Lumia 1520 is pretty nice for only a small crowd

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I’ve had the Lumia 1520 for two weeks now and wanted to summarise here my experiences with it. Before I get into it, I want to highlight that I have come at it from a Galaxy Note 3 user’s perspective. The Galaxy Note 3 is probably its main competitor and anyone looking to buy a large screened phone would potentially compare them. Naturally, I also made those direct comparisons.

Hardware

The main selling point of the Lumia 1520 is its screen size. If you want a large screen on your phone, this is certainly a phone to consider. The 6″ screen is incredible (and slightly better than the one on the Galaxy Note 3): beautiful colour reproduction, very readable in direct sunlight and very good viewing angles. The only issue I had with the screen is that when I watched some (darker) videos in low light conditions, the screen would be too dim/dark. I could have changed that via the settings by turning up brightness, but I had hoped for the phone to manage that for me.

Whereas the large screen is a real luxury, the body it comes in, is at the same time by far its main downside. This phone is really large! I found it quite difficult to manage with one hand for just about anything. Add to that the slippery materials of the phone and I can assure you that I never felt comfortable managing it in one hand while walking down the street.

You may feel that is a trade-off for the large screen, but I would have to disagree. The Galaxy Note 3 has a 5,7″ screen and comes in a body that is considerably smaller and with a back made of a material that is far less slippery. The Note 3 is a phone I can quite comfortably handle with one hand for 90% of the things I want to do.
Although the difference is size is not really big, the Note 3 is easier to handle.

Although the difference in size is not big, the Note 3 is certainly easier to handle. Milimeters make a difference.

All that being said, I understand that the size of phone you can handle comfortably is a very personal thing. I feel that Galaxy Note 3 size is my upper limit, but I realise that if you have smaller or larger hands, your mileage may vary. In any case, Nokia should have at least done a better job in the screen size to phone size ratio.

The Huawei Ascend W1 has a 4" screen and the Lumia 1520 a 6" screen. The Note 3 maximises the screen size vs its body size.

The Huawei Ascend W1 has a 4″ screen and the Lumia 1520 a 6″ screen. The Note 3 maximises the screen size (5,7″) vs its body size.

Besides screen quality and phone size, I can only say good things about the remaining hardware aspects. The camera performs as expected, the speaker quality is nice, and wireless radios work fine. It is the hardware quality that I have come to expect from Nokia.

Lastly, I really liked the headphones that shipped with the Lumia 1520 (Nokia WH-208). Not great sounding bass, but very comfortable. I even picked up a pair on Amazon for 12€.

Performance

Windows Phone 8 (update 3) runs fast and responsive on the Snapdragon 800 processor + 2Gb RAM inside. Absolutely no complaints running 3D games, HD videos or switching between apps. The truth is, though, that I also never had complaints on the Lumia 1020 or 920 (with slower processors and less RAM), which is a testament to the optimisations done to Windows Phone by Microsoft.

The large battery allowed me to enjoy all that performance and large screen goodness without having to doubt whether I would get through the day. If there is one additional advantage to every large screened phone, it is that they stick a lot of battery underneath that screen. With the Nokia Lumia 1520 that is no different.

Software

As I said before, Windows Phone 8 performs very nicely on this phone. However, I have WP 8.1 on my Huawei Ascend W1 and really feel that it is a nice upgrade that should arrive for the Lumia 1520 sooner rather than later. The big advantages of Windows Phone 8.1 are Noticification Centre, Action Centre, better SD Card support, swipe keyboard, a much better app store, and nicer extensibility of the Share menu, to name a few.

Even with Windows Phone 8.1, Windows Phone does not yet have the level of maturity as Android on the Galaxy Note 3. The Galaxy Note 3 is much more feature rich, including an excellent S-Pen, and makes more use of the larger screen (particularly with regards to multi-tasking). On the Lumia 8.1 it is mostly larger text, and sometimes a line or two of additional content. Not bad, but could be better.

