Continuing with the Windows Phone theme… earlier this year Nokia announced their intention to embrace Microsoft’s new mobile OS. A few months ago, an internal Microsoft event previewed Nokia’s first phones and their ambitious marketing plans. Since then you may have seen a lot of advertising and events such as the Deadmau5 gig on the banks of the Thames with the Millbank tower’s eight hundred windows transformed into a huge screen.

In October Nokia announced two new Windows Phone offerings… the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800. It was the Lumia 800 which grabbed everyone’s attention in the office, quite rightly as it was clearly the top-of-the-range option. Since the announcement, Microsoft colleagues have been making enquiries about how to get a Lumia 800. Cruelly, some internal events dangled the phones in front of our eyes, but with no hope of getting one other than being the lucky winner in a prize draw.

So I decided to call up a good mate in Nokia and try to shamelessly blag a Lumia 800… and it worked. I have thanked him profusely, I will show it to customers and contacts, and they will take note because this is a fine-looking device. The first thing that hits you is the display, but let’s come back to that.

Let’s start with the packaging. When I first bought an iPod (late 2004 I think) it was apparent that Apple had done everything to make the consumer live the Apple dream – even the box was cool, and had been designed by a designer, not someone who just makes boxes. Nokia have learnt the lesson. The packaging is well-designed and gives the impression that this is a high-end product. I removed everything from the box and I was able to put it all back in with factory precision.

The box contained the phone (it would have been a major disappointment if it hadn’t), a small number of documents (in their own sleeve which fitted the box construction), a USB cable with attachable plug, headphones, and a rubber case for the phone. The phone was the matt black edition, which would have been my first choice… blue would have been fine, but Pete Hampton was ready to wet his pants laughing had it been the pink edition. The phone’s outer shell is polycarbonate, and apparently won’t show scratches too badly because the colour goes all the way through the shell.

Build quality – although it’s pretty much the same weight and dimensions as my HTC Windows Phone it feels more solid and overall just better quality. I guess you can’t really appreciate it until you hold one and then the other. The phone features a little hatch in the top (revealing the micro USB port), volume and camera buttons on the right-hand side and a speaker on the bottom. The back is very simple, featuring Carl Zeiss optics for the 8 megapixel camera and a flash.

Okay, let’s talk about the screen – side-by-side with the HTC this is the biggest difference and is the phone’s eye-catcher. It’s a capacitive AMOLED display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass in a slightly raised curved design. The colours are incredibly vivid, the black is very black (again, winning the side-by-side comparison) and the images are very sharp. The touch-screen is extremely responsive and smooth. Nokia have done an extremely good job on it.

As you know, the Lumia 800 runs the Windows Phone OS… it ships with ‘Mango’ and a small update was available. So the operation of the phone was really no different to the HTC – even though it has a faster processor, the Windows Phone OS and it’s apps are so zippy that I’ve yet to have any issue over the phone’s performance. That’s more than can be said for my iPod touch, which should be renamed the iPod sloth after the iOS 5 upgrade. Yes, the more responsive touch-screen is a bonus. Nokia have a included a number of apps which won’t be found on other manufacturers’ phones – Maps, Music and Drive. Maps is like Google and Bing Maps, and Drive is sat-nav (looks very good, and although I have a Tom Tom it would be great value for someone who doesn’t). Music is (you’ve guessed it) the app for managing and playing music. Music has a very cool gigs feature, telling you where gigs are playing near you – Rihanna is playing at the O2 tonight, which is the most exciting thing happening within a 34 mile radius apparently. Personally I’d take ear plugs.

Sound quality is excellent, both on a call and when music is playing. To be honest I haven’t tried the camera yet – other reviews say that it’s fairly average. I firmly believe that if you want great photos you should use a proper camera – no-one has tried to shove a phone into an SLR camera, so why should anyone have great expectations of a camera shoved into a phone?

Every colleague who has spotted the Lumia 800 on my desk over the past couple of days has admired and envied it, and inevitably asked me how I got it and if I can get them one (no, I can’t). It has that effect – it’s impressive on the eye and the build quality is visible from afar and close-up. If this is Nokia’s first stab at a Windows Phone, I can only imagine the great things to come. Nokia made a bold leap in taking on the Windows Phone OS which is currently trailing the others in terms of market share. I always say to people who knock it “try it”. It’s a great OS, and on a Lumia 800 the experience is even better.