Nokia sure had a hit on their hands when they released the 3310 model back in 2000. At the time, I think a good majority of my friends had that phone. Sure it was a brick, but it was built to last (which is why there’s a meme about it). And then the N-Gage happened in 2003 and 2004. I didn’t really realize it until doing this review, but I’ve actually owned four separate Nokia phones during my wireless using span over the years, and yes, that includes both N-Gage devices… Don’t laugh too hard please.
My story is this: Previously I had an iPhone 3GS and while I was never big on the iOS platform, it was the best smartphone out and available at the time I had to get a new phone years ago. This was before the Android devices really hit their stride and the best alternative smartphones at the time were not all that inviting or aesthetically pleasing, so I got the 3GS. Over the past three years (as I was locked into a contract) I slowly had more and more issues, not only from the software side of iOS, but eventually on the hardware portion as well. My power button somehow fell off in the past year despite rarely dropping my phone (and it was in a hard case at all time) and the battery was on its last legs just before I made the switch. I bring this up and detail this so that I can show you I’ve been an Apple user for years but I simply desired something else.
Looks like I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I liked the Windows Phone 7/7.5 OS when it was released but I still had awhile in my contract, so I just admired from afar. Lucky me though, just as my contract ended with my current provider, the new batch of Windows Phone 8 (referred to as WP8 from here on) devices just started to hit the market. And like any expensive purchase or device I’m going to be using for years to come, I started my research about the OS, devices, pros, and cons. I finally got around to testing each of the devices out and made my mind up. I’m now a proud owner of a Nokia Lumia 920.
So before I get into the meat and potatoes of the review about this device, I’ll throw all the specs at you at once here so that you can see what this phone boasts on the hardware and software side. For those that won’t have any clue what any of this stuff means, not to worry, I’ll go over the major points in finer detail below. For those that know their phone specs, take a look at how impressive some of these numbers and features are. Granted, these are just some of the features and specs that I thought stood out.
Height: 130.3 mm, Width: 70.8 mm, Thickness: 10.7 mm, Weight 185 g.
Display size: 4.5 ”, Touch screen technology: Capacitive Multipoint-Touch. Display resolution: Height 1280 pixels, Screen width: 768 pixels.
Polarization filter, Light time-out, Ambient light detector, Brightness control, Corning® Gorilla® Glass, Orientation sensor, Proximity sensor, High Brightness mode, RGB Stripe, Sunlight readability enhancements, Pixel density: 332 ppi, Luminance: 600 nits, Aspect ratio 15:9, Super sensitive touch, Color boosting, IPS, Refresh rate: 60 Hz, Sculpted 2.5D glass.
Dedicated hardware keys: Camera, Power, Volume, Search, Back, Windows Start key.
Connectors: Micro-USB Charging Connector, Micro-USB Data Connector, Micro-USB 2.0.
Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 3.0, Near Field Communication, Wi-Fi Channel bonding, WLAN IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n, Qi Wireless charging.
Mass memory: 32GB and 7GB in SkyDrive.
Battery capacity: 2000 mAh non removable, Standby time (3G) 460 h, Maximum 3G talk time 10.8 h, Maximum music playback time 74 h.
Snapdragon™ S4 Processor Dual-core 1.5Ghz.
Navigation features and services: Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive: route optimization, Nokia City Lens, Nokia Transport.
Main camera: Camera sensor (main camera resolution) 8.7 megapixels, Camera flash type: Short pulse high power dual LED , Carl Zeiss lens, Camera resolution: 3552 x 2448 pixels, Auto focus with two-stage capture key, Camera F number/aperture: 2.0, Camera digital zoom: 4x. Secondary camera (Front Facing) resolution: 1280 x 960 pixels (720p).
Main video camera: Video playback frame rate 30 fps, Video camera resolution: 1080p (Full HD, 1920×1080), Video recording features: Video light, Video zoom, Optical Image Stabilization. Camera video frame rate: 30 fps, Camera video zoom 4x.
In the box: Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Fast USB Charger, Nokia Charging and Data Cable, Nokia Headset, Quick guide, Nokia Smart Setup Leaflet, SIM Door Key.
