Nokia Lumia 920 review: first look


Nokia Lumia 920 review: first look

With a massive press launch in New York, Steve Ballmer turning up to lend his support, and a hell of a lot of ground to make up in the smartphone market, you might have expected Nokia to pull out something spectacular for its first Windows Phone 8 device. In truth, it hasn’t. There’s nothing like the jaw-dropping inclusion of the 41mp camera in the Nokia 808 PureView inside the Lumia 920. What there is, however, is a collection of superb features — some unique — which has put Nokia right back amongst the smartphone leaders once more.

Let’s start with the “PureView” camera. The branding briefly raised hopes that this slim unit would include the massive number of megapixels found in the 808. Alas, the leaks proved accurate: it boasts a run-of-the-mill 8mp sensor. But there’s still some extraordinary engineering going on here.

The entire camera housing is surrounded by springs, creating what Nokia calls a “floating lens”. This means that photos taken while the camera is shaken are remarkably blur-free, and that video taken while walking around is beautifully smooth. The stabilisation, coupled with what Nokia claims is the largest aperture of any smartphone camera (f2.0) means that photos taken in low light are actually keepers. Alas, the Nokia crew wouldn’t let us share any of the snaps with you — but we took several snaps in the dingier parts of the press demo room, and they were definitely a cut above what you’d normally expect from a smartphone.

Nokia’s also included a few software tricks. The “Blink Lens” takes a burst of photos of the same scene, so if someone walks into the back of one your photos, you can simply tap on them and remove the interloper. We couldn’t try this for ourselves, but if it works as well as it did in the demos, it’s a decent feature for casual snappers. Nokia’s also “borrowed” an idea from the Cinemagram app, allowing users to animate parts of still photos with video.

Wireless charging

The PureView includes a feature that we thought had died a death: wireless charging. This is based on the Qi standard, which charges devices by magnetic induction. Nokia has partnered with third-party manufacturers to create a selection of charging accessories, including a little charging pillow and speaker sets that can charge your phone while you listen to music.


We’re not convinced that people are going to pay through the nose for wireless charging accessories — the fact that you have to physically plant the phone on another device to charge it offers few advantages to simply plugging it into the wall. But if — and it’s a king-sized “if” — the charging technology is widely adopted by peripheral makers, it could be a worthwhile feature.

Music and Maps

The revamped Nokia Music service has much greater value — paradoxically because it’s free. The Spotify-like service allows users to stream unlimited music to their phones, and even download up to four playlists containing 50 songs each for offline listening. The service has all the major labels covered, and considering that Spotify users have to pay £10 per month to access the service on smartphones, it’s a feature that has genuine value.


The same could be said for Nokia Maps. With downloadable maps and live traffic data, it’s a cut above the free satnav bundled with Android phones, and a damned sight cheaper than paying for TomTom on an iPhone, although satnav will soon be integrated into iOS 6 — at what price, we don’t know.

Handset physics

The handset itself is solid, if unspectacular. The design is similar to the previous flagship — the Lumia 800 — but with a couple of key differences. There’s a generous 32GB of storage built into the phone, but there’s no SD card slot to expand on that storage. The screen size has been bumped from 3.7in to 4.5in, and the resolution has jumped from 800 x 480 to 1,280 x 768, which naturally gives the display a much finer look and helps show off the impressive photography. And that screen is IPS LCD, not OLED.

One exceedingly clever touch is the ability to operate the screen while wearing gloves — as Nokia’s Kevin Shields demonstrated in extravagant style…


The device is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, and even with the screen bristling with constantly updated live tiles, there isn’t even the merest suggestion of stutter as you scroll through the Start screen. We’ll wait until we have a full production unit in our hands before making any definitive judgement on performance, though. Likewise battery life, although with a 2,000mAh battery sealed into the case, there should be none of the battery problems that afflicted the Lumia 800 before the firmware update.

Good enough?

The killer question is whether the Lumia 920 is good enough to tempt people away from the iPhone or Android, and make Nokia and Microsoft a genuine third alternative? As we said at the top, there’s no killer feature that’s going to have people queuing up at stores at midnight.  There is, however, an ensemble of decent features, that together with a rapidly maturing operating system, mean that Nokia and Microsoft can reasonably claim to have caught up with their smartphone rivals. Although that might all change with the iPhone announcement due next week…


Two other factors are going to determine whether the Lumia 920 succeeds or fails. Price, on which Nokia churlishly refuses to be drawn, and app support. When the best third-party app Nokia can show off is an adapted version of Angry Birds, you know the pickings are slim. When Stephen Elop has a beer with Steve Ballmer tonight, he should be discussing how much money they’re going to throw at app developers to get this OS moving.

That said, we’re eagerly anticipating the arrival of the review unit of Nokia’s new handset, when it finally launches nearer Christmas. And it’s been a while since we’ve said that about a Nokia phone.

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