First of all I have got to tell you that I’m a sucker for Nokia’s Fabula design. I loved the N9 when it first came out, and then the Lumia 800 (which I own). Needless to say that I was very excited when Nokia announced the Lumia 920 with the same design language. You may notice that I’m not mentioning the Lumia 900, because IMO it’s not the same thing. As opposed to the Lumia 800 and the Lumia 920, the 900 doesn’t feature curved glass on the display. I think the curved glass redefines the mobile experience on smartphones.
The phone has personality. It’s the first phone that breaks the 4.3 inch barrier for Nokia, something that was meant to come in the end, but that’s not the only barrier it breaks. The unibody design concept has both lots of fans and lots of critics. I guess that everyone is thinking about the future of their phone. And when you need to fork hundreds of bucks for a phone, it may be a factor for you to consider. However, there are lots of phones out there (iPhone comes to mind) that are popular despite the non user replaceable battery, I don’t think that should be a deciding purchase factor.
The 920’s weight is on the heavy side, around 180 grams. That’s a lot by today’s standards, but I swear that these numbers won’t mean anything to you once you put your hands on this beast. It is a beast, the wild kind. It can overwhelm you at first, until you learn to tame it.
Be careful!! Once you’ve used this display, every other touchscreen will seem slow and unresponsive, so unless you’re willing to take a peak into the future of touch devices, stay away.
The box contains the usual set of Nokia accessories. You can find a wall charging adapter, the usual data cable, the headsets, and the Lumia 920 itself. Under the phone you will see a SIM tray key, but you can also use a very thin toothpick or needle in order to open the SIM tray to remove or put in your micro-SIM card.
On top of the phone you can find the 3.5mm headphones jack, the SIM tray door and an ambient microphone used for noise cancellation during phone calls and stereo video recording. On the right side you will find the volume rockers, the power/lock key and the dedicated camera shutter.
On the bottom we have the micro-USB charging/data port and a dual grid hiding the mouth piece and the stereo speakers. Have to say that the volume on this baby is amazing. Compared to my old Lumia 800, this thing produces at least three times the sound loudness and crispness.
On the back we have the 8.7MP wide angle camera that can take 8MP photos in 4:3 and 7MP photos in 16:9, and can record full-HD video at 30fps. Next to the camera is the dual LED flash and the trademark camera strip.
On the front we will find the 4.5 inch display of 1280x768px resolution, the usual Windows Phone buttons (back, start and search), the front facing 1.3MP camera capable of recording 720p video. On top of the display we have the ear piece. Here’s an unboxing video:
Windows Phone 8 has added support for multiple cores and the Lumia 920’s dual core 1.5GHz Krait processor provides enough raw power to blaze trough any app without the tiniest bit lag. In comparison with WP7, apps load way faster and the network connectivity is also faster. Watch the video below for a comparison with the Lumia 800. Both phones are connected to the same Wifi network. In order to give the 800 a fighting chance, I’ve reverted the software to WP7.5, which is somewhat faster than the latest 7.8.
As you can see, the OS apps are almost as fast on WP7.5 as in WP8, which is no surprise really, but apps from the market are way faster in WP8.
Camera and Optical Image Stabilization
These days, every company claims to have the best camera on a smartphone. The problem is proving it. Nokia has been the leader in this segment for a long time from devices like the N82, N8, the 808 PureView and now the Lumia 920 PureView. Unlike the enormous camera sensor found on the 808, the Lumia 920 doesn’t count mega pixels, instead it uses the 8.7 it has the best way possible. The camera has an optical image stabilization system using a floating camera module on a spring system, connected to the phone’s gyroscopic and acceleration sensor. When the phone moves, the springs pull the camera module to compensate for the motion. That produces not only great movies, but amazing stills as well. Normally, when you take a picture, your hand moves a tiny bit resulting sometimes in burry photos. The Lumia 920 reduces the amount of the usual motion blur found in pictures. It does not completely remove it, that would be impossible in a mobile phone. All in all, OIS produces much better photos and combined with the camera aperture size, it shines in low lighting conditions where OIS keeps the camera steadier than you would normally do allowing clearer pictures to be taken. Here’s a video sample of OIS in action. I’ve shot this video from my car (a Daewoo Matiz) driving trough Craiova, Romania. The phone was fitted on one of the car seats and filmed trough the right side passenger window.
As you can see, the OIS handled pretty well considering I drove the car trough some really bumpy roads.