The first spec that I listed off was the dimension and weight, and that’s something that needs to be discussed first and foremost because to some it will be a deciding factor for them. Sure the numbers won’t mean much on paper, but if you go into a store and compare to the other WP8 devices, you’ll instantly notice how much larger and heftier it is comparatively. It looks big and heavy because it is. Funny enough, it’s heavier than the giant Galaxy Note II which comes with a much larger screen, battery, and a pen. So keep this in mind. This isn’t meant to paint a picture of carrying a brick in your pocket, but to some that are used to small and light phones; this may be a shock to some. Personally I love the weight and shape, as it feels very sturdy and it fits my hand perfectly.
The Nokia Lumia 920 is the flagship Windows 8 phone. With the two companies working together, and while doing my competitive shopping and research, it’s also quite apparent that the Lumia 920 got a little extra love as well. I’ve you had a previous Windows Phone OS, the basic core of the UI is mostly unchanged, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any improvements. You can hold the camera hardware key from a locked state to capture that photo opportunity quickly, add more details and quick information to your lock screen, and you can finally re-size your Live Tiles on the start screen. Almost any app you download and install can be pinned to the home screen, but you can even take it a step further and pin web pages, contacts, and more. I’m not sure what took so long, but finally being able to re-size the Live Tiles is a saving grace. The tiles can be changed to small, medium, or large, though not all apps support the large format. If an app is set to a small size it’s simply just an icon and doesn’t give any live information (a small weather app tile will simply show the icon, not any actual weather data a medium or large tile would). The Pictures tile will randomly scroll and slideshow your pictures (unless you specifically choose one you like), and the same with the People Hub, randomly showing pictures of your contacts. You can kind of think of the Live Tiles as widgets, but it’s a little deeper than that.
Going from my previous phone that didn’t do multitasking in the way that I really wanted, it’s incredible to finally have a phone that does it how I want. Any app you are currently using in the foreground will have the phones attention, while the other apps that have been previously opened (and not closed by pressing the back button) will stay suspended in the background. Specific apps that need to run in the background can do so if needed, such as navigation or messaging clients. To switch between all of the apps open in the devices memory you simply hold the dedicated Back button and it will show you a screenshot of all the currently loaded apps that are suspended. From here you can scroll through the apps and choose any to bring to the foreground you please. The only odd thing I found was that there’s no simple way to completely close an app from this screen. Instead, you need to load the app you want to kill and use the Back key to close it. If you have a lot of apps open, you are able to simply spam the Back key over and over and it will cycle through the apps and close them. I’ve not had my 920 slow down once from having too many apps open at once, but my OCD kicks in when I know I haven’t closed any apps I don’t currently need as well.
For some reason, my daughter loves screens, be it the tablet, TV, or my phone, she wants to constantly grab at it. For those with kids, you’ll be delighted to know that WP8 has a new feature appropriately named: Kids Corner. This essentially allows you to choose a list of apps and media content of your choose and then password protect it. Once done and Kids Corner is launched, only the apps and content you choose will be accessible until you unlock the full phone with your password. No more having to worry about your kids messing up your settings or calling someone when they use your phone. This is also good if you simply want to lend your phone to someone to borrow or use for a short time; no more having to worry about them going through all your private pictures and content. So while it may be called Kids Corner, it has a lot more uses than you might expect.
People Hub is not only your phone book, but it’s also now going to be your social book. Here you’ll see every contact you add or import from your phone contacts, social network friends, email contacts, and anyone else you can think of. These can be filtered out to only show the type of people you want to, and it will be a little daunting at first seeing a thousand people when you just want a simple phone book list, but it’s a powerful tool once you link all of the names to accounts. What I mean is that you may have a listing for Jim Bob from your email, phone contacts, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more, which will show you five or more entries of the same name. You’re able to link any account to any other, thus consolidating all of a person’s info into one contact. The phone is generally pretty good at figuring out whose account should link to whose, but you’re able to override and link any account to any contact that you wish. Once your contacts are properly linked and setup, you can click on Jim Bob’s name and see everything about him from one screen; phone numbers, email addresses, link to his facebook and updates, tweets, and more. Once setup properly, it’s quite powerful what you can do with a few presses. As a side note, I hate when phones force the Last, First naming scheme on you; you are able to change it to First Last if you wish here! You can also pin any contact to your home screen which can act as a speed dial or even a speed Facebook or tweet. Their Live Tile (if set to medium or large size) will also show their newest status updates and other relevant information about them at a glance.