The app ecosystem is unfortunately as I remembered it from 6 months ago. It is OK, but definitely not a selling point. I feel it is adequate for 70% of the population, but if you want to play with the latest or niche apps, Windows Phone is not the OS for you yet.

On the other hand, if you use a lot of Microsoft services and/or your company is an Microsoft environment company, there is quite a bit to like here. The phone performs admirably as a work phone, with great battery life, call quality, data speeds, ample storage, email and office document support.

Summary

If you can handle the size of the Lumia 1520, are not looking for niche/latest apps and want to use it quite a lot for work (Microsoft environment), I think the phone is a very good option. However, this is only a small part of the population, I realise. For the rest, it has to compete with the likes of the Galaxy Note 3 and I feel that it simply can’t. The Note 3 is better value mainly due to the size, OS, Galaxy Note enhancements and app ecosystem.

One more chapter in my Windows Phone journey, trialling a Lumia 1520

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When it comes to Windows Phone, so far I have tried a HTC 8X, Huawei Ascend W1, Nokia Lumia 800, 920 and 1020. With every iteration I have come closer to actually using Windows Phone (particularly the Lumia iteration) on a daily basis. However, it is hard to move away from Android after so many years with that flexible and powerful platform.

Today the fine people of Nokia Connects, will allow me to trial a Nokia Lumia 1520. This may be the phone that confirms that I can use it on a daily basis and let go, for some time, of Android.

Does it fit comfortably in a jeans pocket?

Does it fit comfortably in a jeans pocket?

Of all the phones I have tested I have found the screen sizes to be a little bit too small, perhaps – although I do go through phases. That particular issue certainly won’t be the problem for the 6″ monster of a Lumia 1520. If anything, it is going to be too big! I am currently using a Galaxy Note 3, so I am used to a large phone, but the Lumia 1520 is a whole step up in terms of size compared to my Note 3. Only day-to-day use will allow me to judge its size.

The other issue was always Windows Phone itself and perhaps to a larger extend the app ecosystem. I have installed the preview of Windows Phone 8.1 on my Huawei Ascend W1 and I quite like it. I should think that in terms of OS, Windows Phone 8.1 is good enough now.

The app ecosystem is getting more and more mature for Windows Phone and I hope that trying it now in Q2 2014 it should be better than 6 months ago. I realise progress is slow, but let’s see how I get on.

Those are really the only doubt I can have about this phone, because everything else is top-notch: screen quality, speaker quality, camera quality, performance, battery autonomy, … I shall be comparing extensively to my Galaxy Note 3, which is certainly its closest and fiercest competitor in the market place.

OnePlus One (p)review from Engadget

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OnePlus One review: A $300 phone that looks, feels, and acts like a premium device (Brad Molen/Engadget) http://www.engadget.com/products/oneplus/one/

The respectable people from Engadget have given a (p)review of the OnePlus One.

It seems that it lacks a little in terms of camera performance and audio output volume. It could of course hardly be better in every respect and cost only half of what competitors charge.

Still looking forward to trying it myself.

Moto X is a good exercise of listening to what people really want

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Product management is all about making the right compromises, particularly if you are interested in hitting the masses.

Motorola Moto X

Motorola Moto X

Yesterday, Motorola took the wraps of the Moto X. We already knew a lot about the phone and there was a ton of hype leading up to the event. What we got was a really good mid-range phone. And that is a good thing.

Motorola is close to non-existent at this point in time. Having been purchased recently by Google, this could and should change, but it all depends on the products (and marketing, of course). The Moto X is a phone made for the masses and if they manage to position the price point well and get it in the right sales channels, they should have a winner.

Why do I think it is such a good phone? Because I think they have done a good job listening to consumers, or at least to me it feels like this is what people want (based on observing people around me and research that I do and read about).

