Nokia's Lumia 900, based on Microsoft Windows Phone, goes on sale April 8 for $99. Business smartphone buyers should have some questions.
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AT&T and Nokia want you to run out and buy the Lumia 900 smartphone this weekend. At just $99 with a contract, it is surely an enticing prospect. The Lumia 900 runs the latest version of Microsoft's Windows Phone, and offers a 4.3-inch display, 1.4-GHz processor, 8-megapixel camera, a polycarbonate shell, and support for AT&T's LTE 4G network.
Before you grab your wallet and run to the nearest AT&T store, however, consider these five critical factors:
4G Availability: AT&T offers its LTE 4G network in about 30 markets at the moment, with more on the way. Its population coverage is somewhere in the vicinity of 90 million, and will reach 150 million by the end of 2013. Only a few handsets are able to use AT&T's LTE network at the moment, with the 900 being the latest.
If mobile broadband service is a vital performance factor, make sure AT&T provides coverage where you live, work, and play most. If not, check to see if or when AT&T will provide coverage for your area. Even without LTE 4G, the Lumia 900 will fall back to AT&T's speedy HSPA+ network. But AT&T's LTE network is a fairly barren place at the moment, meaning there's tons of capacity available for those who sign up.
Is Windows Phone for You? Before making a two-year commitment to any phone, you should like the operating system. If you haven't used a Windows Phone yet, don't buy one sight unseen. Go to a store and play with one for a while to see if you like the user interface. It is fast enough for you? Does it have the right set of tools? Do you like the way it looks/feels?
App Support: The Windows Marketplace for Mobile may have just surpassed 80,000 applications, but that doesn't mean it has everything you need. If your business runs specialized mobile applications that are already available to the Android or iOS platforms, be sure they are also available to Windows Phone. If they aren't, then perhaps the Lumia 900 isn't the right choice. If your business develops its own applications, check to see if the development team is up to speed on Windows Phone and whether or not it is realistic for them to code an app from scratch.
Has Your Business Gone Google? If your business largely relies on Google's Web-based products and services, Windows Phone probably won't offer as much flexibility as you require. Though WP7 supports Gmail, contacts, and calendar with no problem, other critical apps such as Google Docs aren't supported.
Is Your Business Part of the RIMpire? Enterprises that rely on RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server will find that they can't control some critical security features on Windows Phone. RIM released Mobile Fusion this week, which lets businesses manage fleets of Android and iOS devices in addition to BlackBerrys, but it doesn't include support for Windows Phone. Microsoft offers these enterprise tools separately, of course, but if you're hoping to keep the IT department happy, check with them first.
That all said, I've spent about a week using the Lumia 900 and conclude that it is a fine phone. It's not for everyone. But for Windows Phone enthusiasts, it is the "it" smartphone of the moment.
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