Taking your contacts a step further, you’re also able to make Groups and Rooms for anyone you wish. Groups are simply a way to organize your contacts into…well, groups. For me, I have a Family group, Best Friends group, Work group, and more. You can email and text everyone in a group at once to make things quicker than telling your sixteen family members individually that you’re going to be late for dinner. Rooms is the same idea, but taken a step further. You can set up chats, sharing private calendars, note, videos, photos, and to-do lists. It’s a great way to keep in touch with someone when you need a little more correspondence. While others don’t need a WP8 to join a room, non WP8 contacts will only be able to make use of the shared calendar, and not all of the other goodies that WP9 provides. Being able to pin Groups and Rooms to the home screen has saved me a ton of Live Tile clutter as well.
If you’re a hardcore Xbox gamer like myself, you’ll be pleased to know that the Games Hub centrals around Xbox and all of your Xbox Live information. Here you can see, interact, and even change your avatars clothes, see your achievements, see your friends list and who’s online, and even send them messages directly. You can see game invites from your friends and there are even a few games that are Xbox compatible as well. Smartglass is also available in the Marketplace to control your Xbox directly from your phone.
At the bottom of the screen are the touch buttons for navigating around WP8. You have your Back key, Windows Start, and Search key. Each are spaced out, due to the size of the handset and you shouldn’t ever accidently hit one you don’t mean to. While some might complain about the size, the flip side is that this allows more space for your hands and thumbs and less chance of mis-touching. The right side of the phone has the three hardware keys for the volume rocker, power button, and the dedicated camera button. At first it was very odd having the power key on the side of the phone, as I thought I would constantly be mis-hitting it, but it actually works quite well when held with one hand. It’s odd the right side has all the keys and the left has none, but you become accustomed to it quite quickly.
The top of the Lumia 920 sports a standard 3.5mm audio jack to plug in any headset you wish, the micro SIM tray (that requires the specific key included in the box to open), and a secondary microphone. The bottom of the phone has the micro USB port, the speakers, and the main microphone.
The back of the phone sports an almost completely black surface except for two small LED lights, the Carl Zeiss lens, and the accompanying chrome plate to pronounce that it is indeed a Carl Zeiss lens. While I normally love chrome, the only reason I dislike it on the Lumia 920 is that it’s the only spot on the phone that’s prone to fingerprints (glass aside) since the phones body has a matte black finish. The 8.7MP camera on the 920 is probably the reason you’re going to pick the Lumia over other WP8 devices if you do. With a dual LED flash and true Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), the pictures you take on the Lumia 920 will stand out on the beautiful 4.5” HD display. Many phones that say they have OIS usually try and perform the stabilization digitally; the Lumia 920 actually has true OIS and will move the whole assembly according to the motions you’re making while shooting pictures or video with it. No more camera shake! I was a little skeptical about how well this OIS would perform, so I filmed my daughter in the Jolly Jumper while moving the phone up and down in sync with her bouncing. I was amazed, it’s almost as if I was filming her being still and the background was moving. My wife tends to take very blurry pictures because of her shaky hands, but when she took some with the 920, it wasn’t an issue in the slightest. It’s by no means perfect, and if you are running and trying to snap a picture it will still be blurry, but for your average picture shooting with a phone, you will be hard pressed to find another device that can take shots as equal to the 920.
The camera hardware isn’t where the innovation stops though, as there’s also a feature called Lenses. This allows camera apps (third party allowed as well) to enrich the simple camera functionality without having to go and download a new app for each individual type of shot you want to take. Lenses are essentially plug-ins for the native camera app and can also be pinned to your start screen if you really like taking specific types of shots. Nokia included a lens add-on already included, but you can also download others as well. Panorama is a popular one that will get some good use, but Cinemagraph is a must download lens to have. This lens will essentially shoot in a burst mode, allowing you to cycle through the pictures and save the best ones so you don’t miss that perfect shot. There’s even a really fun option that allows you to animate a part of a picture provided the scene you shoot is appropriate. For example, you can shoot a picture (technically multiple) of a windmill, and Cinemagraph can animate the windmill rotating while the rest of the picture stays static. While it may not be a game changer, it’s certainly fun to play around with, but you’ll definitely want a tripod to get the best results.
