A new flagship phone for Verizon: The Nokia Lumia Icon

A new flagship phone for Verizon: The Nokia Lumia Icon

Summary: Will the Nokia Lumia Icon offer current Verizon Windows Phone users, as well as non-Windows Phone ones, enough to entice them to switch? This HTC 8X user says... maybe.

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I really wanted to love Nokia's Lumia Icon phone.

nokialumiaiconblack

Right now, after two-plus days of continual use, I can say I like it.

We Windows Phone users on Verizon have had very limited phone choices, as Nokia's flagship models have tended to debut first on AT&T and secondly on T-Mobile. I currently sport an HTC 8X phone and continue to find it to be a solid performer.

I bought it a year and a half ago because I found it to be far more to my liking, size-wise, than the Lumia 920. I'd been hoping the Lumia Icon might be my first Nokia phone.

Here's what I like about Nokia's newest Lumia (codenamed the Lumia 929), which will be available on Verizon only starting this week, February 20, for $199.99 on contract: I like the five-inch 1080p screen, the ability to adjust brightness and color saturation, and the three columns of tiles it allows me to display. I like how much easier it is to read my email, Kindle books and web sites. I like how much faster sites and apps load. And I like that there's no camera bump and no slippery plastic back, making the Icon feel really nice to hold.

The Lumia Icon, which comes in black or white only, ships with the Windows Phone 8 OS (with Update 3) and the Nokia Lumia Black update preinstalled.

It comes with all the standard Nokia-developed apps (Cinemagraph, Beamer, Creative Studio, Mix Radio) that aren't currently available for non-Nokia Windows Phones. I've been getting about 1.5 days of battery life on a single charge (with normal use, not constant video playback). Sound quality with headphones is fine. I haven't tried the souped-up audio recording capabilities that Nokia is playing up with this model, as I seldom use my phone to record video.

It also supports Qi wireless charging (another feature I personally don't find that compelling). 

Here's what I'm not crazy about: The Icon feels heavy. It's not the unwieldy brick that I found the Lumia 920 to be (at 6.5 ounces). But I was really hoping it was going to be more like the 4.5-inch Lumia 925 (which isn't on Verizon; it's on AT&T and T-Mobile) at 4.9 ounces. Instead, the Icon weighs in at 5.9 fairly well-distributed ounces.

Before you tell me to "woman up" and lift some weights, I realize all smartphones have trade-offs. I like the solidity and build quality of the Icon, with its metal edges (that are said to function as the antennas). I'd rather have that than a plastic, cheap feel. I just wish this phone were a bit lighter and ran a little less hot (which it does even with almost all my background app-processing shut off)...

iconblackandwhite

I'm also not happy that Nokia didn't (or couldn't) include Glance on the Icon. I've asked for an official statement as to why and haven't heard back so far. But WPCentral said the lack of Glance (the feature that provides time and other notifications on the screen when in standby) has to do with "certain hardware restrictions" and that it still may come to the Icon at some point in the future.

Update: Here's what Nokia officials are saying re: the lack of Glance support on Lumia Icon. The statement via a spokesperson:

"Due to certain hardware restrictions, Lumia Icon doesn’t support Glance screen – however, there are many other unique benefits that this device screen provides from support for HD 1080p, virtually glare-free outdoor readability and nearly 180 degree viewing. Certain features in the Lumia Black software are dependent on device hardware and software functionality."

The spokesperson had nothing to say as to when/if the Icon might get Glance support in the future but did add "we're not ruling it out."

The 20 megapixel camera on the Icon is great. But -- and I know this will sound like heresy to many Nokia fans -- I just do not like the Nokia Camera app for close-up low-light shots. I prefer the plain-old Windows Phone camera functionality, which allows me to adjust the flash setting for those kinds of close ups. (Low-light distance shots seem comparable with both camera choices, from my very limited testing.)

Update: I'm wrong. You can manually choose the flash settings in the Nokia Camera app. It's just harder to see that option given the tiny type with the myriad different settings. It's there. (Thanks to @thefakedes for pointing this out to me.) There is still a processing lag with the Nokia Camera app that I don't notice with the regular Windows Phone camera, though.

