AT&T Nokia Lumia 1020 review: The best Windows Phone ever made

AT&T Nokia Lumia 1020 review: The best Windows Phone ever made

Summary: AT&T's Nokia Lumia 1020 is the best Windows Phone device ever made. Nokia provides the highest end hardware with advanced software and functionality.

AT&T Nokia Lumia 1020 review: The best Windows Phone ever made

I shared some of my initial experiences with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and some early photos captured around Seattle. After a week I returned the evaluation unit and purchased my own Lumia 1020. After two full weeks with the Nokia Lumia 1020 it is easy for me to state that it is the best Windows Phone device I have used over the last three years.

In July 2010 I wrote the definitive guide to the Windows Phone 7 technical preview and I can still clearly remember how impressed I was with the refreshing user interface of Windows Phone. I continue to be pleased with the metro UI and use of Live Tiles, it still offers something different than iOS and Android.


Nokia first released the Nokia N9 in September 2011, followed shortly by the Nokia Lumia 800. People were impressed by the new Nokia designs with curved front glass, use of polycarbonate plastic in the shell, a vivid color selection and a focus on imaging. Most Lumias today have these same base design features and Nokia is becoming recognizable due to them.

If you just look at the front of the Lumia 1020 then you might mistake it for a Lumia 920 or 928. You can tell a difference immediately when you pick it up though because the 1020 is 27.4 grams (0.97 ounces) lighter. While an ounce doesn't sound like much, you can feel it when holding the devices in hand side-by-side. I'm not saying the Lumia 920 was too heavy, but it had more heft than most other modern smartphones.

I am very pleased that Nokia went with matte finishes on all three colors of the Lumia 1020. I previously had a glossy white Lumia 900 and glossy red Lumia 920 and I ended up putting soft touch shell cases on those devices to help improve my grip on them. The glossy finishes also seemed to scratch pretty easily while I don't notice them on the matte finish so far. I personally find that the matte finish also gives the Lumia line a bit more premium look and feel. The yellow 1020 I have looks great with the black button and camera accents too.

The Lumia 1020 is the first Windows Phone to come with 2GB of RAM and while Windows Phone does well with fairly low specs, the increased RAM does help with camera and gaming functions. The display looks great with 1280x768 resolution in 4.5 inches and AMOLED ClearBlack technology. Nokia does a fantastic job with their displays and I have zero complaints on the Lumia 1020, even though other Android devices have higher resolution.

41 megapixel camera

(Close-up of Rolo smore)

There are many articles and comparison regarding the Lumia 1020 camera, but I highly recommend you read the excellent analysis from Steve Litchfield in his camera feature article and in his 808 PureView vs Lumia 1020 comparison. Brian Klug also takes a detailed look at the camera and camera grip accessory.

The camera is absolutely fantastic and while the Xenon flash doesn't seem to perform as well as it does on the 808 PureView, it still beats out other modern smartphones. The camera module is large on the Lumia 1020 and if mobile photography is not that important to you then I wouldn't recommend the 1020 since you do compromise on size. Then again, I am getting tired of seeing blurry, poor quality pictures shared by family and friends and am actually a bit sad when those crappy photos are the only memories they have of those moments. The Nokia Lumia 1020 lets you capture those moments and remember them in vivid clarity later on while still giving you a very functional smartphone experience.

Feel free to check out my full resolution image samples on Flickr. Most of these were taken in auto mode using the Pro Camera utility. I plan to spend a LOT more time learning the ins and outs of the camera using the tutorials and am very pleased with the performance. It doesn't take quite as good of photos as the Nokia 808 PureView I have, but the OS is much more usable and I love the editing tools on the phone.

(Downtown Seattle)

Nokia is also a leader in mobile phone video, which some people often forget about. Their video stabilization is unmatched in the smartphone world and the system in the 1020 is even more advanced than what we see in the 920, 925, and 928. The stereo audio recording is also pretty amazing and you can go to a concert and truly capture the experience to share later with family and friends.

