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Nokia Lumia 822 review: Strong features burdened by boring design

The Nokia Lumia 822 offers a very good value for Verizon, but scratchy call quality and thick construction dampen its appeal.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Jessica Dolcourt
7 min read

The Nokia Lumia 822 scores points where it counts, performing its LTE and Windows Phone 8 functions well. Its $99 contract price tag makes for a good value smartphone, but like its other Lumia cousins, the 822's thick, bland design drags the phone down. It's going to be a great smartphone for a certain demographic, but it certainly won't appeal to the masses.


Nokia Lumia 822

The Good

<b>Nokia's Lumia 822</b> delivers 4G LTE and a nice 8-megapixel camera, and adds 16GB of onboard storage with room for 64GB more.

The Bad

A heavy build and rough, scratchy call quality detract from the Lumia 822's overall appeal.

The Bottom Line

The Nokia Lumia 822 offers a very good value for Verizon, but if you're into stylish design and spotless call quality, this isn't the phone for you.

Although it shares many features with AT&T's Nokia Lumia 920, there are some hardware differences in the camera department, and the Lumia 822's smaller complement of onboard memory can get a boost with a microSD card slot where the 920 cannot. In the grand scheme, the lower price and software features like voice navigation give the 822 leverage against Verizon's HTC Windows Phone 8X, though its design is much less compelling.

Editors' note: Portions of this review come from the Nokia Lumia 810 review. The two models are related.

Nokia Lumia 822 is Verizon's Nokia gamble (pictures)

See all photos

Design and build
An attractive, ergonomic design is critical to the user experience, and Nokia knows it. That's one reason that makes the thick, heavy, and uninspired look and feel of the variants of its 820 series so strange. At least there is some improvement here. Where T-Mobile's Lumia 810 is a thick block, Verizon's 822 has curvier shoulders. It also comes in black, white, and gray colors.

At 5 ounces, 5 inches tall, 2.7 inches wide, and 0.4 inch thick, the Lumia 822 takes up a lot of space in your pocket, your purse, and your hand. It's pretty heavy, and not very streamlined or exciting. If you're of the mind that what's on the inside counts most, then by no means discount this phone -- just don't expect a lot of visual flair when it comes to accents and contouring.

Verizon's Nokia Lumia 822 has much rounder shoulders than T-Mobile's Lumia 810. Josh Miller/CNET

On the plus side, it has a nice 4.3-inch AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass 2 to protect it and Nokia's excellent ClearBlack filter to help cut down on glare. Support for 16 million colors helps keep colors rich and varied. The 800x480-pixel WVGA resolution, while softer than higher-res HD screens, still delivers images that look sharp enough to the naked eye.

Below the display you'll find the three typical capacity navigation buttons and above it is the 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. The left spine is bare, but on the right sit the volume rocker, power button, and physical camera trigger. The Micro-USB charging port is on the bottom of the phone, and the 8-megapixel camera lens and dual-LED flash are on the back. You'll have to peel off the back cover to access the microSD card slot, which can take up to 64GB in external storage.

OS and apps
Windows Phone 8 comes with NFC features like Tap + Send and a wallet, a Kid's Corner, resizable live tiles and new colors, camera "lenses," Office 2013, and cloud content-syncing to another Windows 8 device. The OS update brings so many new features, we had to give it its own Windows Phone 8 review.

In addition to NFC support, the Lumia 822 has Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth 3.0. Among them, Verizon and Nokia have added a fair amount of apps. On Verizon's side, you'll see NFL Mobile and Univision, a way to track your usage and pay your bill, plus a showcase for more handpicked apps.

Nokia Lumia 822
Thanks to Windows Phone 8, you can access third-party camera apps through the viewfinder. Josh Miller/CNET

Nokia adds Nokia Drive with voice navigation, Nokia Maps, and Nokia Music. This last app has a nice feature for downloading up to 250 songs for offline listening. I'm far less enamored of the CityLens augmented reality app. It's got a cool concept, but wasn't up-to-date in my tests, offering me establishments that have long since closed.

However, other apps, such as Nokia Transit, and Zynga games Draw Something and Words With Friends, help make up for the bloopers. Verizon's 822 also carries ESPN mobile, another Nokia specialty.

As with the Lumia 920, the 822 automatically turns screen sensitivity on high, which means you can use your nail or a gloved finger to navigate around. Although the review unit I have doesn't come with a wireless charging back, you'll be able to swap it out for a cover that is equipped. Ready my review of the Lumia 920 for my assessment of wireless charging.

Camera and video
Like the Lumia 810, the 822 has an 8-megapixel camera with branded Carl Zeiss optics, but all you really need to know is that it takes some nice shots. This is a different camera module than the Lumia 920's, which takes 8.7-megapixel photos and boasts image-stabilizing springs. Nokia isn't advertising the PureView image-rendering software for this or for the 810, either.