  • People enjoy a large screen on their smartphone, but it needs to be manageable in one hand for many of the use cases. Going above 4,7″ makes the latter difficult.
  • You can only offer 4,7″ with good handling if you minimise the overall foot print of the phone, which they have done really well ().
  • 1080p screens are nice, but not a necessity for a good user experience. I am glad they went with 720p, as that should help the price point and the battery life.
  • Talking about battery life, they managed to squeeze a 2.200 mAh battery in there, that should give up to 24 hours of regular use. That is more than average, if it actually manages that.
  • In order to get that much juice in the phone, it had to be a bit thicker. Phones don’t need to be 6mm thin, as long as it sits well in the hand. 1cm and a nicely curved back allow for that.
  • People clearly like taking pictures. Making sure that you have an above average camera is good. Nokia’s Lumia 1020 has a fantastic camera, but admittedly, people don’t generally look for that much quality.

What really sets this phone apart though are two features that I am not sure people are looking for and whether it factors into a buying decision.

  • Customisability. The look and feel of the phone (and some accessories) can be customised. The truth is that it allows for a really nice and personalised phone. In focus groups we do often get people asking for that sort of thing, but for me the jury is out on whether it really is something people will be persuaded by in the moment of truth.
  • Touchless controls. You can ask the phone things with your voice via the Google Now app. Google Now is great, but I have two doubts around this. On the one hand, how often can you really talk to your phone and not look silly? I think that is only possible if you are alone, which in my case is less than 5% of my day. Also, I wonder how much the average person actually uses Google Now. Although I like the idea of Google Now, I really do believe that it will take time before people actually incorporate it in their life / work flow.

Having said that, they are two things that you can talk about in your communications/ads and that is important – just look at all the gimmicks that Samsung stuffs in their Galaxy S4 phone. People don’t even use half, but it shows off the phone nicely in shops and in ads. That is very important!

This brings me to my last point. They need to get this in front of people, which means operator deals, and it needs to be available soon at a competitive price. Particularly the latter is important, in light of a possible iPhone 5C coming out this autumn. At the same price, I can’t see many people choosing a Motorola phone over a an iPhone (assuming that Apple does a good job with the phone).

Nokia Lumia’s 1020 exclusivity

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I have read over the past few days lots of comments around the fact that Nokia seems to be going with exclusivity agreements again, much like it did with the Lumia 920 about half a year ago. The main objections are centred around two issues:

  1. Nokia would sell many more if it would sell the device on all operators.
  2. It is not fair to consumers, as some simply can’t get the Nokia Lumia 1020.

With regards to the first issue, analysts and journalist normally point out the iPhone and Galaxy S3/4 as prime examples, as Samsung and Apple wouldn’t be able to sell that amount of units if it were exclusively on one carrier. I think that they may be missing an important point: Nokia is the underdog right now.

When the iPhone first launched it was on one carrier in most of the countries. When the first Galaxy S launched, in the US it had a different version for each operator. Why did that happen? Simply, because the manufacturer needed to have some leverage with the operator in order to get it to stock the phone and market it. Naturally, over time the power in the relationship has changed: every operator wants and needs to stock the new Galaxy S and the new iPhone.

This is clearly not yet the case with Nokia and this particular handset, the Nokia Lumia 1020. The bottom line of an operator is not really affected by stocking the device or not. Consumers are not asking for it. This means for Nokia that it is not easy to stand out in the shop next to the Galaxy S4, HTC One or iPhone which will be pushed by the operators.

In order to get some necessary spotlight attention, Nokia has to turn to exclusivity agreements. I am 100% sure that Nokia will start being on every operator as soon as their devices are lusted after again by consumers, but for now, Nokia is realistic and is adjusting its strategy. You can be sure that they have done their numbers and despite perhaps selling fewer devices, this strategy gives them a better return.

As for the second issue, Nokia is a for-profit company. The Lumia 1020 is unique, but not something someone can’t live without. Although I would like to be able to buy it SIM-free and it bothers me that I may not be able to for the first couple of months (at a reasonable price, that is), that’s life. Change operator or get something else.

I, for one, just hope Nokia does well with its new devices. If it does, I am sure that the exclusivity agreements will be a part of the past in less than two years.

