By Kinan Jarjous
The last time I have owned a Nokia phone was back in college, when at around 2003 or early 2004 I have jumped ship and swam across the treacherous ocean before boarding the Sony Ericsson ship with the T610. Fast forward a decade later, and I am now in repossession of a Nokia phone. And not only a Nokia phone -- but also a different OS altogether: Windows Phone 8.
The Windows Phone operating system was not new to me as I have used the HTC 8X for a couple of weeks for review. Since I have bought the Lumia and have had more experience with the phone, I will only touch lightly on the OS, but mostly in terms of the Nokia experience that is bundled with the phone.
I have to be honest here: the Lumia 920 didn't give me that "wow" factor that the HTC 8X gave; the HTC 8X is a remarkable and unique piece of engineering. That does not mean that the Lumia is, by any means, built badly; in fact, it is anything but.
The screen is phenomenal and represents colours beautifully. When placed next to an HTC 8X you will notice that the HTC has a cooler colour temperature than the Lumia. I personally prefer the Lumia, though as it is with colour temperature, the eyes do adjust quickly. The Lumia is more comfortable though to look at, even if the HTC 8X is sharper (smaller screen with slightly higher DPI).
The power button is thankfully on the side. Considering the phone dimensions and ergonomics, it makes sense to not place it at the top. You have the dedicated camera button and volume buttons, all of which feel very polished and nice.
The phone itself is heavy. I wouldn't go as far as labelling it "unusable" as some tech sites pointed out, but it is heavy, and heaviness that you will appreciate when the phone falls and does not even scratch. The 920 is possibly the most heavy-duty and sturdiest phone I have ever used. Period. I have had it for a few months now and it has been in pretty tough spots on trains, asphalt, and keys, and still no damage.
Once you get past the bulkiness of the phone, you will start to appreciate how good the device is. I would still wish for it to be lighter, though.
There has been a BIG hype on the camera quality of the Lumia 920, particularly night shots. I have to give them the advantage and say that the night time photos ROCK, no exception. The photos easily blow the competition -- ALL of it -- out of the water. There were photos that have been taken in near darkness and they came out beautifully. There is a learning curve in keeping your hands steady, so if you haven't held a DSLR before you need to accept the idea that sometimes you need to wait and not move after you tap/press the shutter.
That said, the daytime photos are a mixed bag, with some photos being just too damn good while others were just average. I didn't have the white balance flicker problem experienced in the HTC 8X, which is fantastic as it is one less thing to worry about. There is a clear issue with sharpness, though. Even after the firmware upgrade -- which improved the front and rear cameras -- there is a distinguishable softness to daytime photos. You can increase the clarity with the built-in Creative Studio app, but that it an unnecessary step but they are in no way as sharp as the Galaxy S3, for example.
Macro photos on the other hand are oddly sharp, but it is almost impossible to manually focus with a macro without trying at least a dozen times. This is a core issue with the Windows Phone camera in general, since tapping will attempt getting that area in focus AND shoot. The only way to focus without shooting is by half-pressing the shutter button and recomposing before taking the shot. But in macro, this is very imprecise.
What solved my macro problems (and gave me more control over the camera) is the ProShot app. I won't give a full review here but suffice to say it is a must-have companion, if only because have a manual focus option which helps greatly in macro shots.
When it comes to video, the camera pulls off a stellar performance at any hour of the day. It's almost too ridiculously good, and with the camera stabilisation you feel that the camera has been placed on a rig. You'll never look at camera videos the same way again. Ever. And you don't get the post-processing softness you would get in the photos.
The Nokia Bundle
If there is any reason why I would choose the Nokia over the HTC -- all other things being equal -- it would be the fantastic collection of Nokia applications (most of which have been rebranded as "HERE"). City Lens shows nearby attractions as well as directions, distance, and information. Drive+ is a navigation app that works well. HERE Maps is a must-have and is a fantastic replacement to Google Maps, and works great in the Middle East, and have used it in Sri Lanka as well. It comes complete with routes, traffic, and other things you are used to from Google Maps (sans Latitude). What is great about it is that you get street numbers in areas that Google Maps does not have. If you prefer Google Maps, you can still get gMaps from the Windows Phone store. HERE Transit shows you public transit routes, and works well in the UAE, too.
You also have Panorama, Nokia Music, and a bundle of other apps at your disposal.
Shocking, to say the least. On some days with heavy use, it hardly lasts five hours -- six if I am lucky. With light to moderate use you can add a couple of more hours, and if I were connected on WiFi at work then it can clock in 12 hours. Taking a video at 1080 for 40 minutes can drop your battery by 60%. Non-stop texting on WhatsApp over 3G, with a few photo exchanges (from camera) can kill your battery in 3 hours.
I have tried all different things with the phone and the best way to keep it going is to have chargers in the office, the car, and home, and to charge the phone fully if you know you're going out at night to a concert or something. You can push a a full day without charging with moderate use over WiFi, but on most days you'll find yourself plugging it in by 4 PM.
The Lumia 920 is a bulky, sturdy phone that will take a while to get used to. With a gorgeous, large screen and lots of horsepower, you can hardly go wrong with it. If the camera performance and stabilisation are not your concern, then you can go for the 820 model and still get the rest of the Nokia goodness. Just remember to have chargers with you.