As consumers continue to fall at the feet of iOS and Android devices, many including myself welcomed the news of Microsoft and Nokia joining forces, but the question is, could they create a desirable handset with an operating system that would grab consumer’s attentions again?
Should you stay in that queue at the Apple store or continue into the Galaxy of Samsung? we find out as we review Nokia's 4G flagship device, the Nokia Lumia 920 powered by Windows 8.
A Lumia 920 handset plus a Fast USB Charger AC-16, Nokia Charging and Data Cable CA190CD, Nokia Headset WH208, SIM Door Key and Quick guide. We have the brilliant white version of the 920 that contrasts nicely with the black border and buttons, definitely my preference over the bright red, blue and yellow options.
Everything is clear and organized, no gimmicks
Picking up the device, it’s larger than your regular handset but smaller than a phablet, coming in at 130.3mm x 70.8mm x 10.7mm and weighing 185g, but more on its dimensions later. The crafted polycarbonate monoblock design feels robust, comfortable to hold, glossy and expensive.
Three physical buttons are positioned on the right side for volume control, power/lock and a dedicated camera button bottom right. On top, centre we have a 3.5mm jack alongside the Micro sim tray. At the bottom is the microUSB for charging with speaker placements either side and the back houses the the 8.7 Megapixel Camera. The front of the Nokia Lumia 920 provides the main off screen navigation points with three buttons featured at the base providing back, Windows, and search functions.
Turning on the Lumia 920 you enter the world of Windows 8, your homescreen providing a set of vertical scrolling tiles, all fully customizable to you and your usage. You can setup small tiles, regular tiles, full width tiles, allowing you to organize the device exactly how you want. Simply press and hold a tile and select its size and position. Swiping the screen left you also have the core list of features, applications and settings, all can be moved to and from the homescreen as you wish.
The three base buttons will become very familiar, providing multi-functions but in the main operate as the back arrow for navigating out of screens, the windows icon taking you back to the homescreen and the magnifying glass for search powered by Bing. Flicking around the screens and applications I experienced no lag and was impressed with how fluid and responsive the screen was. Everything is clear and organized, no gimmicks and I’m a fan on the Windows font too.
I did find writing and inputting data on the qwerty keyboard layout a little frustrating initially, the keys seemed a little narrow, but as with most interfaces given time you adjust to it naturally.
Performing well indoors and outside
The 4.5inch IPS TFT screen with a Puremotion HD+ resolution of 768x1280 layered with Gorilla Glass rolled into the handset design is impressive. Performing well indoors and outside with crisp and clear performance throughout navigation, gaming or watching movies. I found the touchscreen responsive with the base navigation keys providing subtle feedback. In standby mode the glass coated screen can show signs of usage with finger/thumb smudges but is easily wiped clear.
Camera and Video
8.7 megapixel PureView camera with autofocus Carl Ziess Tessar lens that includes image stabilisation
Nokia have always been ahead on the photography front and the Nokia Lumia 920 is no different. Packing in an 8.7 megapixel PureView camera with autofocus Carl Ziess Tessar lens that includes image stabilisation via the floating lens technology that assists with any minor shaking or distortion.
Access the camera app either from an on screen tile or by pressing the dedicated camera button. The camera sub menu has 4 options, a selection of lenses that include Bing Vision for scanning barcodes, QR codes and Books. Smartshoot for group shots and Cinemagraph for adding animation to photos, plus your standard function set such as flash on/off, front camera and video. It's fair to say if there isn’t a particular feature here there are additional lenses available from the Windows app store including an Official Panorama app from Nokia.
The camera includes a full set of extensive settings for scene selection, ISO, exposure, white balance, aspect ratio and focus assist. I was impressed with the quality just taking pictures with factory settings. Pinching the screen zooms in (4x digital), quality was very good in low light, very clear, bright and hi quality overall.
The dedicated camera button works for me, it just seems a more natural way to take a picture however I wasn’t so sure about the actual screen replicating this function. Navigating around the settings with the viewfinder open meant tapping the screen in the wrong place took a picture and there didn’t seem to be an option to turn this off. The Lumia 920 also features a front facing 1.3 Megapixel Camera.
Two close up images below of a model Porsche (3" high x 9" long) we had in the office.
All of your photo’s and albums are stored in a dedicated tile, you’ll also discover photos in there from any social accounts you have already connected, this includes your own and any other contacts along with the familiar camera roll. These are all searchable via date, name or album. This is also the place for screenshots, which can be taken by holding the power and windows button. Favourite photos and the Lumia 920 will also use them to personalise your phone.
The Lumia 920 doesn’t let us down on the video front with the ability to capture full HD 1080p video at 30fps plus 4x zoom, continuous focus, video light, optical stabilization and selection of 5 white balance modes. The front video camera also captures HD at 720p, perfect for Skype calls and other video related apps.
Contacts, Messaging and Email
The People Hub
Windows have what they call the “People hub”, this is a multiple layered contact book including social networks all of which can be filtered or for the more important people in you life you can set up dedicated tiles on your homescreen.
