The Nokia Lumia 920 is Nokia’s newest Windows Phone, and has been available on the Rogers network since late 2012. This is the second Windows Phone we are reviewing, but it is the first running Windows Phone 8 (WP8), the latest phone operating system by Microsoft. With the updated operating system and hardware, we were promised better performance, better app selection, and the same amazing aesthetics both inside and out that we witnessed with the Lumia 800. The Lumia 800 was a great phone, but it had limitations that ultimately limited its mass-market appeal. Let’s see if the Lumia 920 was able to solve some of these issues, and finally present itself as a real competitor to the iPhone and the best Android handsets available today.
Compared to the Lumia 800, the 920 is a massive phone. With a 4.5 inch display, compared to the 3.7 inch on the Lumia 800, this phone is more comparable in size to larger Android handsets like the HTC One X+ we reviewed last week. The Lumia 920 (0.42 inches/185 grams) is significantly thicker and heavier when compared to the iPhone 5 (0.3 inches/112 grams). This additional weight is something that some users may have trouble getting used to – this device is one of the heaviest smartphones available today. The uni-body shell of the phone is made out of an excellent polycarbonate material similar to the Lumia 800. The phone feels great to handle, and is aesthetically pleasing. While large, there is no doubt that this is an amazingly designed phone that looks superb and wouldn’t look out of place on a professional, a fashion-conscious individual, or almost any other user.
The 4.5 inch display screen is a gorgeous IPS LCD which has great brightness and colour reproduction and outdoor usage is very possible thanks to its low reflectiveness. Unlike the Lumia 800, clarity is no longer an issue, as text on websites and other small details render beautifully and are easy to read, even when zoomed in.
While most users will find that WP8 looks similar to its predecessor, they will notice that what WP7 did well, WP8 does even better. The operating system is extremely quick and smooth, and along with all of the native apps, looks beautiful with its customizable pastel coloured themes. The customizability of the operating system has been improved thanks to the additional types of information that can be displayed on live tiles as well as the customizability of the home-screen layouts. Unfortunately like WP7, the lack of a centralized notification centre means that after notifications are initially received they will be hidden from the user, and it is not immediately possible to review recently received notifications. Multitasking has been slightly improved allowing certain active apps (music, downloading) to run in the background and allowing others to quickly resume from the recent apps menu or the app launcher. Unfortunately, many third party apps will still not fast resume, meaning users will need to wait for the app to completely restart from a dormant state – which can often take an unnecessarily long time. The Nokia Maps, Drive and Transit apps are also a great mapping, navigation and transit solution which can compete with the best iOS and Android offerings provided by Google.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue with the operating system continues to be the ecosystem issue previously discussed with the Lumia 800. The Windows Phone app store continues to grow, and there are now as many as 125,000 apps available. Unfortunately even with this growth, many users will have difficulty finding specific apps that they may be accustomed to on iOS or Android. Even when apps are available, it appears that they are often sub-par in terms of quality and usefulness when compared to their counterparts on other operating systems. While WP8 is a highly capable operating system in its own right–even compared iOS and Android, apps that significantly increase the usability of these other operating systems cause WP8 to continue to fall short of its competitors. Until app developers begin to take Windows Phone as a serious competitor to the other mobile operating systems, many users will likely find the appeal of the Lumia 920 lacking compared to its competitors.
The Lumia 920 is equipped with LTE, and speeds don’t disappoint. The average download speed we experienced during testing was just under 40 Mbps – the same range we experienced when testing the HTC OneX+ last week. To put this speed into perspective, you would be able to download a 2 hour HD Netflix movie using this device, in as little as 15 minutes compared to 40 minutes on an average home internet connection.
The 8.7 megapixel camera on the Lumia 920 was a heavily touted feature of the phone with supposed best-in-class image stabilization, giving the ability to take great low-light photos and videos with utmost clarity. As advertised, the image stabilization caused the low-light performance on the camera to be superior to most mobile phone cameras available today. The quality and clarity of 1080p HD Videos also benefitted from the image stabilization technology and looked great when viewed on a TV. Unfortunately, daytime photos appeared to be slightly washed-out compared to those taken with the competition. See below for a daytime photo I took with the Lumia 920.
Finally, battery life on the Lumia 920 was sufficient to get a day’s worth of normal usage even with LTE connectivity turned on.
Nokia Lumia 920 Conclusion
There is no doubt that the Lumia 920 is a gorgeous phone that has many improvements over its predecessor including better multitasking and customizability as well as super-fast LTE connectivity and a generally well performing camera. Unfortunately some of the major gripes that we had with the Lumia 800 continue to affect the Lumia 900 including the lack of a notification centre, and the imperfectly implemented multitasking system. However, the biggest question that needs to be answered remains the same: when will third party apps that are available on competing operating systems begin to appear on Windows Phone with the same quality and usefulness? Until this issue is adequately addressed, it will be difficult for Windows Phone to reach mass market appeal.