and its little brother, the Lumia 800, is no slouch in the speed department. In other words, you may not be missing a dual-core chip as much as you might think.
The Galaxy Nexus is the clear winner in the RAM department, doubling the 512MB of the iPhone and Lumia 900 with one full gigabyte.
There are some similarities in terms of storage, but the Lumia 900 lags a bit. Apple offers three storage options for the iPhone 4S, and Samsung packs 32GB into the Galaxy Nexus, but the Lumia 900 only has option, 16GB. This will be plenty for most people, but there aren’t any chances for expansion.
If the above specs look confusing, it’s because the Lumia 900 has yet to have its battery thoroughly tested. The estimates for the 4S and Galaxy Nexus should be sound, but, at this moment, we only have the electrical charge of Nokia’s handset on record.
The iPhone 4S probably has the best camera of the bunch, but the Lumia 900 can give it a run for its money better than most phones. Its 8MP camera is identical to the excellent camera found in the Lumia 800 and the N9. The iPhone will shoot higher-resolution video, at 1080p next to the Lumia 900′s 720p.
The Lumia 900′s greatest differentiating factor is its status as the Windows Phone flagship that the US has been waiting for. Windows Phone 7 is a beautiful platform, but it hasn’t sold well. The Lumia 900 will give Americans a glimpse of the tiled interface on an impressive piece of hardware. Few electronic devices feature such an attractive combination of hardware and software. It will be interesting to see how US customers react to the first fine fruit born of the Nokia and Microsoft alliance.
Even if the App Store were the only differentiating factor for the iPhone, it would still be a major distinction. It houses more apps than the Android Market does, and many more apps than the Windows Phone Marketplace. Additionally, you could argue that it also has more quality apps than either of the other platforms.
The Galaxy Nexus, meanwhile, is still the only phone that ships with the latest and greatest edition of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich. The update may signify the biggest leap forward for Android since the launch of Eclair in late 2009. Though it offers features like Face Unlock, Panoramic photos, and lock screen actions, it’s the overall improvements to the UI that define ICS. It’s smoother, quicker, and more attractive than any previous version of Android.