Are you curious about whether the leaked Dell Lightning phone is for you? Intrigued by the high-spec phone which Dell touts as providing “PC-like functionality in pocketable form factor”? Read on for a brief overview of the features of the leaked Dell phone followed by discussion of specifics which can make or break the phone for users.
Features of the Dell Lightning Phone
The spec list in brief: 4.1″ OLED capacitive multitouch screen at WVGA (800 x 480) resolution, portrait slider form factor with full QWERTY keyboard, 1Ghz Snapdragon processor, 512MB RAM, 1GB of flash ROM memory, 8GB of additional storage on a microSD card, Windows Phone 7 operating system, GPS, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, FM radio, compass, 5 megapixel camera with autofocus, 1400 mAh battery. There will be two versions of the phone, one for AT&T and one for T-Mobile in both the USA and Europe, both with 3.5G broadband at maximum speeds of 7.2 Mbps download and 5.76 Mbps upload. Some reports have mentioned the possibility of an upgrade to the even faster 4G technology of LTE. Other connectivity options will be b/g/n wi-fi, Bluetooth 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate and USB 2.0.
The Dell Lightning phone runs a 1Ghz Snapdragon QSD8250 processor. This puts it among among the very fastest of phones available today, though phones with 1.5 Ghz Snapdragon chips may be out by the time the Lightning is released. One possible drawback of this particular Snapdragon chip is the absence of dedicated HD video processing or a graphics coprocessor, something later Snapdragons and some other current chips have. If the latest, greatest 3D games or the highest definiton video around are your biggest priority then the Lightning is probably not ideal for you. Everyone else should find the 1Ghz processor paired with 512MB RAM rather more than adequate.
Size and Form Factor
The Dell Lightning has one of the largest screens of the current crop of phones at 4.1 inches. The slide out QWERTY keyboard enables the user to view all this generous screen real estate while typing in portrait mode. It should of course also be possible to use a virtual keyboard on the multitouch screen. If you prefer to do your typing in landscape mode on a physical keyboard then the Lightning is not the best phone for you. Almost all people find slab phones of 4 inches and larger at best awkward and precarious for one-handed use, in the absence of available review units it is unknown if the physical keyboard will provide an adequate grip for one-handed usage.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) is a relatively new screen technology in phones. OLED screens improve upon LCD screens by not needing a backlight and thus saving on battery life and are also able to display much blacker blacks and generally richer colors when used indoors. The downside of most OLED screens is that they have poorer visibility in direct sunlight than LCD screens, with many people finding them a lousy fit for outdoor usage. There is, however, a new technology from Samsung called Super AMOLED which has much improved sunlight visibility over other OLED screens and even more battery life savings. The leak mentions that the OLED screen will be manufactured by Samsung, so keep watching for further details.
The Dell Lightning has 9GB of storage space in total, divided between 1GB of flash ROM memory and 8GB on a microSD card. What is unknown concerning the microSD card is whether the user will be able to replace it as one of Microsoft’s currently published requirements for devices that run Windows Phone 7 is that they have no user-replaceable memory. The 1GB of ROM makes it likely that the phone will have a rich suite of pre-installed applications, whether they will actually be useful rather than bloatware remains to be seen.
Dell Lightning Phone as a Productivity Platform
The leaked documents promise “unified communications” with the ability to carry on several conversations at once, manage multiple email messages at once, auto-sync to the cloud to back up your data, built-in email support for Gmail, Yahoo, POP and IMAP protocols and of course Microsoft’s own Exchange, ActiveSync, Outlook mobile and Hotmail. Multiple calendar management support is also promised. A productivity downside is that Windows Phone 7, like the iPhone of yore, will not have copy and paste. There will be a data-detection service built in to recognize phone numbers and addresses but most people do not find this prospect ideal. While there have been some promising video previews how well Office documents will be handled in practice on the new, copy and paste-free, platform remains to be seen.
Dell Lightning as a Multimedia Platform
Every Windows Phone 7 phone is also a Zune. Hopefully this means the deservedly praised audio and video quality of the Zunes will maintained on the phones. Full access to the Zune Marketplace will be included. Full support of Flash, Flash Video and Silverlight are described in the leak although Flash support for WP7 is not expected to be available in fourth quarter of 2010 when the Lightning ships. Video codecs supported include H.263, H.264, .3GP, MPEG4, WMV, DivX 4.x/5.x/6.x. Supported audio formats are MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR, Midi.
So, is the leaked Dell Lightning the right phone for you? I hope this guide has provided some clarification. If you are interested in the Lightning and one-handed use, Office document productivity, readability in bright sunlight, immediate availability of Flash and/or a swappable microSD card are major priorities for you then wait-and-see is your best bet.
For more information the original leak was published at Engadget, which also has an excellent overview of Windows Phone 7 and a first glimpse of Office on the new platform.