If you've ever watched a poker match, you'll be familiar with the phrase "all in" — and holding the Lumia 920 in our hands, it feels like this is the message from Nokia. All in, everything we have, the best of our best. But is it enough?
Nokia phones have always been easy for us to spot. The Finnish phone company, which was once king, has a knack for designing iconic handsets; phones that are easily recognised as Nokias from across a room. This is true for the Lumia 920, which looks a lot like the Lumia 900, which in turn looked like the Lumia 800 and the N9 before it.
- Screen: 4.5-inch
- Processor: dual-core 1.5GHz
- RAM: 1GB
- Platform: Windows Phone 8
- Storage: 32GB
- Connectivity: 4G, Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, Bluetooth, Qi wireless charging
The big difference here is that Nokia has opted for a glossy, smooth plastic finish for its polycarbonate chassis, rather than the rubber-like soft-touch finish we saw on the earlier models. For us, this is a minor misstep. The glossy finish looks great, but it feels really slippery, and although we haven't dropped our review unit, we wouldn't be surprised to hear many stories of dropped or smashed Lumias after launch.
It's also quite a heavy handset. At 185 grams, it is about 50 per cent heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5, and you can definitely feel this weight when you hold it. But then, this might just be the price you pay for the outstanding, sturdy build quality, which includes a sapphire coating on all of the external buttons and the frame around the camera lens.
The real showstopper is the phone's 4.5-inch IPS LCD screen, which uses a display technology that Nokia is calling PureMotion HD+. This screen is a gem, with great colours, great off-axis viewing angles and sharp, crisp text and images, thanks to its 330 pixels per inch (ppi) resolution. It also does a great job of showing deep, rich blacks, so much so that it is difficult to tell where the screen ends and the glossy plastic bezel around the screen begins.
The rest of the phone's design is pretty standard. There is a headphone socket on the top of the phone, a micro-USB port on the base and three buttons down the side, covering volume control, power standby and the camera. There is a slot on the top for a micro SIM, but no microSD card-reader ports.
Windows Phone 8
A great phone design will mean very little if the software below the surface is poorly put together. The Lumia 920 has the honour of being the unofficial Windows Phone 8 flagship, the phone that most people will associate with the relaunch of the Microsoft mobile OS.
In many ways, Windows Phone 8 is a lot like Windows Phone 7. There have been major changes below the surface, namely around the kernel architecture that Windows Phone 8 has been built on, but on the surface it looks and feels like previous versions of the OS. The home screen is still a vertical list of Live Tiles parallel to a similar vertical list of all installed applications. The core features, like the People Hub, the Store, Xbox Games, email and the calendar, are all basically the same.
In some ways, this is a good thing. Windows Phone is one of the easiest systems to learn how to use, so it is perfect for people who are unfamiliar with smartphones. There are a few new elements, too, like a new Xbox Music app to replace Zune Music and Videos, and a Wallet app to digitally collate all of the rewards cards in your real-world wallet. There is a Kids Zone feature now, too, which lets you create a restricted playground of apps and tools, so that your kids can play with your phone without there being a risk that they will send garbled emails to your work colleagues. There's also a new Rooms section in People Hub that lets you create a collaborative messaging area for a selection of contacts, and internet sharing over Wi-Fi is now a standard feature.
To access Kid's Corner, you swipe the lock screen from right to left. Inside, only the apps you pre-select are available.
(Screenshot by CBSi)
Perhaps the most important improvement for us is the quality of the web browser. Surfing the web on Windows Phone 7 devices was a tedious chore, where web pages would load slowly and render poorly, if they loaded at all. Now, the browser is based on the same backbone as the Internet Explorer 10 browser in Windows 8 for PCs, so it is far more reliable and much faster.
However, there's a number of frustrations that are still present in Windows Phone 8. For starters, you still can't change the volume for specific tasks, like turning down the volume on a video or games without affecting the ringtone volume for calls and notifications. Also, changing the status of wireless connections, like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, means that you have to dig around in the settings every time you want to make an adjustment. Luckily, there are apps to help with this second gripe. Perhaps the most annoying oversight is that large downloads can't continue as background tasks for some apps. In Nokia Maps, for example, you have the ability to download map packs for all of Australia in a single 250-megabyte file, but you will have to sit with this download and make sure the screen doesn't time out, or else the download will automatically pause.
Overall, the feeling we are left with after using Windows Phone 8 is that it is a reliable and impressively fast system. There are dozens of apps that we would love to see available, like Dropbox, Flipboard, Instagram and Spotify, but it seems unfair to judge a system too harshly for the decisions made by third parties.
If you've heard anything about the Lumia 920, it's probably about the new features that Nokia has built in to this impressive shooter — and about the company faking the use of these features in its advertising. Marketing meltdowns aside, this is one truly fantastic smartphone camera; among the best, if not the best, camera we've seen packed into a phone.
Central to this camera's success is a new optical image-stabilisation mechanic, which has the lens "floating" on tiny springs that move the lens ever so slightly to counteract the shaking in the photographer's hands. The results speak for themselves, with 90 per cent or more of the photos we've taken turning out in sharp focus. This is truly a huge step forward for mobile photography.