Things are finally looking good for Nokia and its Lumia series of Windows Phone devices. Well, at least on paper. Last quarter Nokia shipped 7.6 million Lumia smartphones, a 32 percent growth quarter-on-quarter. The numbers might be encouraging but a big problem for Nokia has been that most of the growth has been fuelled by its entry-level Lumia smartphones and not the top-of-the-line models, which has brought down the average selling price of its smartphones. The Lumia 920, Nokia’s previous flagship smartphone did not do as well as the company would have expected. Blame it on poor pricing decision, the camera not performing as well as everyone expected or just the sheer size and thickness of the phone. Nokia intends to change all of that with the Lumia 925, which offers almost the same features as the Lumia 920 but in a more attractive package. Would it be second time lucky for Nokia? Let’s find out.
If there’s one thing people complained the most about the Lumia 920 was its industrial design – it was big, bulky and created quite a bulge when snuck away in a trouser’s pocket. Nokia justified it by the ‘PureView’ camera and all the optical image stabilization wizardry that required more space, but users didn’t find it amusing. The Lumia 925 is what the Lumia 920 should have been. It is approximately 20 percent slimmer, 25 percent lighter and sports a brand new design. Nokia has for some reason launched it in black, white and grey colors, which are a bit boring when compared to the rest of colorful, polycarbonate Lumia smartphones. The company says it is targeted at those users who are apprehensive of carrying bright, bold colors. The good news is that there are colorful thin wireless charging cases available for the Lumia 925 that can be snapped on the back.
The Lumia 925 marks the first time when Nokia has used metal in its Lumia portfolio. The aluminum frame feels polished and premium and the curves on the corners remind me of the N8, another solid camera phone. If you are missing polycarbonate, then don’t, as the back still is made of polycarbonate plastic. That might come as a bummer especially after the premium glass and metal front but it doesn’t feel too shabby. Unlike the Lumia 920 where there was enough space to house the camera inside the body, there is a slight bump on the back of the Lumia 925. The polycarbonate plastic moulds snuggly around the bump and it doesn’t look like an anomaly. There is a dual LED flash above the lens and the wireless charging connectors and speaker down below.
Both the micro USB and audio jack connector ports are on the top edge along with the micro-SIM card tray. The right edge has the volume rocker keys, the power button and the dedicated camera shutter key. The other two edges have been left bare. I would have preferred having the speaker at the bottom edge rather than the back where it gets muffled either when the phone is kept on a surface or when it is held in the hand, but then this situation is not unique to the Lumia 925.
Like I mentioned before the Lumia 925 shares most of the hardware features with the Lumia 920, so we are looking at a 4.5-inch 768×1280 pixels display, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor, 1GB of RAM and an 8.7-megapixel PureView camera with optical image stabilization. However, there are some differences. The display is now AMOLED instead of the IPS LCD on the Lumia 920, so it comes with its own set of advantages (lower battery consumption) and disadvantages (bluish tinge). Nokia has provided settings that enable users to tweak the color saturation and temperature of the display.
The Lumia 925 comes with 16GB of internal storage while the Lumia 920 came with 32GB and both phones do not have an expandable memory card slot. Nokia has added a sixth lens element in the camera while the Lumia 920 had just five, which it claims would give sharper photographs – a major complaint among most Lumia 920 users. In order to achieve the thin frame, the Lumia 925 dumps wireless charging but users can buy a snap-on cover that brings the feature.
The Lumia 925′s camera is an improvement over the Lumia 920′s – photos do come out much sharper in daylight. While its daylight photographs might appear at par with what one can click with the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4, it is the lowlight conditions where the Lumia 925 dazzles, just like the Lumia 920. Considering majority of photos are either clicked indoors or in less than ideal light settings (think restaurants, pubs, clubs, homes, evening), the Lumia 925 outperforms most rivals. Like the Lumia 920, it manages to capture much more than what is visible to the naked eye. It almost seems as if the software algorithm is enhancing the brightness in the photo but it is essentially more light being captured by the relatively bigger sensor or so Nokia claims.
The advantage of the Lumia 925 in less than ideal lighting conditions is apparent but I noticed that ‘brightness enhancement’ kicked in even in well-lit conditions. I compared photos clicked with the iPhone 5 and the Lumia 925 inside a well-lit mall and found that the iPhone’s colors were closer to the actual colors while the Lumia 925′s had a cold tinge to them.