The F2.0 aperture allows more light to hit its backside illuminated sensor. That translate into better low light photos. This kind of aperture can be found on dedicated point and shoot cameras, so you can imagine it’s a pretty big deal for a smartphone. In the following images you can see how well the Lumia 920 handles photos in low light situations.
Furthermore, OIS can help you in situations you’ve never thought about. One of these situations is when you take a panoramic photo. Sometimes, an entire panorama shot is destroyed by one blurry shot from the mix. By using OIS, the Lumia 920 takes some truly amazing panorama shots. Here are some I’ve taken.
Nokia is all about firsts in the mobile industry and the Lumia 920 has a couple of those in store for you. Besides OIS, the 920 can be charged wirelessly with any charging device implementing the Qi standard. Why would you care? Because there are a lot of cool ways you can use a charging plate. Check out the video below to see one innovative way of using a wireless charging plate.
The same concept can be extended to your desk at home or at work and to many other occasions. Some modern restaurants use the Qi standard on each table, so if you’re lucky enough to visit one of those, once you put your phone on the table, it will start charging. Cool isn’t it?
Another first for the 920 was the display. It has two novelties incorporated for an amazing experience. First there is the frame rate. The frame rate is count of how many times a display can be refreshed in a second. Usually LCD displays can show up to 30 frames per second, but with Nokia’s PureMotion HD+ display that goes up to 60. This removes all LCD ghosting you encounter on other displays and allows the device to display it’s true rendering power. It’s all about response time. The LED displays usually have a response time ranging from 16ms to 23ms. Nokia managed to drop that response time to under 9ms. That means the frame rate goes up and the ghosting and smearing effects disappear.
And as if it wasn’t enough, Nokia made the display so sensitive that you can use it with gloves or nails, so ladies, this is the phone for you. No more cold hands, no more struggling with your fingernails.
Once you’ve plugged in your headsets you can start tweaking the way the 920 sounds to your liking. The Audio Enhancements section from the main Settings app will allow you to select one of the presets or create a custom one, just the way you want it. Audiophiles, this device will blow your mind.
At the first glance there aren’t many changes to the OS, compared to WP7.8, but upon close inspection things like lock screen notifications, kids corner and many, many others are subtle changes that make a world of difference.
To be honest, at first I thought “Is that all? This is the new Windows Phone?”. My transition from WP7 to 8 has been very smooth and I didn’t feel that things have changed a lot. But then I powered on my Lumia 800 and all of the sudden I started missing things. I noticed that the notifications on WP8 were much more precise than on WP7, arriving exactly in time. Second, I started missing the lock screen notifications, the lock screen backgrounds and seeing my Twitter mentions instead of WP7’s fixed calendar event. Then I realized my kid couldn’t play with my 800 anymore because there was no more kids corner. What started out feeling like small upgrade, ended up completely changing my perception of WP. Visually things haven’t changed too much, but, as they say, the devil is in the details. While it took me no time at all to get familiar with WP8, it’s going to take me what feels like an eternity to get used to WP7 again. Downgrading is never easy.
Here’s how the new Windows Phone 8 looks and feels:
The most visible change that has been ported over to WP7.8 is obviously the start screen. It now sports tiles up 3 sizes: small, normal and wide. I personally found the small tiles as the most useful, because I don’t have to scroll down too much anymore. The small tiles act like shortcuts without compromising on the number of notifications. The small tiles still show the same notifications(without text details) that the normal tiles show.
The new WP8 lock screen allows you to add notifications from 5 different apps, allow apps to change your background and show detailed information on the lock screen. You may ask “why is that so important?” Well, it’s important because you won’t actually need a weather app for example. If you let a weather app take over your lock screen, you’ll see your weather info and weather status image without ever needing to unlock your phone. Same thing can apply to your latest Twitter mentions or Facebook notifications. You can basically customize anything about your phone. WP8 became even more personal than WP7. The OS is more about the user than ever before.
Language support and keyboard
The language support has been extended in WP8 to many other languages including my native tongue, Romanian. I can now keep the keyboard prediction active, as it won’t be in my way like it is in the Lumia 800.
The keyboard prediction engine that comes with WP8 no only corrects your typos but also guesses the next word you’re about to type depending on your current context. This kind of prediction helps you type your messages an documents a lot faster. I have to say that the prediction has worked flawlessly so far for both English and Romanian.
WiFi always on
Another complaint that people had with WP7 has been solved in WP8, the WiFi disconnecting issues. On WP7, whenever you lock your phone the OS automatically disconnects your WiFi connection if it’s not used. Afterwards, the OS connects only using your mobile data connection, regardless of whether you’re in the range of a known WiFi network or not. WP8 has now the ability to keep the WiFi connection alive as long as you are in the range of a known network. That means your data plan will be spare when you’re at home and your phone is locked.
