When Nokia’s newly appointed CEO Stephen Elop announced his plans to steer the company towards Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, many analysts and employees questioned whether it was the right move for the company. While there was no doubt that Nokia was indeed perched atop a burning platform, Windows Phone too was a struggling platform that had no takers. Many voiced that Android was a better choice but the deed was done. The Lumia 920 is Nokia’s third attempt to launch a smartphone running on Windows Phone after the less-than-spectacular Lumia 800 towards the end of 2011 and the Lumia 900 last summer.
To say that Nokia has traversed a treacherous journey in the past two years would be an understatement. Once the king of smartphones, Nokia was left scraping barrel bottoms for some market share. However, with a spanking new Windows Phone 8 operating system that enables Nokia to show off its hardware prowess, the Finnish giant has multiple reasons to be excited about with its new range of Lumia smartphones, especially the Lumia 920. But does it have enough to excite consumers who have been only let down by Nokia’s past Lumia escapades? Let’s find out…
Hardware has always been Nokia’s strength and it shows in the Lumia 920 too. Nokia has continued with its usage of polycarbonate plastic and the design language of the Lumia 800 and the Lumia 900, which is not a bad thing really. Yes, it feels humungous with dimensions of 130.3×70.8×10.7 mm. This might become a bit unwieldily for some users but considering the way smartphones are getting bigger with every update, this is at par for a flagship phone. Some might find the Lumia 920 to be too heavy at 185 grams but I find it reassuring. But then I had been a Nokia Communicator user during its heydays and I’m yet to find a contemporary phone whose weight would bother me.
I am a big fan of polycarbonate plastic casing as they don’t feel cheap like ordinary plastic and in the long run the wear and tear is not very visible. Someone had probably dropped the white review unit I received and there was a tiny chip on one of the corners. But it was not really visible as the chip revealed some more white polycarbonate plastic. The Lumia 920 seems to be a highly durable device. Nokia has launched the Lumia 920 in multiple colors like yellow, red, cyan, black and white; yellow being my favorite out of the lot. Unlike the Lumia 800, the Lumia 920 has a nice curved back, which feels natural while holding the phone.
On the specs front, the Lumia brings in a lot of firsts. The 4.5-inch display with a resolution of 1280×768 pixels is a treat for the eyes. Nokia calls it a PureMotion HD+ display, the PureMotion pointing towards its 60fps refresh rate. While Windows Phone 8′s interface itself is quite pleasing the quick transition rates make it even better. Nokia has also increased the display’s sensitivity that works even when the user is wearing a thin glove, something that came in really handy during this freaky winter spell in the last couple of weeks. The outdoor visibility is brilliant and I would peg it among the best in smartphones.
It is also the first phone to launch in India with a built-in induction-based wireless charging technology. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this as the wireless charging pad wasn’t provided with the review unit.
It is not the awesome display or wireless charging or the polycarbonate plastic casing that people would buy the Lumia 920. Instead, it is its 8.7-megapixel camera, which bears the PureView branding that indicates it has the best camera technology available on smartphones. No, it does not have a 41-megapixel sensor like the PureView 808 but it does bring in some new tricks like optical image stabilization and better low light photography.
Nokia claims that the Lumia 920′s camera lets in five times more light than competing smartphones and that shows in photos clicked in low-light conditions without the use of flash. We clicked shots with the Lumia 920 and the iPhone 5 in low light conditions and the Lumia 920 came on top every single time. The photos were bright and at times I could capture more details than that was visible to the naked eye under those conditions.
Having said that, there is very little to choose from when it comes to photographs taken under daylight. Another thing I noticed is that using the camera shutter button tends to induce blur in photos. I mostly relied on the on-screen shutter with touch-to-focus. Also, I find that the Lumia 920′s color reproduction is closer to the actual colors while others like the iPhone’s and Samsung’s software processing seems to tweak colors to make them pop out.
Things get better with video recording thanks to what Nokia calls floating lens technology. In simple terms, the entire optical arrangement is perched upon a set of springs that compensates for any shake to achieve image stabilization. It works mostly and the difference is pretty noticeable.
The Lumia 920 has the hardware to compete with the flagship smartphones but the stumbling block over here is the Windows Phone 8 operating system. Agreed that the new operating system brings in many needed improvements like multi-tasking (to some extent) but there is still a lot to be desired.
The things I miss the most is a centralized notification center and the lack of apps. Nokia tackles the latter by including many apps that are exclusive to its phones. Nokia Maps and its navigation app called Drive is the best navigation software available across any platform. Nokia also gives one year of unlimited music access via its music store, which is also unparalleled in the industry.
To somewhat offset the apps situation, I used an app called AppSwitch that tells the closest Windows Phone 8 alternative to any app that you might use on Android or iOS. It is available for free and it did help find a few alternative apps. But then the platform is still light on some key apps, especially those from Google’s stable like YouTube among others.
The YouTube experience on Windows Phone 8 is the worst among all competing platforms, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed at Microsoft for which they blame Google. Come January 30, things will become even more difficult, especially for Gmail users when Google stops supporting Exchange ActiveSync that is required for push mail on Windows Phone platform. The rivalry between Google and Microsoft is hurting consumers and hopefully the two companies would find a resolution soon.
The Lumia 920 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz coupled with 1GB of RAM under the hood. While we never had any lagging/freezing problems with Windows Phone even on a single-core processor, the experience remains smooth as ever. The camera mostly performs as Nokia claims and is by far the best experience on a smartphone, closely followed by the iPhone 5. Nokia’s Maps and Music offerings are unparalleled in the industry.
The 2,000mAh battery lasted me for about 16 hours with moderate usage. I did about an hour of calls, shot about a dozen photos and had a Twitter and two email accounts synced. And I noticed that the battery seems to drain slightly faster once it goes below the 20 percent level but then it could just be a case of enhanced awareness once the battery goes low. I wish Windows Phone 8 had a battery percentage indicator at the top, an option available on both Android and iOS.
The Lumia 920 gets my vote for the smartphone with the best camera, music and navigation offering that also looks good and screams fun. Yes, there is a paucity of apps and I wish the operating system could handle notifications better. But if you are willing to look beyond that, the Lumia 920 could be the smartphone to go for.
Nokia has priced the Lumia 920 at Rs 38,199 but it is already available with online retailers like Saholic for Rs 36,499. Hardcore smartphone users would cringe at this price point considering the Samsung Galaxy S III, which at the moment is akin to the Android flagship smartphone, is currently available for under Rs 32,000. But if you are in the market looking for a Windows Phone 8 smartphone, it doesn’t get better than the Lumia 920.
Photographs: Eshan Shetty and Rohit Sharma