First impressions of the Nokia Lumia 1020

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I am a cameraphone nut. I have to admit that. I really like taking pictures with my phone of the people around me, and seeing a phone as capable as the Lumia 1020 at taking pictures is a thrill. However, it runs Windows Phone and I am more of an Android person. And that price (although, I believe we only the subsidised price)?! Read along to see my first (non-hands on) impressions.

Hardware

Nokia Lumia with Pro Camera

Nokia Lumia with Pro Camera

The hardware of this phone is in my eyes absolutely amazing. The design is great, I think, and the colours and materials as well. It’s like a refined Lumia 920. The Lumia 920 was bulky and heavy, but the Lumia 1020 has just the right dimensions, in my opinion. I have a Nexus 4 as my daily driver and the Lumia 1020 basically matches its size (though it is a little heavier). The screen is large enough to show a lot of information, but not too large for one handed use (particularly as you don’t have to touch the top of the screen much in WP). Just like the Nexus 4 it has a slightly wider screen and that is very convenient for typing, particularly.

As I said, the screen has the right size for me, and the technology Nokia uses appears to be a guarantee for a nice user experience. I am sure some people will mention the fact that it does not have a 1080p screen, but I frankly couldn’t really care. I prefer quality pixels over quantity pixels (knowing that the pixel density is way over 300 anyway).

I don’t feel like I have to say too much about the camera. It packs so much technology! It will be a guarantee of potentially great pictures. I say potentially, as I am sure that Nokia will need to tweak the software the first few months – just like what happened with the Lumia 920. I don’t consider that too much of a problem, because it is clear Nokia is very committed and they will get it right.

As you can see, the hardware has me very excited and if it were for just hardware, this would be my next phone. However, more and more smartphones are not just hardware.

Operating system and ecosystem

I tried a HTC 8X for several months. There were things I liked about WP8, and there were things I didn’t particularly like. Overall though, I came to the conclusion that Android is a better OS for me. You can read my reasons in this post. The Lumia 1020 comes with WP8.1 (or WP8 GDR2) and there are some interesting improvements. Will it be good enough? It may just be good enough for me, but it will be a compromise on my behalf for the sake of having the Lumia 1020’s hardware.

The other thing that lets down Windows Phone is the lack of maturity of the app ecosystem. I think that for most things I could find a work-around, but you don’t want to have to do that. It felt like being behind the curve the whole time. One particular app I enjoy, Flipboard, is apparantly coming and that is an especially nice addition, because it is so unique. Also over the last few months I have seen more active development of apps. I guess that the fact that Windows Phone is really becoming the third ecosystem does make a difference.

Lastly, and with reference to the ecosystem, Nokia is the place to be if you want Windows Phone. They have a great selection of Nokia software add-ons (e.g. they try to solve the Other-storage issue) and also have interesting exclusives on third-party apps. I certainly felt I was missing out when I was on the 8X and would feel more comfortable going for a Lumia phone.

Price and positioning

The last little issue that may just ruin it all, for now, is price and placement. Although I don’t think we know the unlocked price, the subsidised price of the Lumia 1020 on AT&T shows that it will be very much premium priced. I understand it is a premium phone, but it would be a little ridiculous to charge more than an iPhone or a HTC One / Samsung Galaxy S4 at launch. They are the competitors for this phone and you have to stay in that price point, I feel.

Besides that, there is an issue with availability. The Lumia 920 was quite difficult to get unlocked, and I hope that won’t happen to the 1020. I would like to purchase it outright and enjoy all the OS updates as they come out. This is particularly important for me, as I don’t think the camera software will be completely ready (they may prove me wrong, of course) and in the past the camera algorithm improvements were packed in OS updates. I don’t want to be stuck on an old firmware because of an operator.

If looking at the Lumia 920 tells us something about the future, then neither of these issues will be long-term. The Nokia Lumia 920 is readily available now unlocked and for 380 euros, which is really a steal.

Wrap up

So yes, I am excited about the Lumia 1020. I can’t wait to see it in action. Will I get one? Well, I would like to get one, but it will depend on what is out there when it is released and at what price it is available.