First impressions: Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 smartphone

Summary:The Nokia Lumia 920, one of the new Windows Phone 8 devices, delivers some innovative technologies, value-added software, and a camera that continues Nokia's focus on imaging excellence.

First impressions of the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 smartphone

Earlier this week I posted some first impressions of the HTC 8X after posting details on Windows Phone 8 . At the Monday Windows Phone 8 launch event I met with Chris Weber, Executive VP of Nokia Sales & Marketing, and left with a black Nokia Lumia 920 and white Fatboy charging pillow to test out. I'll be checking out both of these new Windows Phone 8 devices in the coming weeks, but wanted to offer up some thoughts on using the Lumia 920 for the last few days.

Check out my image gallery of the Nokia Lumia 920.

Out of the box impressions

Unlike the evaluation HTC 8X, the Lumia 920 came in the AT&T retail box that looks just like all the other unremarkable AT&T orange and white retail boxes. Inside you will find the Lumia 920, a microSIM card removal tool, USB A/C charger, USB cable, NFC demo tag, and some advertisements and basic instructions. There is no headset in the box and no other accessories. We may see AT&T and other retailers offering bundle specials since Nokia has some cool new accessories. (As you can read soon in a follow-up article, I think these accessories may have a major influence on Lumia 8xx and 920 sales.)

The Lumia 920 feels much the same as the Lumia 900, and I doubt many folks will notice much of a difference. This poses a problem for Microsoft since Windows Phone 8 is not much different than Windows Phone 7; yet something different has to be done to get consumers to buy Windows Phone 8 --  and the existing strategies haven't worked. You will find that the Lumia 920's glass screen curves more into the casing than does the Lumia 900's; the headset jack has been moved to the center of the top, and it has a bit more curvature to the back (maybe for the space needed to support wireless charging). The display resolution is better, and you can see the difference as soon as you turn on the Lumia 920. I love the polycarbonate designs of the Lumia line and Nokia continues it with the 920.

Specifications and walk around the hardware

You won't see many differences in the listed specifications between Windows Phone 8 devices, with the differentiation primarily seen in the physical hardware design and the additional technologies/services offered on the platforms. Specifications of the Nokia Lumia 920 include:

  • Windows Phone 8 OS
  • 4.5 inch IPS TFT capacitive display with 1280x768 pixels and awesome PureMotion HD+ technology with Corning Gorilla Glass 2. Pixel density is 332 ppi.
  • Quad-band GSM and LTE for AT&T
  • Qualcomm S4 1.5 GHz dual-core processor
  • Total integrated storage of 32GB (29.12GB available)
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8.7 megapixel camera with dual LED flash and F2.0 aperture, Carl Zeiss optics, and 1080p recording
  • 1.2 megapixel front facing camera
  • NFC, GPS, digital compass, proximity sensor, light sensor
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 3.5mm headphone jack with Dolby digital sound support
  • Non-removable 2,000 mAh Li-Ion polymer battery
  • Qi wireless charging capable
  • Dimensions of 130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7 mm and weight of 185 grams

The Lumia 920 is 2 mm shorter, 4.6 mm wider, 0.48 mm thicker and 55 grams heavier than the HTC Windows Phone 8X. I don't mind some heft to my phones (my primary T-Mobile line is the Galaxy Note II). And while the 8X has a lovely curved, pocketable design, the Lumia 920 feels excellent too; and I have the tendency to roll it over in my hand with the curved glass and rounded edges.

The front is dominated by the 4.5 inch PureMotion HD+ display. The display has a slightly higher resolution than the 8X (1280x768 compared to 1280x720) and colors are vibrant as well. The PureMotion HD+ technology is pretty amazing and I recommend you test it with your fingernail or glove on. You can toggle the sensitivity in the settings if you don't need it to be so sensitive, but as winter approaches and people put on gloves this is a great feature to launch with.

I tested with gloves I wear when walking around in the fall and winter, gloves I wear when I work outside, and also with thick ski gloves. Regular gloves work fine with no noticeable difference in performance. My leather work gloves (shown in my image gallery) work most of the time, unless I am touching the display with the very end of the glove fingertip that is about 1/4 inch above my extended finger. The ski gloves work when I press directly with my finger, but if I press in an area where the gloves are really thick then the display won't respond. If your gloves are so thick they don't work, you probably aren't going to want to pull out and use your phone in these environmental conditions.

