REVIEW: Nokia's New Windows Phone, The Lumia 920

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Steve Kovach, Business Insider

I got really excited when Nokia unveiled its first flagship Windows Phone, the Lumia 900, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

It was unique, not just another black slab with rounded corners and a home screen full of static app icons. I test a lot of phones, and it was refreshing to finally see one that didn't pretend to be an iPhone.

But by the time I had a chance to use the Lumia 900, I was mostly disappointed in the final product Nokia delivered. The screen was dull compared to other top-tier smartphones. The camera wasn't nearly as good as Nokia boasted. And Microsoft still had problems getting developers to make great apps for the phone.

Unsurprisingly, the Lumia 900 didn't sell very well.

Just seven months after the Lumia 900's launch, Nokia is giving it another go with a new phone called the Lumia 920, which AT&T sells for $100 with a two-year contract

Despite a few hardware upgrades like a sharper screen, wireless charging, and very capable camera, the Lumia 920 feels like Nokia took three baby steps forward but one gigantic leap backward.

Click here for photos of the most important new features in the Lumia 920 >

Hardware, Design, And Performance

At a time when companies like Samsung, Apple, and HTC are releasing sleek and light phones, Nokia launched a tank instead. On paper, it doesn't seem that bad. The Lumia 920 weighs 185 grams, while the iPhone 5 weighs 112 grams and the Galaxy S III weighs 133 grams. But when you hold the Lumia 920, that extra weight does make a difference. I barely notice the iPhone 5 when it's in my pocket, but the Lumia 920 feels like a brick. I let a few of my non-tech savvy friends try the Lumia 920, and they came to the same conclusion. The Lumia 920 is going to be too fat and heavy to appeal to most people.

I know a lot of you will argue that Nokia made the Lumia 920 so large so it could fit in a lot of advanced hardware components, but there are plenty of devices out there with similar features that still manage to be thin and light. Most notably, there's HTC's slim new Windows Phone 8x, the Lumia's chief rival.

But if you can get past the size and weight, the Lumia 920 is an attractive phone, mostly because it's so unique. It comes in a variety of colors –– I tested the lipstick-red model –– and there's no mistaking it for an iPhone or one of the myriad Android clones out there. That's a good thing. 

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The Lumia 920 is one of the first devices to run Microsoft's new mobile operating system called Windows Phone 8, which supports high-end hardware features like sharper screens, faster processors, and NFC chips that put phone on equal footing with other premium smartphones. The Lumia 920 takes advantage of all those capabilities, and it's a nice step up from the inadequate hardware specs found in the Lumia 900. That's great, but it still feels like the Lumia 920 is playing catch up with the competition on the hardware level. And that's not going to be good for the Nokia when the next generation of smartphones hit the market in a few months.

Steve Kovach, Business Insider

There's one aspect where the Lumia 920 blows away other smartphones: the camera. Nokia overpromised and underdelivered last time around with the Lumia 900's camera, but the opposite is true with the Lumia 920. I don't think Nokia adequately expressed just how good this camera is. Photo quality is incredible, but I really liked the dedicated camera shutter button on the side. Holding it halfway down allows you to auto-focus the image, just like a normal DSLR or point-and-shoot digital camera. It's not enough to make me want to run out and buy a Lumia, but it did make me wish other phones had cameras this good.

Battery life was also really good. I got well over a day's woth of use out of the Lumia 920, and standby time among the best of any smartphone I've used. 

Windows Phone 8

On its own, Windows Phone 8 is a great operating system. I reviewed it in length here, so I won't repeat myself too much. But I will hit the two important points:

  • The Windows Phone platform still has an app shortage problem. I'm not talking about the number of apps available in Microsoft's store, but the quality. It's still missing some major ones like Instagram, Hulu, and Dropbox. Microsoft says the selection is getting better, but there's still little incentive for developers to bring the next blockbuster app to Windows Phone as there aren't enough people using the OS yet.
  • The interface is gorgeous and intuitive. I love Microsoft's Live Tiles and think they're the perfect hybrid between the boring app icons on the iPhone and the heavy widgets on Android. With Windows Phone 8, you can adjust the Live Tiles to display more or less information, depending on its size, making your home screen incredibly customizalke, yet inviting and useful.

All of these features (good and bad) are at the core of the Lumia 920 experience. The problem is, as good as Windows Phone 8 is, there's nothing in it compelling enough to choose it over Android or iOS. It's still too little, too late.

Click here for photos of the most important new features in the Lumia 920 >

Steve Kovach, Business Insider

Should You Buy It?

I only see two reasons to buy the Lumia 920. 1.) If you're intrigued by the Windows Phone platform, but don't think it's worth a heavy investment, then the $100 price tag will be perfect for you. 2.) You feel a strong affinity to Nokia (as it seems a lot of people do) and you absolutely must have the company's latest and greatest device.

Unfortunately, I don't think there are a significant number of people who fit into either of those two categories. There are plenty of great phones out there for the same price as the Lumia. Most are better.

Click here for photos of the most important new features in the Lumia 920 >



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