Nokia's Lumia 920 is an elegant handset that feels truly luxurious to use.
I've been using the Nokia Lumia 920 as my primary mobile device for the past month. Here are my thoughts.
The Lumia 920 is drop-dead gorgeous. It stands out in a way that other smartphones don't - not since the iPhone 4, anyway. It's especially eye-catching in the firetruck red and canary yellow colour options. But it's not just the brightly-coloured chassis that turns heads. The 920 has a very distinctive look to it, carrying on the design of the Lumia 800 and 900 before it. It doesn't look like it's been assembled in a factory; it's so beautifully put together - so organic - that it looks like it was hatched in its current form as-is.
Yes, it's heavy, almost absurdly so at 185g (the Apple iPhone 5 weighs 112g, for a point of reference). But its weight actually adds to the perception that it's a premium product. The only downside is that it's very slippery - I actually dropped it once, but since its colour is bled all the way through (rather than just on the surface of the casing), you don't get any unsightly black or grey marks coming through on chipped areas, so the damage is barely noticeable.
The screen, the stereo speakers and the camera are all top-notch. The flash has a tendency to over-power objects at close range, but otherwise, photos come out clear and detailed, and its low-light performance sans flash is outstanding. Since it's rather bulky, it can be difficult to shoot pictures one-handed. The 4.5" screen is the nicest one we've used so far - colours look rich and vibrant without being overcooked (a problem on most Super AMOLED displays), and the blacks are deliciously inky when viewed head-on. The main gripe I have with the screen is that its scratch resistance doesn't seem to be as good as Apple and Samsung smartphones. While my devices from the latter two vendors remain blissfully scratch-free, the Lumia 920 has a few fine scratches on the surface of the screen.
I have used Windows Phone 7.5 in the past, but this was my first time with Windows Phone 8. The new features definitely improve the experience, such as the resizable live tiles, lockscreen widgets and better sharing options between apps. Out of all the smartphone homescreens, I think Windows Phone 8 provides the best mix of customisability and consistency. Everyone's start screen looks different thanks to the resizable live tiles and multitude of things you can pin to it, but it's not the jumbled mess of widgets and icons that the Android homescreen is.
The apps selection has also improved significantly since Windows Phone first launched. Almost all of the apps I use on a regular basis are available, such as Evernote, Facebook, IMDb, Kindle, Whatsapp, Tripview Sydney, GoCatch and Zite. But there still quite a few that haven't crossed the pond, like Instagram, Flipboard, Dropbox, TomTom, YouTube and Spotify. Some of the Windows Phone versions are also inferior to their Android and iOS counterparts. One thing that significantly sweetens the deal for Nokia Lumia users is the extensive selection of exclusive apps. In addition to the excellent Nokia-branded apps like Nokia Drive, Nokia City Lens and Panorama, Nokia has secured exclusives on some high-profile apps like SMH, Words with Friends and Mirror's Edge.
A lot of the core aspects of Windows Phone are brilliant. Facebook integration within the Messages app is much more useful than Apple's iMessage. Social elements are also heavily integrated into the OS (unlike iOS and Android), as is cloud storage through Microsoft's SkyDrive, and you can share information freely between apps (one of the better features that has been borrowed from Android). However, it's still lagging on the notifications front. While it supports real-time notifications (even though not many apps support it), they only appear on the screen for a couple of seconds, and if you miss that notification and don't have a live tile for that app on your start screen, you won't know about the notification until the next time you open that app.
The Nokia Lumia 920's battery life is pretty average. It's capable of lasting a full workday (as well as the trip home), but if you use it frequently, you may have to plug it into the charger before clocking out for the day. Turning off LTE certainly helps, but why buy a 4G phone if you're not going to use that feature? I'm hoping battery life improves after the battery burns in a bit more.
Windows Phones have always performed exceptionally well, belying the usual Microsoft reputation for bloated software. But the Nokia Lumia 920 takes it to the next level. The 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor really makes Windows Phone 8 fly; swiping between screens, launching apps and zooming in and out of pages is like watching a tightly choreographed ballet performance.
This is an odd thing to say about a phone, but I felt great while I was using it, as if I was driving an expensive sportscar. Some of the concepts in Windows Phone 8 are brilliant, others (such as notifications and background processing) still need work. The main thing that's stopping me from adopting the Lumia 920 as my main phone permanently is that some of the apps I need to use on a daily basis are either not on Windows Phone (Fitbit, Spotify and Runkeeper) or are crippled compared to their iOS and Android counterparts (Twitter and Evernote). The next time a non-power user friend asks me for smartphone advice, however, I will include the Nokia Lumia 920 in my shortlist of recommendations.