Nokia 920 Windows Phone 8 Review

Foster Braun, The Internet Advisor, July 2013

Finally

After an interminable wait, the ice suddenly broke when I was invited to the grand opening of the Microsoft store in Troy June 2013. There I met a helpful person who works for a West Coast PR firm contracted to promote Microsoft events.  Through them I got to the right person in less than a week and had a Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 arrive in another week.

Heavy Enough to Cause Damage
My fire engine red Lumia 920 came out of the box swinging like a heavy weight.  It is one of the heftiest mobile phones you will ever carry but…it feels strangely lighter than its older sister, the Lumia 900.  This is perhaps because of the tapering of the edges on the phone which gives it a markedly more comfortable grip on the device. Unfortunately the bright minds that designed the Lumia 920 felt that the external surface had to be as slippery as possible!  In the first hour of having the device out of the box it squirted out of my hands no less than a half dozen times.  If you are going to make this your next smartphone, invest in a rubber protector that wraps around the outside of the phone but adds little weight.  You will be glad you did.

The Ultimate Piece of Phone Hardware
Let me cut to the chase and not add any more hot air to the many fine reviews of the Lumia 920 that have already been written. (Paul Thurott of WinSuperSite.com has written an excellent review of the 920 that still holds water)   Let me simply say that having  used the Lumia 900 for six months and coming to hate it for all its short comings, I am utterly in love with the performance of the Lumia 920 after just 30 days and really regret having to return it…for the most part.  It is powerful, quick, presents a beautiful clear image and takes some of the best pictures I have ever seen. While there is no microSD slot for expansion, I would defy most users (who are aware of the value of cloud storage)  to fill this up unless they decided to put their entire music collection on it.  It has other unique Nokia touches like the ability to use it with gloves on, wireless charging and NFC.

I will simply go as far as saying that this is one of the best Windows Phone 8 devices on the market right now.  Nokia is also continuing to define this phone segment and  impact the larger mobile device field, both with cheaper “world class” phones for developing markets and the high end users (viz. Lumia 1020’s 41 megapixel camera).

Amazing Nokia Apps 
One of the joys of using a Nokia phone is having access to a unique library of highly effective apps that they have developed, e.g. Nokia Drive (who needs Garmin?), Nokia Music (who needs Pandora) etc., etc.  Compared with the half-baked, silly and often redundant bloatware that comes with any cellular carrier phone, these apps are the real deal and should be employed for all their depth of content and polish.

Speaking of Windows Phone 8
I just realized that I had not addressed the Lumia 920’s Windows Phone 8 OS…with good reason.  Other than some cosmetic changes, users are faced with either the lack of their favorite app (Coming soon!!!) or finding that it just doesn’t have the same fit and finish that it does on Android and/Apple devices.  I have to admit that I was less annoyed by this phenomenon this time around vs. the Lumia 900, which was underpowered to boot. I was much less annoyed by some of the quirks in the Windows Phone 8 apps and operating system than I was in the past…progress or just wearing us down?

It About the Ecosystem….Dummy
So why am I returning the Lumia 920? (other than the fact that MS would be happy to make me pay for the device if I didn’t) It all comes down to the ecosystem…how well the OS plays with other devices that use the same or similar system (e.g Windows 7, 8, Outlook.com, Office 365, Hotmail etc., etc.)  In my opinion, Apple has the most intuitive, WYSIWYG system around even though they are not selling the most smartphones any more.  The world of iOS is not perfect but it is a pleasure to move seamlessly from my Mac Book Pro 13″ (2011) laptop to an iPad 2, an iPhone 5 and then use my Apple TV to tie it all together.

I must confess that navigating the Microsoft ecosystem is terribly confusing.  I have yet to understand how Office 365, Office 2013, Outlook.com, Web Apps, OWA and Outlook (as in Office) all work together.  I had a horrible time trying to sync calendars between my current iOS devices and Microsoft.  Inevitably it came down to some complicated third party maneuver because both of the tech giants are busy making sure they are incompatible with the other’s ecosystem. Enter Google and the game gets really hairy because Chrome, again in my opinion, is still the gold standard in browsers for ease of use and results.  Nobody wants to play well with the other kids on the playground because it invites comparisons.

Conclusion
Nokia is building outstanding hardware across the price ranges for Windows Phone 8 with their own excellent software and image processing technology.  The issue is the maturity of the Win Phone 8 platform and whether you are willing to “take the plunge” and commit to the Microsoft world; they certainly hope so.  If you do make the jump, I think that you will find yourself continually grumbling about the apps that are and aren’t available to you in that world; after all that is what a smartphone is all about in the end.  Pictures and calls are great but you can get them on feature phones too; it’s all the other stuff that you want to do with your device more and more.

I do believe that Microsoft will sort this out in the long run and that Win Phone 8 will become a solid third player in the world marketplace.  This can already be seen in the increase of sales in Europe and throughout Asia with the introduction of lower cost Nokia models running the OS. So get on board the Win Phone 8 platform with the Nokia 920; you won’t be disappointed by much in the device itself but you will need to be patient with the OS.

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