Nokia Australia held a launch event last night to show off the Australian version of the high-end Lumia 900 and entry-level Lumia 610. Not enough time to fashion a review, but here are my early thoughts.
First things first: It is a little disappointing that we're not getting the 4G/LTE variant of the Lumia 900, if only because it would be Optus' first 4G handset — and what a way to start! I was told by Nokia representatives that it's not likely we'll ever see a 4G version of the 900 in Australia; that's apparently an exclusive to the US and Canada only. Dual channel HSDPA+ does have some appeal, however, and the speeds shown last night on Optus' network were promising.
Annoyances aside, it's hard not to look (and test) the Lumia 900 and figure it to be a Lumia 800 on steroids; this is definitely the "bigger brother" phone, and as I've stated elsewhere, whether you like a bigger phone or not is something of a matter of personal preference. The one thing I did note with the Lumia 900 is that the gorgeous curved design that made the 800 so appealing is necessarily flattened out, and to my eye that's a less appealing design. Again, your opinion may vary.
Amongst larger phones, the Lumia 900 is also a little heavy; I got the HTC One XL that I'm testing at the moment out of my pocket at the event to do a quick comparison, and you can definitely pick the 30g difference when holding both.
Unfortunately, the low light in the launch venue — a cocktail bar — made practical photo testing all but impossible, although I am happy that the Lumia 900's got a front facing camera, if only for Skype purposes. It'd be even better with expandable memory — 16GB is on the low side, however you paint it — but that's more a matter in Microsoft's control as I understand it.
You know where Windows Phone 7 really shows its strength? On low end handsets, that's where. Where the world of smartphones is racing into quad-core and beyond on other platforms, the Lumia 610 makes do with what seems like a paltry 800Mhz processor. Except that make do isn't the right word; the 610's performance from my brief hands-on was quite elegant and snappy, and on the surface, it wouldn't surprise me to see a few potential Lumia buyers walk out of stores with the 610 instead of the 900.
I did grab some shots of the 610 on display, but the combination of a busy darkened room and a black phone... it wasn't pretty. It's almost like they wanted me to use the stock photography!
There are some tradeoffs; the build quality is noticeably lower than the 800 or 900, giving it far more in common with the Lumia 710. The comparison with the 710 is an interesting one; if you're in the market for an inexpensive Windows Phone 7 handset, the 610 would arguably fulfill your needs, given the primary difference between the two handsets is a processor bump you're unlikely to really notice anyway.
The Lumia 900 should be available in June from Optus on a $60 plan, or $699 outright; it's a quad-band phone that should work with any carrier. The Lumia 610 in pink or blue will be available through Boost Mobile at $329 in a similar timeframe, with the black model hitting Vodafone in July.