The bright pink flowers just look like blobs, and not all of the leaves appear sharp. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

I really liked a lot of the photos I took with the phone, though I noticed that, like all Windows Phones, it takes a few seconds longer to focus and get your shot; there's no continuous autofocus to speed things up, and shutter lag becomes a way of life. Interestingly, the 822's final rendered image isn't always quite as sharp as its real-world counterpart, which is something I noticed on the Lumia 920 as well. For instance, a photo I took of some crazy geometric broccoli looks great on the phone, but it looked even sharper in real life. I took several photos and watched the image soften on the screen.

The Lumia 822 captured the Romanesco broccoli's awesome fractal nature. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Another really minor complaint is that photos looked oversaturated on the 822. This is a common quirk among devices with AMOLED screens, but the extra-vivid greens and reds carry over to images viewed on the computer as well. Although punchier shades can look nicer, they go beyond reality.

I'd feel pretty good sharing this must-have tourist photo online. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The biggest issue (which I also had with the 920) is that there are fewer camera options than on other smartphones. You can't change the resolution, sharpness, or saturation levels, but you can preset ISO and white balance. Nor are there extra effects. The lens feature definitely brings in more capabilities through external apps -- like Nokia's Panorama app -- but if there's no effects lens you want, you're stuck.

Squirmy babies are hard to photograph. Despite some serious shutter lag, the Lumia 822 produced this precious pic. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The 822 takes some nice HD video, but colors outdoors will look more natural and better adjusted than indoor scenes. Keep in mind that the phone is capable of taking 1080p HD video, but defaults to 720p HD instead. You'll have to change the quality in the settings. The front-facing camera shoots 720p HD video.

The Lumia 822 over-expressed the leaf's red and green hues. In real life, colors were more muted. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

When it comes to storage, you'll find 16GB onboard, double the 810's capacity. There's also 7GB free online space with Microsoft SkyDrive, and that microSD expansion slot holds up to 64GB cards. The phone also has 1GB RAM.

By the way, you can compare studio shots in our photo comparison gallery.

Call quality
I tested the Lumia 822 in San Francisco using Verizon's voice network (CDMA 850/900/1800/1900). I expected good things, since Verizon's network is typically strong here in San Francisco, and since the Lumia phones have given me nothing but clear calls. Not so for the Lumia 822. I heard persistent interference, like small blips, throughout my test calls. Voices also sounded digitized from beginning to end. Volume, while fine, didn't seem as loud as on the Lumia 920 or Lumia 810. Gladly, no background noise added insult to injury.

On his end of the line, my test partner said I sounded a little muffled. I came across softer and less crisp than I did for the other Lumias (Lumii?). Although background noise was equally absent for my tester as it was for me, he still branded call quality less than ideal. We tested the phone twice to make sure we heard the phone's quality and not just a weak network moment.

Nokia Lumia 822 call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone calls came across tinny and rather fuzzy when I tested at waist level. There wasn't any in-hand buzzing, which is very good, though volume didn't seem terribly loud when I set it to maximum. The entire test call was middle-of-the-road; not awful, but also nothing to crow about.

To his ears, my test partner immediately noticed a drop in volume. He also added that my voice came across a little muffled and scratchy. I was also hard to hear, he said.

Speed Test
Results using the diagnostic app Free Speed Test throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The Lumia 822 runs on the same 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chipset that's also found in the Lumia 920 and the Samsung Galaxy S3. Navigation was mostly smooth and fast, though Windows Phone OS doesn't lend itself to a superfast bootup, and the camera takes its time focusing before taking a shot.

Nokia Lumia 822: Performance testing
Download Endomondo app (3MB) 30 seconds
CNET mobile site load 4.1 seconds
CNET desktop site load 14.3 seconds
Boot time to lock screen 26 seconds
Camera boot time 3 seconds
Camera, shot-to-shot time 3 seconds with flash; 2 seconds no flash, no focus
Load up app (mySpeedTest) 1.5 seconds

Data speeds on Verizon's typically fast network were strong throughout the Bay Area, though much more uneven than I've seen before. Usually speeds stay in the double digits, often peaking in the 20s and sometimes 30s. This time, I only saw download speeds in the low 20Mbps -- that's nice and fast for this area. What surprised me were the low numbers. I usually see many more results in the 15Mbps to 22Mbps range, with only a few dips into the single digits.

A 1,800mAh battery powers a rated battery life of 15.1 hours talk time and 20.3 days of standby time. We'll continue to test battery life in our CNET labs and will update with more details. The Lumia 822 has a digital SAR of 1.23 watts per kilogram.

Who should buy it
If you're sold on Windows Phone, a $99 price tag makes the Nokia Lumia 822 a good value on a carrier whose high-end devices usually settle at $200 or even $300. Buy it if you're scouting deals, want a simple design, and appreciate a smartphone that will sync with Microsoft's Office app and music content. Skip it if you're looking for a slim, light, or stylish handset above all else.

Compared with the HTC Windows Phone 8X, the Lumia 822 is thicker, heavier, and less attractive. It's also $100 cheaper up front and contains more software extras.

Compared with the Nokia Lumia 920, Verizon's 822 costs the same, is a little lighter, has a clunkier design, and has an expandable storage slot. Its camera isn't known for mastering low-light shots, and it doesn't have wireless charging right off the bat.


Nokia Lumia 822

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8