Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Nokia has been pretty aggressive with its Lumia smartphones in the past one year. Being the underdog for long, the Finnish giant took things in its own hands rather than waiting for Microsoft to step on the gas. The Lumia 1520 is the result of that aggressiveness as Nokia does not intend to lose out on another trend, that of super sized phones popularly known as phablets. The Lumia 1520 brings a series of firsts for Windows Phone, being the first Lumia smartphone to sport a full HD 1080p display, the first to run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chipset, the first to sport a Nano-SIM card, the first to support saving photos in DNG RAW format and many more.

But will that be enough for Nokia to finally have a commercially successful smartphone in the high-end segment? Will finally having top-of-the-line specifications make the Lumia 1520 competitive to what Android and iOS as platforms offer to users? Or is Windows Phone a platform just for entry-level smartphones? Let’s find out…

Hardware has never really been a problem for Lumia smartphones after the second generation of device. The Lumia 1520 is no different with Nokia’s trademark unibody polycarbonate industrial design and some of the best specifications money can buy. Bright colors, smooth curves and impeccable use of polycarbonate make the Lumia 1520 one of the best designed smartphones out there. Windows Phone as a platform has never been resource hungry, yet the Lumia 1520 features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz, which has been coupled with 2GB of RAM. These specs makes Android run blazingly fast and smooth, which means it runs even better with Windows Phone.

The 6-inch 1080p display on the Lumia 1520 is of the LCD IPS variety, which means images don’t really pop up as much as they would on an AMOLED display but Nokia has added its own tweaks that lead to brilliant visibility under harshest of lights and the blacks do look black enough and colors are more closer to reality than being artificial. There is no visible blue tinge either, which normally happens with AMOLED displays.

Yes, having that big a display means it is not a comfortable fit in most pockets and it is almost impossible to use it with one hand. But that is a compromise one is ready to make for choosing such devices in the first place. The rule of thumb is simple – if you are looking for a phone that can be used with one hand, do not go with display sizes that exceed 4.7-inches. In this case, I won’t call the display size a con against the Lumia 1520 but a USP as this is an emerging category of devices that people seem to be going for these days.

While Nokia and Microsoft worked together to make Windows Phone 8 support 1080p displays, the implementation is far from perfect. Most menu buttons and UI elements take too much space on the display inside apps that it does not really offer all the display real estate benefits that could be possible with this 6-inch 1080p display.

The Lumia 1520 also has a PureView camera, albeit a 20-megapixel camera instead of the massive 41-megapixel one found on the Lumia 1020. Nevertheless the photos clicked from the Lumia 1520 were second only to the Lumia 1020, beating even the iPhone 5S in most conditions. The shutter lag found on the Lumia 1020 is no longer there and the dual-LED flash does the trick in low-light conditions. Having said that, photos clicked under low-light without flash came out to be noisy, which wasn’t the case with the Lumia 1020.

With the Lumia Black update, Nokia has merged all its camera apps into what it unimaginatively calls Nokia Camera. So from one single app, one can get the auto and manual modes and tinker with settings to get the best photo under any condition. The manual mode by Nokia is by far the best implementation in cameraphones that even a photography novice like myself can use.

The phone comes with 32GB of internal memory out of which around 24-25GB is available to users. One can even add a microSD card to increase it by another 64GB. The Lumia 1520 is an all-out entertainment device and Nokia has ensured a big 3,400mAh battery, which is not just another spec being thrown at the user. To illustrate this, I charged the Lumia 1520 on a Friday night and saw a 2.5-hour long movie on it. On Saturday, I went out partying where I clicked a dozen photos with flash on and played music for about an hour before calling it a night. The phone still had 10 percent battery left in it during brunch on Sunday. During this period I had also used it for about an hour of calling, a couple of hours of Tweeting, checking my Facebook feed, responding to WhatsApp pings and had two email addresses pulling mails every hour. I had 3G turned on throughout this period!

In a nutshell, the Lumia 1520 has everything going for it – great design and build quality, top-of-the-line hardware specs, the second best camera on a phone, unreal battery backup, great call quality and overall a brilliant entertainment device. Yet, it has something lacking that makes me reluctant to suggest anyone to drop Rs 47,000 and buy it.

One of the major shortcomings is Windows Phone. In isolation, Windows Phone has evolved as a platform and the app ecosystem has improved to a great extent. One gets the essentials like WhatsApp for instance, and there are many games available too. But it still lacks a good notification centre. The lack of a Facebook app made by Facebook and the absence of Facebook Messenger irks me probably more than it should.

Windows Phone can be successful in the sub-Rs 15,000 segment because Android devices in that segment do not give a good user experience, which is not the case with devices like the Lumia 520, Lumia 620 and others. But increase the price point a bit and Android smartphones deliver great user experience along with all the bells and whistles (apps and services) that Windows Phone lacks. Which makes it illogical for someone to buy a Windows Phone smartphone just for the fluid UI when there are Android devices available that not only offer the experience but also everything else that Windows Phone lacks.

I cannot imagine a Rs 47,000 smartphone on which I do not get a great YouTube experience or on which I do not get push mail for Gmail. I am aware it is Google that is limiting the functionality but as a user, all I know is I can’t get the services I use on this device. Even the general email functionality on Windows Phone is a joke – why can’t I edit or delete inline text when I am replying or forwarding a mail? And these are not new complaints – they have plagued Windows Phone since the beginning.

Windows Phone as a platform has been stagnant with Microsoft not inclined to fix the broken elements, because of which I cannot recommend the Lumia 1520 to anyone who is looking for a smartphone experience. Which is a pity really, considering the Lumia 1520 is a great product let down solely by the platform it is running. I cannot even imagine what Nokians would be going through after belting one solid hardware after another only to be let down by the choice of operating system the company has committed itself to.

If you are really inclined for a phablet, I would recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which offers much more in the same price segment.