Adding accounts seems pretty straightforward with a selection of options that include a Microsoft Windows account, (hotmail, Xbox, Messenger), Outlook (exchange) Google, plus social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Sina Weibo (a micro blogging service in China), other advanced settings reside for POP3 or IMAP too.
"If you want to get the most out of the device a Windows account is essential"
Once your accounts are activated all the data will start to flow into your people hub, from here you can merge any duplicates so a contacts card will contain all of their activity across the platforms you are connected to them via. The “what’s new” screen delivers updates on contacts activity as it happens. Be mindful when setting up accounts though and consider what information and details you want from each account. You can do this using the account and name filters, I follow over 2000 people on Twitter and don’t require all those tweets coming through. The feed was too much for me just linking my Facebook, Messenger and LinkedIn account, so definitely worth some time refining your accounts/setup.
Once complete each contact card is pretty comprehensive, combing all the information and updates across each platform you are connected with. Actionable options from the contact screen such as swiping across provides updates on that individuals activity, photos, previous contact, conversations and messages you have shared. Adding individual contacts that you aren’t connected with via these accounts is very simple too, just select the + button in the submenu and fill in their details.
Another feature within contacts that deserves a mention is Family Room and Groups. Family Room allows you to create a room for specific people, it doesn’t “have” to be Family, even couples, flatmates may find it useful. Each Room allows you to create a closed off environment from all other contacts where you can share calendars, photos, group chats, notes and reminders. I see this working really well for it's target audience of Family with everyone using the same calendar, appointments, occasions etc. Groups are also very useful to categorise your contacts by relationship such as your work, family, friends or other relevant interest group.
The messaging screen is split between threads and online, threads is the home for text messages and online is the place for live chat such as Windows Live Messenger and Facebook chat if these accounts are synced.
Email account options include Outlook (Exchange, Office 365), Hotmail, Nokia Mail, Yahoo Mail, Google and options for other POP and IMAP accounts. Initially each account is set up individually in your tile/app list, but you can merge all email accounts into one tile/app. Everything looks pretty straightforward here and follows the same navigation theme, swiping left provides individual screens for read, unread, drafts etc.
Internet and Browsing
Works adequately on the Lumia’s 4.5inch HD screen
As you would expect Explorer (IE10) is the browser of choice for Windows 8 and despite my grievances with it on desktop, it works adequately on the Lumia’s 4.5inch HD screen with the familiar pinch to zoom actions, held either in portrait or landscape.
The default search engine is Bing of course. Trying out a few searches using the combined browser/search bar I discovered the displayed results are white text on a black background with blue hyperlinks, which didn’t really work for me. I couldn’t find an obvious way to change this unless its due to theme selection on the handset itself. Using Google as the search provider displays the more familiar search results colour palette. Settings for Explorer include tabs, sharing pages, pinning to homescreen etc with more advanced settings relating to history, smartscreen filter protection and cookie usage.
At this time fans of Chrome, Firefox or Opera browser will be disappointed as these are not yet available in the App store. I think it’s only a matter of time until they arrive and in the meantime it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me.
Directions were quick with options to pin them as a tile
I found Nokia maps very easy to use, pinpointed my location, presented well on screen with familiar overlay options, pinch and zoom worked well with no lag experienced. Directions were quick with options to pin them as a tile to homescreen, email or message them. Maps also integrates well with “Places” providing a list of services or attractions in the area such as restaurants, museums, accommodation and shopping.
Nokia maps is also complimented by free apps from Nokia such as Nokia Drive+ beta this is an in car navigation app that works offline and has coverage in 89 countries as well as Nokia Transit which details every public transport option in your location, again this is very comprehensive and available in 550 cities in 53 countries. These apps combined offer a pretty impressive solution to finding your way around.
The “Places” data combined with the maps compass also powers the Nokia City Lens app. When selected this turns your screen into a viewfinder, simply hold up and pan the viewfinder around to see points of interest on screen detailed with icons that are clickable for further information in maps. This feature works really well but I just wonder how often it would actually be used.
Music and Video
Pretty much on par with what you will pay via iTunes
Seeing how iTunes seem to have the music, video, entertainment content nailed I was interested to see how far Microsoft had come in putting their platform together. First off, you can import/sync your iTunes library so you don’t have to leave that behind. The music player itself has the standard controls you would expect, shuffle, repeat, skip, dolby and a custom graphic equalizer.
The music store layout presents itself well on the handset, featuring top songs, albums, genres, navigation is pretty slick and the information displayed is clear, concise with obvious buy button. Other features include Mix Radio that will scan your music collection and suggest tracks, offline listening and a Gigs section that will alert you to gigs happening in your location.
I couldn’t argue with the Music quality, perfectly acceptable for me using headphones or from the speakers but that kid at the back of the bus may not agree. Prices for tracks and albums are pretty much on par with what you will pay via iTunes.
For me its not a reason not to buy the Lumia 920, but it's fair to say the music platform as a whole still falls short, small things like having to create a playlist via PC? The lack of clarity with a secondary music option via Xbox, I’d prefer one simple platform that provides everything.
I was surprised to see there are no video, tv programmes or movies to download here too but you can connect the Lumia with films, programmes etc by syncing with PC or sync with iTunes (using Microsoft's desktop companion app) and reports are it works seamlessly.