Internet Explorer was bumped to version 10 and now has two features that everyone has been asking about. First there is the search provider. You can now choose between Bing and Google for search results, a smart move from Microsoft considering that hundred of millions of people use the Google search.
The refresh/stop button can now be remapped to favorites or tabs. That will save you a few taps if you use those features more than you do the refresh button. I for one, never saw the need for a refresh/stop button in a web browser to be honest. Internet Explorer still lacks an intuitive way of bookmarking a website and people coming from other platforms will feel a little confused about the switch from “bookmarks” to “favorites”. I think that a more visual way to bookmark a website could have helped here.
The collaboration between Microsoft and Nokia resulted in the excellent HERE Maps(formerly Nokia Maps) being now available offline for all Windows Phone devices. Why does that matter? First because Nokia simply has the best maps on the market, and second because now you don’t have to wait forever when you need maps in any application. All apps that have been using Microsoft’s mapping services have been automatically switched to HERE Maps. One map download for all map aware applications.
Windows Phone 8 introduced a feature unique today, the Kids Corner. You will no feel a cold shiver down you spine when you see your 3-year old playing with your phone. Why? Because your kid will be able to play with a restricted set of apps that you define. It works pretty simple. You open the settings app and enable Kids corner. Then protect your phone with a password and add some apps to the kids corner. You can add any app in the list, games, videos, music, you name it. Your kid will just have to learn to swipe left from the lock screen and the world is his. Just remember to set your password timeout to a longer period to keep the phone from asking your kid for the password. Don’t worry, the phone will still ask for a password if your child tries to unlock anything outside Kids corner.
Many of you may not care about the fact that Windows Phone 8 shares a common core with Windows 8, but let me explain why this is very, very important. Whenever an application developer starts working on an app, he/she are basically using libraries found in the platform they develop for. Porting their apps for another platform with incompatible libraries is very, very hard. Maintaining that app on multiple platforms is even harder. The developer has to basically write every feature twice, unless you’re a big company and have enough man power to dedicate entire teams to each platform. Here’s where the common core matters. Once an app developer has written an app for Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8, it’s easier for them to port the app to the mobile or desktop/tablet OS because the two apps, even though they are separate entities, share most of the code. That means that the developer of your favorite Windows 8 desktop game will be able to port the game to Windows Phone 8 without much trouble. Of course things are not that simple, there are some guidelines to be followed and rules to be respected. The idea is that any developer with a Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 app, won’t have to start from scratch in order to make the app available on the other platforms. That means more apps and more games will be released faster than before, when they had to be coded for WP7.
A plus of value is added by the Nokia exclusive apps, like Cinemagraph and Panorama lenses. Speaking of lenses, they are another notable addition to WP8. They are accessible directly from the camera user interface.
Another interesting update in WP8 is the settings backup. All your phone’s settings can be backed up to your SkyDrive account making switching you device easier than before.
The desktop software associated with Windows Phone has also changed, and you no longer need Zune to copy your media files and documents from or to your phone. Mass storage is now available and working perfectly. Bluetooth file transfer is another novelty in this department.
The official Facebook app has been suffering since the beginning of the Windows Phone platform. Often left behind, missing features the other platforms had, slow to load, those are just some of the factors that have been plaguing the official app for two years. Now Microsoft has released Facebook Beta, the app that will soon become an official major release. The app falls in line with the rest of the platforms bringing basically the same UI configuration found in Android and iOS apps. This way, those of you who want to switch to Windows Phone, will no longer miss your beloved Facebook official app.
Twitter, just like Facebook, had more or less abandoned the WP official app, until recently that is. The latest update brings the new Twitter UI that you’ll find across all platforms and similar features. The official client may miss a feature or two, but it is one of the most complete ones you can find. It is the official client after all.
Window Phone has a lot of ways to share photos but sometimes you just need to do things quickly. You don’t want to plug your phone into your computer in order to show your friends your latest photos. This app works even better with smart TVs or browser enabled home entertainment centers. All you need to do is navigate to photobeamer.com on the device you want to bean your photos to, and open the app on your Lumia. PhotoBeamer can sometimes be a lifesaver. Imagine yourself at a presentation and your laptop breaks. If you have the photos of your slides on your phone, just open a browser window on any computer, point it to the PhotoBeamer website and scan the code with your PhotoBeamer app. Now flick the photos and show your slides.