I'll discuss some Nokia software enhancements a bit later, but there is a full suite of Nokia applications available related to the camera and Microsoft now even lets you specify which camera utility launches when you press and hold the physical camera button. The newest camera utility is called Nokia Pro Camera and the Lumia 1020 is the first device to get this software. Nokia Pro Camera lets you capture photos in auto mode or take full control over exposure, shutter speed, ISO settings, white balance, and focus. I am excited to use and learn from my Lumia 1020 and the tutorials as I attempt to become a better mobile photography.

Nokia Smart Camera launched on the Nokia Lumia 925 and works similar to Zoes on the HTC One. Instead of capturing short video clips and extracting still photos, Smart Camera captures a sequence of photos in burst mode and then lets you use those photos to get the best one, add motion effects, remove unwanted objects, and choose the best face for each person in a group shot.

You will also find camera lenses and utilities from Nokia called Panorama, Glam Me Lens, Creative Studio, PhotoBeamer, and Cinemagraph. The utilities offer interesting ways to capture and edit your images so you can create fun things to share. I was also very pleased to see Nokia add a video trimmer and YouTube upload clients like I have been asking about for months. I like to capture video of events, but then just upload and share selected parts of the videos and until now there was no work done on the video editing experience in Windows Phone.


Along with the hardware, in typical Nokia fashion you will find a couple of cool accessories designed just for the AT&T Nokia Lumia 1020. I bought a black Camera Grip at the AT&T store and then Nokia loaned me a black Wireless Charging Cover to test out. The Camera Grip is available in yellow, black, or white while the Wireless Charging Cover is black or yellow. The Wireless Charging Cover is still difficult to find in stores. Both are similar in that they have large round openings for the camera module with the four corners fitting over the sides to secure the cover and grip over the 1020.


The Camera Grip is a bit more advanced, yet reasonably priced at $59.00. For this price you get a 1020 mAh battery and physical camera button on a larger end piece. Nokia's site states you can get up to 285 more photos or an extra 48 minutes of video with the Camera Grip attachment. When you slide your 1020 in place, you get the feeling your phone is definitely more camera than phone in this mode as the microUSB port makes the connection. There is also a universal tripod mount on the bottom of the camera grip to help you capture steady high resolution shots.

Inside the Wireless Charging Cover you can see to metal contacts where those on the back of the 1020 make a connection so that the internals of the Charging Cover facilitate Qi charging. With charging plates at home and at work, I have grown into a huge fan of wireless charging due to its convenience and ability to help clean up a wire mess.

Nokia software enhancements

I have written a couple of times about the fantastic value added by Nokia for Windows Phone owners. The Lumia 1020 continues with software and service offerings such as Nokia Music+, the HERE Maps suite (City Lens, Drive+, Maps, and Transit), Nokia Trailers, Ringtone Maker, AccuWeather, and more.

Nokia has been providing some additional utilities on its Windows Phone line, including storage check, Dolby audio support, touch sensitivity settings, and more. We now see some fantastic functionality from the Nokia N9 MeeGo device, including the ability to double tap on the display to wake the device and the ability to enable Glance. Glance allows you to have the time and phone status appear on the display when everything else is off. This includes a Peek mode where you can wave your hand over the phone to show the status. A final custom feature is the ability to adjust your display's color profile.

Apps and the Windows Phone Store

Microsoft recently reported there are now more than 160,000 apps in the Windows Phone Store and for my personal needs there are just a couple missing that I use on iOS and Android. These include my bank (USAA), who was one of the first on Windows Phone and now appears to have given up too early, MLB At Bat, Alaska Airlines, and Google services like Google+. There are alternatives that work just fine for Vine and Instagram with nearly ever other app I use already on Windows Phone. In addition, Halo: Spartan Assault, is coming to all devices soon.

If there are some missing apps, then make sure you find out about mobile optimized websites. Alaska Airlines reached out to me on a recent trip when I was complaining about a lack of Windows Phone support to inform me that their mobile website lets you check in, change your seat, and even use your phone display as your boarding pass. The website is excellent and meets my needs for that specific service.

During the Lumia 1020 launch we also heard that Flipboard, Path, Vine, and others may be coming soon. I imagine the shrinking app gap will soon disappear and then purchase decisions will come down to the OS user experience and available hardware.


There is no doubt that the Nokia Lumia 1020 is the best Windows Phone device ever made. It may still not be for everyone since size is more important than a serious camera to some folks. I have absolutely no regrets so far in moving from a Verizon iPhone 5 to the Lumia 1020 and discover new functions with the camera daily.