I am leaning toward making the Icon my new phone of choice, but am still, as of this blog post, not 100 percent sure as to whether I'll pull the trigger. If the Lumia 925 were available on Verizon, I think I might choose that over the Icon -- even with the 925's lower-resolution, smaller screen and 8 MP camera -- because it's noticeably thinner and lighter. But now that Microsoft is buying Nokia's handset business, it feels to me like being on the Nokia platform is a safer bet, in terms of getting new features and updates, than being on a Windows Phone not made by Microsoft/Nokia.

The Icon is definitely a phone worthy of being touted as one of Nokia's flagship models. I'm going to be very curious to see how the Icon fares with users who aren't currently Windows Phone customers and how Verizon markets/promotes this phone.

In New York City, many Verizon stores I walk past have Android phones, especially the Galaxy handsets, prominently displayed in their windows.

Any questions about this phone? I've still got my loaner device for a few more days.

Topics: Windows Phone, Microsoft, Verizon

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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Talkback

32 comments
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  • No MicroSD means a pass... for now...

    I'm on AT&T and have been desperate to get back to Verizon due to the poor coverage where I work by AT&T and good coverage by Verizon. If the Icon came out a few months ago, I'd have switched to join my wife and daughter on their Verizon Family account, but After AT&T announced their new Family plan where we could pay just $145 for 10GB and unlimited texts where we currently pay $210 on VZW and $95 for my separate AT&T account, I'm thinking of having them switch to AT&T. I'm just waiting a week to see what gets announced at MWC. If AT&T showcases a new 4.5" - 5" phone, I'll stick with what we have and will move my family to AT&T. Sorry Verizon.
    Drewidian
    • One more thing...

      Yeah... the fact that AT&T top end devices have MicroSD card slots and the recently leaked information about MicroSD support in 8.1 devices, is another reason to switch my family to AT&T since VZW seems to want users to consume as much network bandwidth as possible by not supporting them with their high end devices.
      Drewidian
      • 1520 only?

        I believe the only high-end phone that does have micro-SD is the 1520. It's a nice phone, but 6" is a little big. The 5" Icon looks like the perfect size. I agree on the micro-SD, I wish the Icon had it. I have the 928, love it. But it would be better with a micro-SD. The lack of Glance is a big deal to me. Hopefully they can figure it out by the Windows Phone 8.1 update.
        toph36
        • Waiting for MWC...

          Yeah I agree the 1520 is far too large of a device for both wife and myself. She's still using her trophy which has been off contract for the better part of a year. We're waiting to see what devices are revealed next week. Its unlikely that another Verizon device will be unveiled, but if AT&T gets a high end 4.5 5.2" 1080P device with a 20MP camera, MicroSDHC slot with preferably 32GB built in storage, and S800 or better CPU, I'll have them switch when it is available. We'll save roughly $150/month by consolidating and the cheaper plan. I'll deal with the AT&T coverage issues for that.
          Drewidian
  • A new flagship phone for Verizon: The Nokia Lumia Icon

    The phone sounds like its exactly what I am looking for. Unfortunately I'm still under contract so I can't upgrade for a while and I do not want to pay full price. Chances are good that this will be my next phone unless they release something between now and when I'm eligible to upgrade. I disabled glance on my phone so that is not a deal breaker. How is battery life and how warm does the phone get?
    Loverock.Davidson
    • Awesome phone. Love using it.

      As far as battery life is concerned its just as good if not better than the 928 I had previously. The phone does not seem to get hot even though I play many videos I have not noticed any problems with heat. That's probably thanks to the Snapdragon 800 specs which make the processor run cooler. I love me some Lumia Icon... :)
      AngelRJr
  • Sorry, Verizon's flagship phone is not a Windows phone of any variety

    The front page of Verizon Wireless shows an iPhone and a Droid Ultra. There is no mention of any Windows Phone.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • Flagship phone

      Fencesitter,

      A flagship phone is a phone that shows off to the best extent possible the features of a given platform. Ergo, each OS has its flagship(s).
      mtw_in_pa
      • Agreed. What good is a "flagship" phone

        if the other retailer has the exact same thing?

