Was set on the Lumia, but the Ativ S is looking better
Having loved WP7 on my HTC Arrive for a year and a half, I have been holding my breath waiting for WP8 and the flagship Lumia. The 920 unveiling this week was impressive in a lot of ways, and at the time I thought it looked to me like Nokia had hit a triple: striking design; new still and video camera technology that might put Lumia head and shoulders above all other phones (including iPhone, though if this was more of a draw that would still be impressive); proprietary apps that went beyond gimmicks to really usable, cutting-edge capabilities. Given Nokia's importance to WP8, the excitement was about way more than a device or two.
But there were naysayers, of course. The 920 is pretty, but it's quite a bit thicker (10.7mm) and heavier (185) than other current flagship phones, with only a 8MP camera to show for it (whereas a 21MP camera might have at least provided an explanation for the extra heft). There's 32GB on board but no MicroSD. The battery is not removable. And, more recently, Nokia seems to be on its heels over the faked PureView ads which subsequently revealed that the PureView software is not fully baked yet.
With the passage of a few days since the unveiling, those naysayers' comments are staying with me. A major reason for this is the only competing WP8 device yet unveiled - the Samsung Ativ S. Announced much more quietly, clearly less critical to the overall fortunes of its maker, the Ativ S nails the areas where the Lumia falls short. Yes it's classic Samsung - plasticky, visually unremarkable, huge-display, soulless spec monster. But on second glance, Sammy's Galaxy phones have felt plasticky but proven to be very durable and tightly constructed. And the Ativ S has some visual accents and appeal - to be sure, nothing that pushes the design envelope of asian consumer electronics, but not bad, and not just a Galaxy clone.
What's more, the Ativ S nails it in a few areas where Lumia couldn't quite make it happen: super thin (8.7mm), very light (135g), huge (2300 MaH) removable battery (vs. 2000MaH nonremovable on the 920), and MicroSD on top of 32GB on board. My first reaction to these differences was that the Lumia is not heavier than my Arrive, and I can live with that. The bulk can actually make it easier to grip.
I figured I can also work around storage limits and a sealed battery. But with HD video capability and LTE streaming, 32 GB starts to look a little more constrained. And even if I'm not always taking an extra battery with me, the fact is that batteries get tired after a year - my Arrive is definitely working on a short juice cycle lately, and swapping out the battery would be one way to keep a device pleasurable and fully functional for the whole contract term. The fact is that taken together, the Ativ S's strengths make it a little more than just a Galaxy clone, and qualify it as positively cutting edge.
So as much as Lumia's success is important to WP8 and the mobile market in a larger sense, can I justify going with the Lumia, when there's a slightly boring but much more capable device with Samsung's track record for performance and durability? I've been an underdog-supporter and early adopter on most of my mobile purchases, but I'm feeling a little more skeptical, a little more rational these days. After all, two years is a long time, and at any given time, the "future" in "future-proof" is only about 9 months away.