The complaints about the price are being made without reason. The 32GB iPhone 5, a model almost a year old, is priced the same as the Lumia 1020 under contract and is even more without a contract. If you look at the powerful camera in the Lumia 1020, it is easy to justify the premium price and I just ignore those who try to argue about price because they are not comparing apples to apples.

Related Windows Phone coverage

Topics: Mobility, Nokia, Reviews, Smartphones, AT&T, Windows Phone

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  • Thanks

    A Windows Phone review that mentions it's possible use Instagram on Windows Phone (just not through the official app)? Inconceivable!
    • Flickr

      Oh, and thanks for the Flickr samples, I found them very useful to see how non-professional photos (no offense intended) might turn out
      • Compared to 920 in 1020

        I have extensively tested in the 1020 U.S. holiday and spoken with several (satisfied) owners. Actually I wanted to buy it, but then decided against me, because it currently only for AT&T was obtained and I had concerns about the unlocking. Nevertheless, this apparatus has me plenty excited and I even own a 920, I want to draw a comparison, but because there are some interesting differences.

        Weight: The 1020 is a much easier tactile pieces. Relative to the heavy weight of the 920 although I had accustomed myself personally quickly. But I know some people that this smartphone was too heavy yet. The 1020 comes here contrary, my feeling is relaxed but in the hand and is not tiring. An improvement for me.

        Size: The dimensions are to a slightly smaller thickness the same, but the camera comes out slightly, in the form of a kind of bump. However, the unit has been flattened on corners and edges and thus acts haptically and visually slimmer. The total fall 1020 is less boxy for my taste, again an improvement.

        Display: Compared to the 920 here AMOLED display has been installed, which significantly saves power especially. Otherwise, it was with heavy use in the evening often a little tight with the battery life, now the current ranges easily, despite many photos. Especially the new features of the Amber updates ( double tap to wake ) with Amoled need less battery, an advantage for me. Otherwise, the display is brilliant, sharp, good color reproduction and very accurate.

        Camera: Yes, it is really great. In the corners of the images were minimal focus, as with all Phonecams also, but otherwise the resolution is really great. In some reviews and also in discussion with users the long start time of the Nokia App ProCam been complaints on the 920 is in fact faster. But you can also use the auto settings and start the camera by long press on the camera button , it goes something achneller. Who wants to catch up quickly once a child's laughter , which is probably not always fast enough. Otherwise, the camera is so good that you can let the little Digiknipse final at home. This is particularly true for video shots where the stabilizer does a good job. Also, the Xenon flash does its job well. I particularly liked the really soundless because digital zoom while filming. Due to the huge resolution it really is lossless zooming.

        Battery : Still not interchangeable because of Polycarbonate unibody, but he holds on average one and a half to two days of normal use, for a modern smartphone is an acceptable value.

        Color: Black, white and yellow. I have only seen yellow mobile phones and the color I personally find something special. After all, it falls on and you will find the part immediately on a crowded desk again .

        WP8 GDR2 : The latest version of Windos Phone 8 is indeed currently also rolled out just for the other Lumias. I enjoy the Sense Data option at the top and one can only hope that all providers support this warden. Well liked and time display in sleep mode, douple - tap-to -wake, glance ( with the hand wipe over it and cell phone goes briefly ) and flip -to-mute. The OS runs stable as before, the two GB of RAM are probably important only for the photos, otherwise you notice no difference.

        CONCLUSION: Apart from a small, but comfortable Vera end changes in weight and dimensions, as well as better battery life for AMOLED display, especially the extreme good camera falls into the weight. Who likes to make photos and much, can not get around the 1020. Otherwise, I personally see no relevant differences to 920 Still I find the 1020 very expensive, but I 'll get it to me probably because the camera has really convinced me.

        PS: before you buy it, I recommend to check for best price at:

    • ?

      You must not have a WP? But you must be interested enough to read this review.
    • Instagram in beta for WP8

      Rudy Huyn is making an Instagram app with their support. It will be released very soon.
    • Instagram?

