A little less than a year ago I trialled a Nokia Lumia 800. I liked many things about it, as I say in my review, but my conclusion was that Windows Phone (WP) and its ecosystem were not mature enough yet. Instead of wanting a Lumia 900 (with some upgraded hardware specs), I wanted to see the real next generation of Windows Phone. That time has come.
Nokia’s current flagship is the Nokia Lumia 920. It was presented towards the end of 2012. Many reviews have been very positive and the hardware’s downsides – size and weight mainly – appear to be manageable.
Since the announcement, I have often thought of making the switch. However, the SIM lock free price of a Lumia 920 is rather high. This high price in combination with the fact that I am happy with Android and have a Galaxy S3, just makes me uncertain of that switch.
You may wonder why I even consider making a switch at all, when I am happy with my Galaxy S3 – which is voted by many as the best Android phone of 2012. In reality, this goes back some time. My last 4 phones were Samsung phones, but before that, I was all over Nokia. I have always been a fan of Nokia’s hardware, but the Nokia N8, running Symbian^3, was the last one. I left Nokia for a Galaxy S which had much better software (in my opinion). However, while Android does all I want it to do, I still consider making a switch to Nokia in order to get back to the things I really like of Nokia.
Below I have listed some of the things that Nokia does well and I look forward to in the Nokia Lumia 920:
- Great build quality, design and materials. I have owned many Nokia phones and I still have (though not use) three of them. In my book, both the E71 and N8 are examples of what Nokia can do. Every component, every material is taken care of with lots of detail. I still like holding the N8, because of its beautiful metal unibody design. Most notably, the Nokia E71 and Nokia N8 have both gorgeous industrial design as well as being able to take a bit of usage. When I look at the Lumia 920, I again see one of the best all around designs and I can’t help but think that it is a good “investment” (check out the hardware review from AAWP).
- High quality ample screen. The Lumia 920 has the largest screen developed by Nokia on a smartphone, accompanied by a really nice resolution. They have included all sorts of technologies to make it workable and viewable in different situations. For me outside visibility, in Spain’s sunny climate, is very important and I would love to see how good it really is.
- Nice camera with good low light photography. I purchased the N8 a couple of years ago because of its camera and until today I have not had a phone that can match it. The Lumia 920 appears to have enough tricks up its sleave to make it a very compelling camera phone. I particularly look forward to seeing how well it does in low light conditions. Often enough I like to take a picture indoors with only ambient lighting and it is very difficult. I have high expectations from what the Lumia 920 can do, but would like to see it in practice.
- Good connectivity: WiFi, bluetooth, NFC and LTE. This seems so obvious, but it is not. None of my Samsung phones obtain a good wifi recepcion at the far end of my house where the Nokia phones seem to do just fine. Similarly, with bluetooth, Nokia has always offered me clear and stable connections to listen to audio. NFC and LTE are a bonus. I have a wireless NFC speaker from Nokia, which would go well with the Lumia 920 NFC. Lastly, my operator is working on LTE for the near future, so to have it in the phone is a matter of future profing that aspect of the phone.
- Nokia’s long term support. When Nokia announced it would dump Symbian for Windows Phone, I had just purchased my Nokia N8. I was quite disillusioned at the prospect of a phone without future support. I figured Nokia would forget about the N8 in a heart beat. Although progress was not rapid, Nokia has really developed the firmware as far as it could and I have to applaud them for doing that. Similarly, when they announced that Nokia Maps would be free, they made a special effort to get it on the Nokia E71. These two stories make me feel relatively comfortable about Nokia’s long term support of the Lumia 920.
- Nokia’s own apps for WP. Of all the Windows Phone manufacturers, Nokia is the only one that has bet its smartphone future on Microsofts operating system. Unlike Android, Nokia can’t really customise the look and feel in order to differentiate itself from HTC and Samsung’s WP offering. That being said, Nokia has taken it upon itself to develop a whole lot of useful proprietary software. The ones that stand out are Nokia Music, Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive, but there are many more.
- Certain WP features: Although not related specifically to Nokia or the Lumia 920, I also have to say that there are some very compelling reasons to have a Windows Phone: the People Hub, the home screen, and nice UI particularly stand out. Things like Kid’s corner, the new lock screen, Rooms, integrated Skype, and lenses are also attractive features of WP8 that I’d like to give a try.
After this already pretty long list, you could wonder why I don’t simply make the switch. It is bound to make me a happy camper, right? Well, yes, I am sure I would be happy to use the phone. However, I am also happy with my Galaxy S3. I really feel that it needs to tick all the boxes (the important ones, anyway) and I am not sure it does.
In fact, there are some issues that I really want to check out for myself to see how I get along with it, now that we are on Windows Phone 8. Particularly before spending 600 euros on the phone.
- How multi tasking works. In my review of the Lumia 800 I already complained about how multi tasking worked on WP7. On the Lumia 920 this should work better due to the improvements I list below, but my question is: is it good enough for me, being used to Android OS?
- The phone has a faster processor, which should make everything work quicker. This also counts for relaunching apps.
- The multi-tasking view now shows 2 more cards, so it should be more relevant.
- On WP8 there is a better quick resume that will work from the multi tasking view as well the start screen.
- Notifications system. There is no central notifications hub and this causes you to miss notifications if you have your phone out of view and you don’t have a live tile for the app. This is far from ideal, but I hear that Microsoft is addressing this with an update planned for some time this year. Now that WP8 allows for 3 different sizes of the live tiles, perhaps, for now, I can squeeze in all the relevant ones and not miss anything that way.
- App ecosystem. According to the Google Play Store, I currently have 84 apps installed on my Galaxy S3. Naturally, I don’t use all of them everyday, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable going without them either. Of these 84 apps, only 6 (Bankia, Buffer, Glympse, Pirate Bay, uTorrent, and trello) don’t have anything in the Windows Phone marketplace. That in itself is a good result, however, there is more to it than raw numbers. Some of the services don’t have an official app and I would have to use one from an independent developer (for instance, pocket.com). In other situations, the maturity of the app on WP is not comparable to the iOS and Android counter part (for instance, evernote or whatsapp). Only a trial will tell me how real the problem is, if it is a problem at all.
- Keyboards. In Android you can set third party apps as defaults. A clear example of this is that you can set Firefox or Chrome as the default browser. I personally write frequently in three different languages and I really like how I can set SwiftKey as my default keyboard which consequently allows me to write in three languages without have to switch. Very convenient. I realise Android is quite unique in this. On iOS I find switching languages to be relatively easy, but would like to spend more time to see how it works on Windows Phone.
- Sharing. Part of the reason I love Android is because of its centralised sharing system. I use many web services – buffer, pocket, pinboard, evernote, twitter, dropbox, … – and Android allows me to share between them. For instance, I read an article on my Google Reader app, I share it to Pocket to read it later, when I read it in Pocket, I realise I want to keep the story and can share it to pinboard or evernote. This is just one example, but there are many use cases and it is very powerful. When I use iOS, this is what I miss most. I know Windows Phone 8 should have something like app “contracts” which should allow similar actions as on Android, but I never really saw it working like on Android. I am curious to see how it works now on Windows Phone 8.
To all of these issues, I have to add that the Windows Phone platform has not reached critical mass yet, despite all its positive characteristics. For anyone committing up to two years to it, this should be a consideration. The device has to really impress, and in my case, handling it in a shop is just not enough.
With a bit of luck, the people from Nokia Connect will let me trial one for two weeks, so that I can make up my mind and I can tell you all about it.