The lack of an official Youtube client has been plaguing WP7 since it’s launch. The app provided by Microsoft has been a mere link to the official website. A couple of weeks ago that changed, but only for Windows Phone 8 owners. Now we have an official Youtube app developed by Microsoft. It’s still not as good as Metrotube, but it’s free and actually pretty decent.
I know that the weather conditions are important to everyone, and the choice of weather apps is large. You can find tons of these apps in the Store, and excellent ones too. But, you have to pay for them most of the times. Gismeteo is free and it is, in my opinion, the best free weather app out there. Combining an excellent UI with a good forecast and great accuracy, Gismeteo is my weather app of choice, and believe me, I’ve tried tons.
4th & mayor
Foursquare is probably your service of choice when it comes to checking in at various places you visit, and Foursquare has a dedicated WP app for that, but 4th & mayor has been designed with ease of use in mind. It’s user interface is much more intuitive than other apps and you won’t need to look much to find all the features you may want in such an app.
Baconit is as close to an official Reddit client as you can get, if not even better. The app is fast and very intuitive. It is the Reddit client you’ll want.
Cloud storage is not really a problem for Windows Phone users since it has a deep SkyDrive integration, but if you are looking for a different cloud storage service, Box.com is the place to go. Since DropBox never bothered to create an official WP app, the Box app is the only official app of a popular cloud storage service in the Store.
In case you get bored with the default camera app, you can use various lenses that do all kinds of things. Camera360 is such a lens, but it’s meant to enhance the default camera experience with on-screen controls for basically everything you want. It’s good for experimenting with various settings when you want to take a great shot. The UI is very well thought and the results are stunning. No more camera app menus to access when you want to chance the scene or tweak your settings. This is probably the app you’ll want to have if you’re switching from an Android phone and want something familiar before you get used to the Windows Phone OS.
Note taking isn’t really a problem in Windows Phone since the office integration includes the OneNote app, but Evernote is much more than that. With all the desktop browser plugins available you can easily create notes from the articles you read and then simply view them everywhere. The Evernote service is growing every day as well as the quality of the mobile app. Evernote was one of the first apps that fully embraced Windows Phone, and that shows.
Photo sharing in Windows Phone is easy as pie, but in some cases you may need more. SNUpload allows you to upload a photo on multiple social networks or accounts in one go. Facebook (profiles, pages and groups are covered), Twitter, Flickr, Dropbox and Evernote are on the table. Recently the app got powered by the well known photo editor Aviary allowing you to edit and add effects to your photos, without getting in the way of the usability of the app.
If music is your game, then Shazam is one service you can’t live without. The Bing music recognition integrated into Windows Phone 8 is great, but Shazam has a larger recognition base, especially for local artists. Just tap the circle in the middle and in a couple of seconds you’ll know who is performing that new song you just heard in the bus.
Voice over IP has always is a reality nowadays when the data plans have larger limits that they used to have. International calls via your WiFi network are now a common thing. There are other services that use VOIP such as Viber, but Skype really outclasses the competition. Why? Here’s one simple reason: you don’t need a SIM card in your phone or receive any activation SMS and all that rubbish in order to use the app.
Tumblr is the new kid on the block for Windows Phone, and seems to be gaining quite a momentum. The one thing that makes it brilliant is the simplicity of it all. You can post whatever you want in the easiest way possible. You got a article you want to share? No problem. Photo? You’re covered. It is in my opinion the most easy to use blogging platform around. Sure worth a try.
Besides winning the Microsoft Next App Star contest, the Wikipedia app is just the simplest way to get information found fast. Direct access to Wikipedia trough a very simple and easy to use interface makes this app a pleasure to use.
You may be asking yourself what is this Trellow about? Well, it’s all about productivity. Trello is an online service of list and task management. You’ve got boards, lists, cards and checklists. On each board you can have a number of lists, on each list you can have a number of cards and on each card you can have checklists. It’s an excellent productivity tool for a small company that needs to manage todo’s on their internal projects. Unfortunately, Trello does not have a Windows Phone 8 client(the do have a Windows 8 client), so Trellow is the app you’ll need to access Trello on Windows Phone.
After a couple of weeks with the 920 I find myself dreading the thought that I will have to send it back. I grew on me quickly and the void that it leaves behind will be a hard one to fill.
Bliss, the final frontier… These are the voyages of the smartphone Lumia 920. It’s mission, to seek out new adventures and new opportunities, to boldly go where no smartphone has gone before…