Microsoft & Nokia vs. Indian magazine, over Lumia 800 review

Since going on sale a few weeks ago, Nokia’s Lumia 800 Windows Phone has been widely praised by tech journalists and across the wider blogosphere. With few exceptions, those that have used the device have come away impressed; those that have reviewed it in depth tend to have few negatives to highlight.

There is, of course, no definitive way to write a review, and you will inevitably find some that are better than others. Here at Neowin, we try to be thorough and objective in our reviews (check out our recent reviews for the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich if you haven’t already), but not everyone does a review like we do. In fact, a recent review by Indian financial magazine Moneylife of the Lumia 800 not only stood as a good example of how not to professionally assess a product, but also sparked off an unusual war of words between the journal, Microsoft and Nokia.

The defining flaw in Moneylife’s review was not its damning verdict of the device, but that the reviewer had somehow reached his conclusions without having seen or used the phone in person. In fact, as The Guardian points out, the review was based solely on a comparison of the Lumia 800’s technical specs alongside those of Samsung’s Galaxy S Plus.

Without having so much as touched a Lumia handset, Yogesh Sapkale delivered his assessment of its performance and viability in the market:

Although Nokia sees its Lumia 800 to be a competitor to Apple iPhone, it is nowhere near the niche product. In fact, compared with iPhone, the Lumia 800 can be termed as ‘noPhone’.” [sic]

Some of the more discerning readers of Moneylife.in voiced their displeasure over the poor quality of the review, leaving their comments on the page. One commenter, calling himself Harish, wrote:

What an crap review!! it's one of the best phone available, iphone is so dumb compared to this…. Guess some one is paying you lumpsum, congrats..” [sic]

Harish’s IP address was logged by the site as 192.100.117.41 – which, it later emerged, belongs to Nokia India. Another critical comment came from a user called Aditya Agrawal:

dude, gone are the times when actual consumers just use to care about the technical specificiations of mobiles. today, people want devices which are beautiful, fast and easy-to-use. for most of the consumers, it does not matter if the phone has 512mb or 1gb ram. if the 512mb performs better in real-life, that’t the one customers are gonna prefer. just a small advice, go to a store and use windows phone 7.5 for 10 mins, the last thing you will care is whether phone has a single or a dual core.” [sic]

An enthusiastic defence of the platform from one of its passionate fans? Well… it turns out that Agrawal posted from the IP address 207.46.55.31, a Microsoft address apparently based in Redmond.  

It was, incidentally, the review’s author who published the IP addresses of these users to highlight the murky nature of apparent Microsoft and Nokia employees stepping in to make these comments without openly declaring their interests. Sapkale in fact published a follow-up article to the original review on the Moneylife site, in which he attempted to justify the unsatisfactory nature of his assessment by emphasising the price-sensitive nature of the Indian market.

His justification implied that Indian consumers – by nature of wishing to choose carefully where to spend their “hard earned money” – are content to embrace the product recommendations of people who haven’t even used the product and are just comparing spec sheets. Sapkale didn’t do himself any favours by attempting to shift the focus of users’ disparagement away from him and onto Microsoft and Nokia; in fact, in publishing both the IP and email addresses of the commenters, he actually violated his own site’s privacy policy.

This may well explain why both the original review – and Sapkale’s follow-up article, Nokia Lumia 800: Why the noPhone review draws ire only from Nokia and Microsoft – have now disappeared from the Moneylife site completely (although at time of writing, they’re still indexed on the site by the Google-powered search).

As The Guardian rightly points out, both sides have come out looking a bit silly here. Moneylife obviously looks incredibly shoddy, both for the poor quality of the original review, and for flawed editorial policies that allowed the reviewer to publish a petulant supplementary article. But Nokia and Microsoft both have some egg on their faces too, potentially appearing like they were trying to manipulate public opinions with ‘planted’ comments – the last thing the companies need in the midst of a huge PR campaign to launch the Lumia Windows Phones in India.

For now, at least, it looks like the dust has settled.

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