        So each OS has it's flagship phone, which is why there's "exclusive devices" on each carrier.
        William.Farrel
        • Great is Great

          No matter how you slice it, flagship or not, the Lumia Icon phone has widespread excellent reviews, great hardware, and cool features. The sound pointing amplification feature is very cool. The Qi wireless is excellent. Nothing to complain about.
          Sean Foley
  • You might find you like wireless charging if you try it

    It's nice just putting the phone down at night and picking it up in the morning. And, it works *very* well when combined with the Nokia "Glance" feature - it becomes your bedside clock.

    My wife has the upright Qi charger for her phone - that and Glance make a great combination.

    I'm curious why a hardware issue would prevent Glance from working on this phone. It started working fine on my 18 month old Lumia 920 when the Amber update was released.

    Glance is great!
    Flydog57
    • yes!

      Wireless charging is under-rated. I have it on my 920 and find it very natural. I carried a 1020 for a week and missed just placing the phone down at night.
      frankwick
      • Agreed wireless charging is a must have

        I'm considering switching to Verizon for the Icon. I refuse to ever buy a phone without wireless charging. My mom is on Tmobile and I got her the Verizon HTC 8X simply because it has wireless charging exclusive. It is such an enormous convenience having wireless chargers all over my house including on the JBL speaker in my bathroom.

        When I heard that AT&T Lumia 1520 didn't have wireless charging I cancelled my order. If they continue to block wireless charging at AT&T I will switch carriers.

        Mary Jo's comment suggests to me she has very little long term experience with wireless charging. It's not the kind of thing you get from just a demo.
        cool8man
        • i wont buy a phone without Qi

          she is nutz on this one.
          everss02
    • Missing glance is a head scratcher

      I'm struggling to think of why Glance was left out too. The comments from Nokia make it sound like something was left out, hardware wise, but I can't imagine what that'd be. Only thing I can think of is if they have to rewrite the program to handle PPI scaling properly. The Icon's display is unique for Nokia in that it's an AMOLED at 440ppi.

      I'm ok without glance though. I like that black shows notifications, but I can live without it.
      JoelS79
      • My thoughts exactly

        Missing Glance is strange, love it and use it on my L822. The Icon wil be my next phone as my contract is up in May, since they diddled around so long I don't have to even thing about purchasing it outright.
        hoppmang
      • So it's probably the display, a theory

        This is just a theory, but it's possible that the Icon's panel can't turn on while the phone is in a sleep state. I'm beginning to suspect there's a restriction, either in power draw of background tasks, or CPU draw, that means Nokia can't turn on the display. (Glance runs while the phone is sleeping)

        It's also possible the display has some weird CPU state requirement before it turns on, and Nokia is hoping for a driver upgrade to lift it, but that would be kinda weird. I'm also not sure if Nokia is relying on the ability to power the display and digitizer separately and this panel doesn't allow that, but I was under the impression that the digitizers in cell phones are always "on".

        Anyway, this is all just a wild theory, because I can't think of any other possible reason for Glance to not work and them to "not rule it out." This is a fixable issue.
        JoelS79
  • Won't leave AT&T for the Icon...

    The Icon seems nice enough, and if I were a Verizon customers, I'd probably upgrade. Still, it's boxy, colorless looks are not enough to lure me away from the prettier phones (in my opinion) on AT&T & T-Mobile.

    Still, it's good to see a high-end phone on Verizon... but they really need some Windows Phones at other price points as well. For some reason, Verizon just doesn't seem that interested with Windows Phone.
    cybersaurusrex
  • I waited, and waited, and waited...

    I was on VZW for many years. Was using the 928 and anxiously awaited the 929/Icon since it was first leaked. But, alas, for VZW, I bolted to T-Mobile 925 for $ reasons. I personally liked the heft of the 928 (supposedly the Icon is similar); the 925 seems a little cheap to my liking. Here's hoping a 6" variant of the 1520 (or proposed 1525) will become available on T-Mobile soon. I'm a half blind old geezer who wants a larger screen.
    unklmik
  • $199?

    Not going to get many converts there
    frankwick