Nokia announced the Lumia 920 as their flagship Windows Phone back in September, and Rogers started shipping the device the day after Microsoft officially revealed Windows Phone 8. With new and innovative features, many are looking at the Lumia 920 as the hot new phone. I’ve gone hands on with the 920 over the holidays to see if it’s truly the best choice on the market today.
If you’re not familiar with the Lumia 920, its the new big brother to the Lumia 900 that was released a year ago running the older version of Windows Phone. But don’t think for a second that it’s the same old thing with a little more memory, and a faster processor, because that’s far from the truth. It may have the same polycarbonate body design, but that’s about it. The 920 offers features that have never been seen in a mobile phone before, like optical image stabilization, and a camera that takes amazing pictures in low light scenarios. It also brings groundbreaking features like wireless charging to a new level, pushing the market in new directions.
Besides the wireless charging and amazing camera optics, Nokia has added things like a touch screen that works even if you’re wearing gloves, near field communication (NFC), blazing fast 4G/LTE, and a 4.5 inch HD+ display with 332 pixels per inch density. All the regular features you would expect are there too – a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor, 32GB of storage, 1GB of memory, Gorilla Glass 2 from Corning to protect the screen, and a dual LED flash for the camera. The dimensions and size might seem a little out of place at 130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7mm and 185 grams. Especially in a world where devices keep getting smaller and lighter with many falling well under 10mm thick and over 40 grams lighter. In the case of the 920, the difference is primarily due to the camera assembly thanks to the optical image stabilization.
The design and body of the Nokia Lumia 920 is very similar to the older 900. It’s a little larger due to the bigger screen, but it’s still a solid block of plastic. So there’s no removable battery door and no paint to chip off since it’s the same color all the way through. The 920 still has the same button layout as the all the other Lumia devices with volume up and down, power, and camera all located on the right side of the phone and the left side is clean. The screen is different, and not just in the size and resolution. The older 900 had a flat screen that fit very differently where you could feel the rough edge around the screen on the body. This is not the case with the 920. Now, you have a nicely curved screen, in much the same fashion as the older 800. The screen gently curves down to the edge of the device and creates a very smooth and elegant feel without any rough edges where the screen meets the body of the phone. The MicroSIM tray and headphone port are along the top of the phone, and the MicroUSB charge port is on the bottom. The wireless charging plate – invisible to the eye, is on the back of the phone exactly where you would expect it.
One of the very cool things I like about the Lumia 920 is the attention to detail in the overall design. For example, the MicroSIM tray has little clips on the side that hold your SIM in place. It’s not very often that you change or remove the SIM card, but if you ever have to do that, you don’t have to worry about dropping the SIM once the tray is removed. Another example is the position of the buttons. Some manufacturers place a button on almost every side. That can really make it hard if you are trying to prop the phone up to watch a movie, or if your sliding it into case. With the 920, all the buttons are on one side of the device, so you can prop it up in almost any orientation you can imagine and not have to worry about bumping the buttons. If you have a case that clips on your belt, you can slide the phone in and not have to worry about the volume or power button getting pressed. These might not sound like much, but they add to the overall experience.
Nokia has included support for LTE networks (Long Term Evolution – it’s what gives you blazing fast internet access) in their Lumia 920. During my time with the device, I was able to achieve roughly 25MB on average. Of course, in locations where the LTE coverage wasn’t as good, my speeds would drop. Even still, those areas would give me around 10-12MB just under half the speed of the better location. Nokia states the following on their specs for the Lumia 920: “Data transmission speeds may be as high as LTE 100 Mbps, but may vary based upon network capabilities and other conditions”. While I didn’t see anything near 100MB it’s hard to know if the 25MB average was due to congestion on the network, or limitations of the phone hardware, or perhaps caused by a lag in the network between the phone and the cloud based speed test engine. Regardless, 25MB is still very impressive and a great way to browse, search, and enjoy the internet.
The Lumia 920 features their PureView camera technology for a significant improvement in low light pictures. The PureView name brings with it high performance optics, sensors, and powerful image processing algorithms. The camera sensor is 8.7 megapixels, but Nokia has focused their energy to make sure that those 8+ megapixels are all you need to take great low light images. To achieve this, Nokia needed to find a way to let more light into the camera sensor, but reduce the involuntary movements that can cause the camera to shake and result in a blurry image. The end result was to place the entire camera assembly on springs and combined with improved image processing algorithms, results in not just impressive low light images but also extremely smooth video capture while moving.
Nokia has added a lot of new and innovative features with the Lumia 920. A lot of which have not been seen in the mobile space before. But hardware isn’t the only impressive offerings the Lumia 920 has. Nokia has included some nice extra applications to further enhance the device. Nokia’s City Lens will overlay the names and distances to local attractions. Hungry? Just point the camera at the street, and watch as City Lens lights up all the local restaurants. As you turn and aim the camera in another direction, City Lens will adjust and show you what is now in front of the camera’s lens. Once you find something you like, you can tap on it to more information about it, or even turn by turn directions. I found City Lens to be very handy in exploring new city’s. There are 2 small things that I would like to see City Lens add in a future version. The first is the ability to share or favorite something. If I’ve found a great hotel or restaurant, and I want to tell my friends about it, City Lens doesn’t offer the ability to do that. And the second is the ability to search for something – like Home Depot. neither of those are show-stoppers that would prevent you from using the application. Just a couple nice to have’s that would increase the value of the application.
Aside from City Lens, Nokia also added other applications like Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive, Nokia Music, an audio equalizer, and Nokia’s Smart Shoot app, that lets you capture the best parts of a picture by quickly taking multiple pictures and then determining what has changed between images and removing them from the final picture. It’s a great way to make sure that you get the picture you want without the noise of other people walking through your image.
Battery life seems to be the biggest sticking point from users and those that have reviewed the Lumia 920, however my unit had no real issues with battery life. I was easily able to get a full day, and sometimes even a day and a half off of one charge. There are a lot of factors that go into battery life. I had 1 email account with push email setup, integrated Facebook and Twitter enabled, and did a fair amount of internet browsing. Other than the number of email accounts configured on the device, it was no different than what I do everyday on my current Windows Phone. I also don’t let applications run in the background, unless they really need it. If you’re having battery issues, check under Settings / swipe over to Applications, and then tap on Background Tasks and turn off anything that you don’t really need to have running. More information on how to do that can be found here. Another tip for those that get a lot of email, turn push email off and set it to check on an interval, or setup some Exchange rules to automatically filter messages that you don’t need to get on your device.
If you want a great mobile camera, blazing fast internet, or wireless charging, the Lumia 920 won’t disappoint. If you want a solid phone that you don’t have to baby or wrap a case around, then the Lumia 920 won’t disappoint. And if that wasn’t enough, Nokia has been pumping out the applications and utilities like no other device manufacturer. So there’s plenty of extra’s for you to enjoy. If super light and thin matters, then you might want to look elsewhere. Although, to be fair, the weight did concern me at first, but I quickly grew accustom to it and no longer noticed it.
The Nokia Lumia 920 is available in today from Rogers for $99 on a 3 year agreement, or $599 if you want to buy it outright. Currently it’s only available in black, but as we reported the other day, it is going to be available red, white, and yellow in the next not too distance future.