Having said that, for regular users, the ability to click photos in conditions where other camera phones capture nothing in itself would be a validation of Nokia’s claims. No doubt, even I would prefer having the Lumia 925 over an iPhone 5 at a pub or a house party for clicking photos. And then there are some software features that make the camera even better.
The Lumia 925 runs on Windows Phone 8 operating system and comes with what Nokia calls the Amber update on top. There are a lot of new software features on top of the regular Windows Phone 8 stuff that adds a lot of value to the user experience. The Lumia 925 introduces Nokia Smart Cam that takes a burst shot and then lets users do things like remove objects, add motion blur, change faces in a group shot to get the best face for every individual or create an action shot. The tools are super user friendly and makes it easy for users to play around with photos.
My favorite, however, is Nokia Pro Cam, which was first introduced in the Lumia 1020. It is available on the Lumia 925 too and lets users tweak settings like white balance, manual focus, exposure, ISO and other settings. The best thing I like about it is it shows the results as you tweak individual settings, which gives a crash course on how cameras work. You can even map either Pro Cam or Smart Cam as the default camera app so it opens automatically every time you press the dedicated camera button.
Another feature that I used a lot was the ability to block numbers from the call history or messaging inbox. Apple too is bringing this feature in iOS 7 and it comes in handy especially given the spam sms and calls one gets these days.
Meanwhile, the app situation remains grim as ever though now there is an official Twitter app with push notifications (made by Twitter and not Microsoft) as well as WhatsApp, which has finally reached at par with other platforms. However, the scenario with Google apps has worsened.
Ever since Google stopped supporting Exchange for Gmail, there is no push mail for Gmail on Windows Phone, which gets irritating. While Nokia and Microsoft might shift the blame to Google, the fact remains that it is Windows Phone users that suffer, which is not good for both the companies. In fact, during the week I used the Lumia 925 as my primary phone, I had to ensure I had my iPhone or HTC One with me all the time, lest I miss any important mail. Another thing I noticed is I couldn’t add anything in inline copy and my only option was to copy the entire text, paste it in my reply box and then edit/add in it.
Having used my fair share of Windows Phone smartphones, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised by the Lumia 925. I had never thought that I could use a Windows Phone smartphone as my primary phone for over a week and I continue to use it even after I’m done with my review. And that says a lot considering my usual phones are the iPhone 5 and the HTC One.
Yes, Windows Phone still doesn’t have a great app catalog but the apps I use the most – Twitter and WhatsApp – are there. There is a third-party Instagram app too, called 6tag, if you use Instagram. What disappointed me the most, however, was the email experience and that is something either Microsoft or Nokia needs to fix ASAP – with or without Google’s support.
The biggest surprise for me was the battery, which lasted me for almost an entire day regularly. That is something I have never expected in any device running Windows Phone and despite using the same 2,000mAh battery as the Lumia 920, it lasts much longer. I suspect it has something to do with the ‘glance’ feature Nokia has launched with the Lumia 925 that shows the clock on a part of the homescreen all the time. This feature ensured I didn’t have to on the display to see the time (something that I do a few dozen times all day), which would have saved some battery.
I didn’t face any problem with in-call voice quality and neither did the person on the other side of the line. I loved Nokia’s camera tweaks and how it makes it easy for users to do more with the camera rather than making them jump hoops to get great results. I have my doubts about the seemingly ‘enhanced’ photo quality in well-lit conditions where everything comes out brighter than it really is, it seems people like that sort of thing. The low-light photo capture quality remains unrivalled.
Six months ago, using a Windows Phone device as my primary smartphone felt like a self-imposed punishment. The Lumia 925 has changed that to a great extent. Barring the email experience, there is very little I can complain about especially after the new Twitter, WhatsApp and PayTM apps. Nokia’s Music Store and HERE Drive services complete the rest of the things I need in my smartphone. Yes, the app ecosystem is not in the same league as Android and iOS and Windows Phone isn’t on top of the list of big name developers. So if you are looking for a phone where you can get tons of apps and all the latest big titles, then Windows Phone isn’t for you.
But the Lumia 925 does well to serve the purpose of users looking for a well-designed smartphone that gives them a great camera, access to unlimited downloads from one of the biggest music catalogs and offline navigation as well. It provides the ultimate multimedia package in a single device. The Lumia 925 is available for Rs 33,499.
Photos: Harshita Rastogi