Nokia has included a bunch of different and exclusive software to their Lumia 920 that turns out to actually be better than the standard options available. Nokia Drive is the best of these programs and is a true premium app that’s available for free since you bought their phone. For free you can get narrated navigation and have a slew of options such as being able to avoid certain areas, tunnel, ferries, and more. What makes this app so great though is the that can set your travel plans but then actually use the app offline. This makes it data free and a great alternative to a paper map when you’re in areas that don’t have great reception. You can switch between a 2D and 3D mode; you’ll get traffic information, and even speed alerts. For a free app, all of these features are really impressive, as normally you need a decent dedicated device for these features.
The other big feature that the WP8’s possess over their rivals is the inclusion of a fully usable Office package. Directly from your phone you can view and edit Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote files. Sure, other phones have support or something similar, but this is the real deal here directly from Microsoft. The Office Hub is just like the other hubs and will be the go-to place for all of the documents you need. You can sync everything to Skydrive and Windows Live account so that you can access your documents from anywhere. Again, you’re able to pin any of these programs to your start screen so that you have instant access to Excel should you need it.
Being a Canadian, our winters can become pretty cold outside, and we all know how annoying it can be to have to take off your gloves just to check a message on your phone when it’s freezing outside. Nokia has seemed to solve this problem with their touchscreen technology and offers a high sensitive option that will allow you to navigate your phone with gloves on. This might not seem like a big deal to some, but I know I also hate having to take my gloves off when it’s cold out just to use my phone properly. It may not sound like an exciting feature on paper, but if you’re like me, you’ll truly appreciate the offering.
I’ve had nothing but praise for the Lumia 920 up to this point, but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect phone, as it does have some flaws and drawbacks as well. Firstly, to most people, the size and weight of the phone alone is going to be an issue, especially if you’re used to an iPhone or similar light phone. Where I love the unibody design, this also means you can’t add micro SD cards or change the battery of the phone. You’re essentially stuck with what you get, though the 32GB included should be more than ample space for all the things you truly need on your phone. The other issue for most will be the Microsoft App store. Truth be told it’s nowhere near as robust as the iOS and Android marketplace, but to be fair, if I couldn’t find the exact program I used to use on my iPhone, I was able to find a working alternative (albeit usually not as visually pleasing).
If you’re in Canada, the Lumia 920 is exclusive to Rogers (and I believe AT&T if you’re an American) and only comes in the standard black model. If you live elsewhere, there are a bunch of gorgeous colors to choose from that will certainly make your phone stand out amongst the sea of iPhones and Androids. With the uniform body of the phone, it’s a sleek looking device that simply feels sturdy and not as fragile as some of the other plastic phones.
Having the phone for about two weeks now, I’m still getting used to the keyboard and I still make a lot of typing errors. It’s just different from what I’m used to, especially the space key, as it’s smaller than the iOS one, so I keep hitting the punctuation marks that are beside it. I’ll become natural in time and I am starting to become quicker at texting with the predictive text options. Just know that it will take a little getting used to to become proficient with it.
I did a lot of research and played with each WP8 phone before deciding on the Lumia 920 and for the features that it had compared to the HTC 8X and the Samsung Activ S, it won in almost every category for me. The Lumia has the best camera, the 8X has the best audio, and the Activ S actually has the option for additional storage and battery swapping. That’s essentially what you’ll decide between aside from aesthetics between the new WP8 devices. The build quality on the 920 is seriously impressive and it sets itself apart from the other WP8 devices, not only with its size and weight (which I enjoy), but with the exclusive Nokia software that’s actually worth using and not uninstalling instantly. I LOVE the wireless charging option and it is sure nice having a properly working phone once again. It’s different and it has a learning curve with its OS if you’ve never used a Windows Phone before, but if you want the most powerful and impressive WP8 device, the Nokia Lumia 920 wins hands down.