Mobile versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint are here
If you use your device for work or business the Windows 8 Office Suite will be welcomed, mobile versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint are here. Flicking through the samples and templates of each programme, Powerpoint and Excel look particular good on screen considering their nature, all documents seem pretty straightforward to edit/share and you aren’t left squinting on the Lumia’s 4.5 inch screen.
All documents are backed up to the Microsoft cloud storage service called Skydrive, as are the notes if you are using the Onenote app.
The Lumia 920 comes with 32GB of storage, no expansion slot but you do get a further 7GB free via your personal cloud Skydrive which is integrated on the device. Skydrive stores all your documents, photos and files, giving you piece of mind and access across platforms, via your handset, pc or tablet. So wherever you are, you simply access all of your files by logging into Skydrive using your Windows account details.
As a Phone
Back to the basics
After all that you’d be forgiven forgetting the Lumia also makes and receives calls. I had no issues with reception, call quality was fine. One minor issue I spotted was when opening the contact book, it simply lists all of your contacts with a secondary button press to search them, a search bar sub menu at the “bottom” rather than top of the contact list screen seems more user friendly. Battery life was reasonable, factoring in usage, app activity, background functions, there is also an option called Battery Saver that will limit any unnecessary resources. I didn’t have to charge the device daily, but if your watching videos and gaming this will vary.
Apps and Gaming
I genuinely believe they will gradually make their way over
A lot has been said about what is missing from the Windows store and how slow developers have been to adopt the platform, with titles missing such as Instagram and Flipboard. I genuinely believe they will gradually make their way over but for now I have listed a few major names that are available.
Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Youtube, Angry Birds, SkyNews/Sports, Skype, Amazon, Tripadvisor, Dropbox, Netflix, Ebay, Paypal, Evernote, Zite, Linkedin.
The Xbox branded gaming tile has the same layout as the music store, downloads provide details, screenshots, reviews and buy or try options. Browsing through the store is relatively easy without issue. The Xbox integration does seem confusing at times and limited, as are the gaming titles generally available via the App Store. It's a shame considering the fantastic screen on the Lumia 920, that said we can only see gaming improving from Windows devices, with such a huge base of Xbox customers it will be a priority for Microsoft to ensure gaming is the best it can be on Windows 8 devices.
Obviously Microsoft were keen to fill out their app store and I do think this has led to some poorer quality apps being in there, hopefully with time the quality for acceptance will improve.
Haven’t really touched on this as its only available from EE at the moment and despite all the hype and marketing, it's a relatively new option that I don’t see regular consumers flocking to just yet, heavy users maybe if they can justify the expense. Expect prices to fall though as other networks gain access to the 4G spectrum later in the year
It’s a similar story with NFC, I think it will become mainstream in the future but for now it’s actual use is limited, exchanging contacts using tap and a handful of retail outlets, banks and transport companies have started to trial or offer consumers limited usability. That said the Lumia 920 is pretty well equipped for future trends.
We didn’t have a charging base to test this, but reports are it works exactly how it should, available in the same Lumia colour range, simply place the handset on the base and it charges. Prices start at £49.00
A thoughtful addition for those that often find themselves passing their mobile phone to their children to distract them for 5 minutes. Now you can restrict their access by giving them their own little corner of your handset with appropriate apps, video, music and games of their choice, locked in so your own stuff is safe from deletion.
Pre-loaded on the device, exclusive to the Lumia range, this app is a simple photo editor, here you’ll find options such as remove red eye, colour balance and filters, an ideal companion to the Lumia camera and lenses.
A comprehensive onboard app full of hints, tips and guides as well as Nokia contact and support channel information.
What others are saying
To conclude I was impressed with the Nokia Lumia 920 design and build, it is on the larger side and at times there were actions where my thumb was stretching for that top left corner but overall it wasn’t an issue, an acceptable tradeoff for that impressive 4.5inch display. The 8.7 Megapixel camera is also a highlight.
What impressed me most was the operating system, finally there are signs of an Ecosystem gradually coming together here that in my opinion will compete with iOS and Android. The seeds are there but give it time, consumers are renowned for waiting a year after Microsoft announce any new software but once they start upgrading their desktops/hardware, interest will certainly rise for Windows based handsets that work seamlessly with desktops and Tablets (Surface).
An issue I encountered was related to the Windows account. Now over the years I seem to have picked up a few accounts, I have a Live Messenger account, an Xbox account, Skype & Skydrive, but they don’t all have the same email address or necessarily have contacts in. Which kind of reflects the operating system as a whole, all the pieces are there they just need putting together into one clear picture.
Overall the Lumia 920 is a very capable high quality device, backed with a huge array of features originating from both Nokia and Microsoft, for me its OS will be a genuine contender to iOS and Android's market share in the near future. Nokia and Microsoft’s collaboration shows signs of continued success with a huge market share of desktop gradually moving over to Windows 8 and the affordable Surface tablet running the same OS, consumers now have a Windows choice in Mobile too.
- Design 8
- Features 8
- Usability 7
- Performance 8
- Battery 8