The headset speaker is above the display with the front-facing camera to the right of the speaker. AT&T and Nokia branding is found on the upper left and right sides above the display. Below the display you will find the Back, Start, and Bing search buttons.

The 3.5mm audio jack is centered on the top, with the microSIM card slot off to the left side. The volume, power, and camera buttons are all on the right, nothing is on the left, and the microUSB port is on the bottom. The camera is centered on the upper back with the dual LED flash to the left of the camera lens (will be on top in landscape orientation).

Windows Phone 8 and Nokia software

I covered all the details of Windows Phone 8 in my other article so I won't go into all of those details here. Needless to say, it is better than Windows Phone 7 and I appreciate the differences, but it remains to be seen what the consumer will think.

This is an operator-branded device, so it comes with all of the lovely things you expect from AT&T. However, unlike Android devices, Microsoft gives you the ability to easily uninstall all the bloatware (you can later add it back in by visiting the AT&T section of the Windows Phone Store). Many of these services are provided directly in Windows Phone so they make little sense to even have, but I guess that is another way for AT&T to gouge the unknowing customer. These services were loaded on the 920:

  • AT&T Code Scanner
  • AT&T FamilyMap
  • AT&T Navigator
  • AT&T Radio
  • AT&T U-verse Live TV

One of the benefits of buying a Nokia Lumia is all of the value-added services they provide, along with many exclusives from other developers that end up first on Nokia Lumia devices. You will find the following on the Lumia 920:

  • Nokia City Lens: Augmented reality application
  • Nokia Drive: Voice guided GPS navigation only found on Lumia devices.
  • Nokia Maps: Included on all Windows Phone 8 devices and includes ability to download maps for offline navigation for FREE.
  • Nokia Music: Awesome free service that had me drop my Spotify subscription . It's a major benefit for the Lumia.

I use my phones for navigation, and having a client I can rely upon is important. I use Google Maps and Apple Maps and find them both to work well for me. Nokia Maps has always been a favorite and their voice-guided navigation is a real benefit for consumers.

Windows Phone provides a new "Lens" feature in the camera utility and Nokia provides a couple of these in the Lumia 920. The Cinemagraph utility lets you animate still photos and is lots of fun, while the Smart Shoot utility shoots five frames for each photo and then picks the best faces to create the "perfect" shot. Panorama allows you to capture wide shots with the Lumia 920. Nokia told me there will be even more camera utilities coming to Lumia, including the existing Lumia 900.

Fatboy charging pillow

When I first heard the news about a wireless charging accessory called the Fatboy I thought someone was pulling my leg. It is a wireless charging pad, powered by Qi technology, that fits into a fabric shell with a pillow inside. Yes, these wireless charging pads need to be plugged in to an outlet to get power that is passed on wirelessly, but the convenience of simply dropping the Nokia Lumia 920 on the Fatboy pillow is great. I have it sitting on my desk so when I am there the Lumia 920 is charging up which can lead to it being charged up more often.

Experiences

I am continuing to use the HTC 8X and Lumia 920 and will offer a comparison early next week. I am also finishing up a camera comparison between the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy Note II/Galaxy S III, HTC 8X, and Lumia 920.

Sticking just with the Lumia 920 for this post, I have to say the sensitive display, wireless charging capability, Nokia Music service, Nokia Drive software, and camera performance have been great so far. I didn't realize that the Lumia 920 had some advanced audio settings, but when you plug in headphones and go into the Settings, you will find custom equalizer options. You can choose from several presets or customize the audio levels. There is also a toggle for Dolby headphones. I could definitely tell a difference with the Dolby toggle on and making changes in the equalizer.

It is easy to see that the Nokia Lumia 920 is an upgrade over the Lumia 900 and I continue to look at the yellow or cyan one for AT&T. There is definitely heft to the Lumia 920; it feels like a rock solid device. Windows Phone 8 has addressed several weaknesses in Windows Phone 7/7.5 and the Lumia 920 looks to set the bar for features, functions, and apps on this new platform.

I will be spending more time with both the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X and trying to decide between them for myself.  I recommend you visit your local store and get a feel for both when they become available. If you have any questions as I continue to test out the Lumia 920, please feel free to ask me in the comments or via Twitter.

Related ZDNet coverage

Topics: Mobility, AT&T, Microsoft, Nokia, Reviews, Smartphones

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.