      Frankly, I have NEVER seen an Instagram picture I wouldn't immediately have deleted from my phone. They are terrible. I suspect much of that is due to the 'filters', and the kids who like them. I find that the key component of a camera is the user behind the camera, NOT the camera itself. It is possible to take stunning, clear, and detailed, pictures with a pinhole camera, and it is possible to take horrible, improperly framed, improperly exposed, and blurry, pictures with a professional quality DSLR, costing thousands. It is the photographer that is the most important component. So blaming the phone camera for all those horrible shots probably isn't fair, and the same person with the 1020 would probably turn in just as bad a photo.
      • Professional photographers would disagree with you

        Optics is the primary component of taking a good pictures. A great lens will enhance mundane shots and turn good shots into great ones. Pros will advise getting a better lens before taking a photography class, since you will realize measurably better results for the money spent.

        Where user talent comes in typically involves adjusting the lighting, and in some cases, arranging the shots; the former rarely something that is bothered with on a camera phone and the latter often at odds with the "ready, set, shoot!" purpose of having a camera on your phone in the first place.
        • Composition

          I find the biggest difference between snapshots and good pictures to be lighting and composition. Even the best camera phone often can't compete on the lighting side of things, but when it comes to composition, it's down to the person behind the camera.
          • DOF

            Of course, good pictures often make good use of depth of field, something that most camera phones can't compete with. I haven't tried the latest Nokia phones, so I don't know if they allow any control of the aperture.
    • No, no, no... don't understand. There's no "official" Instagram app, so that means I can't take official pictures of my food, hence the entire WP platform is terrible.
  • Which Is Not Saying Much

    Apart from the camera, the rest is 2012-vintage Android-equivalent hardware.
    • What 2013 android hardware are you referring to?

      Unlike Android, WP8 runs smooth even on low end 1ghz cpus with 512mb of ram.

      What is WP8 missing that 2013 Androids have?
      • Don't bother

        Everything Ido17 says is anti-Microsoft BS. This user is simply a Linux/Android plant. Look at the other posts this person has. They never say anything positive about Microsoft, very little to say positive about Apple. Everything is Android and Linux. Ido17 is simply a plant for the Android/Linux crowd. It isn't worth your time to respond to this user. Take it to the bank. Ido17 is just here to promote one technology direction and that's Android and Linux. Fortunately for everyone else, Android and Linux are so fragmented and there are so many versions out there and it is so cheap and hard to support and maintain, that the platforms themselves will simply self implode and eventaully go away, with or without Ido17's assistence.
        • harsh

          Hey I'm a Linux fan too.... I do work on PCs on the side and as far as PCs go if you just download BitTorrentz and surf the web then Linux Ubuntu or Mint are great, if you want gaming then Windows is where its at (just get a good antivirus and make those restore discs and for Gods sake keep up with them)
          But to clarify my comment here not all of us LinuxFans say Linux or nothing....PCs its good because so few people use it that hackers almost never attack it they go after Windows on PCs but phones ha Android is Linux it shares a kernal with Ubuntu which is why people can install UbuntuPhone on some android devices but Androud is so widely used and their market has poor secuity checks so most people download the malware straight from the app store. So far I like WP8 on my new phone but I'm not an app addict neither
          • Steam has Linux games

            Also, Linux doesn't have the Microsoft NSA backdoor
        • dreaming

          Having a little fantasy moment there if you believe Andriod or Linux will be going away. Fragmented, sure, and by design. If you don't like a fragmented system, don't use it. I like it, so I use it. I also like MS Windows (7&8), great desktop environments, with the best remote system of all the available OS's.

          I suspect we'll have decades of great multiple OS competition in the tablet/slate form factor, and that is a VERY VERY good thing.
      • What's missing?

        Oh, about 72% of smartphone sales.
        • So true

          I better return my crappy Ferrari to the car dealer at once. I Heard that ferrari did not have the majority of the car sales, hence it must be a crappy car...
          • Please don't...

            After all Ferrari is in as dire financial straits as Nokia, therefore if you return your car you will hurt their bottomline...Oh wait, Ferrari just posted over 100 million euro's in profit despite not getting 1 billion a year from MS. Guess your comparison does not hold too much water:
      • What is WP8 missing that 2013 Androids have?

        William Farrel