Verizon Nokia Lumia Icon review: There's a new Windows Phone champ on the block

Verizon Nokia Lumia Icon review: There's a new Windows Phone champ on the block

Summary: Nokia now has Windows Phone devices with internal specs matching the leading smartphones. They take it further with their advanced camera, fantastic display, and more and the Lumia Icon is an excellent smartphone to consider.

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  • Nokia Lumia Icon

    Just after I posted my rant about Windows Phone my friendly local Verizon rep dropped off a Nokia Lumia Icon to try out for a couple of weeks. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley posted her thoughts on the Lumia Icon and purchased one to replace the 8x as her primary smartphone.

    While I still need to see Windows Phone 8.1 roll out at Build in April before trying to use Windows Phone as my daily driver again, I find the Nokia Lumia Icon to be a compelling device and may buy one to use with a Verizon prepaid plan. An astute reader pointed out that Verizon's prepaid offerings do not include LTE support and The Verge just posted a story about this fact. I'm been using T-Mobile's prepaid $30 5GB LTE plan and just assumed there were no data limitations. Sorry for getting any hopes up here folks.

    Unlike the disappointing Lumia 1520, I think Nokia may have found the perfect size for a Windows Phone display and I believe the Icon may just beat out the Lumia 1020 as the best current Nokia Lumia device.

    Hardware

    The Nokia Lumia Icon is dominated by the 5 inch 1920 x 1080 pixels Gorilla Glass 3 display and it looks awesome. I love the way the glass transitions right into the metal frame of the device with smaller top, bottom, and side bezels than what we see on the Lumia 1020. Colors look fantastic and the display is pretty stunning.

    There is nothing on the left side and given the rather square nature of the form factor you can actually place the Icon on a table on the left side and use it to take photos or watch video content. The right side houses the volume button, power button, and camera capture button. The microUSB port is found on the bottom with the headphone jack centered on top, adjacent to the SIM card slot. There are two breaks in the metal frame in way of these two ports that may be present to help with reception. I was told these two areas may house the additional microphones for high quality video recording.

    The back is matte plastic material and it is awesome. Other manufacturers use plastic, but no other company does it as good as Nokia on their Lumia devices. The plastic is durable, scratch resistant, and looks great. The 20 megapixel PureView camera is centered up near the top with dual LED flashlights to the left of the camera lens. There is Nokia, Verizon, and 4G LTE stamped on the back with Verizon and Nokia labeling also found on the front above the display. Verizon really doesn't need to have its name on the Icon twice, but it doesn't personally bother me.

    Unlike the Lumia 1020, the Lumia Icon uses the latest mobile processor and high end internal specifications we see on Android devices so we can finally put that difference to rest. Nokia continues to lead the mobile space with its amazing PureView cameras. While Sony and LG are making great strides with optics on Android devices, Nokia still cannot be beat.

    Software

    The Nokia Lumia Icon runs the latest version of Windows Phone 8 (Update 3) along with the Lumia Black update. Mary Jo wrote about what you can expect in the Lumia Black update. My favorite features are folders and the consolidation of the camera apps. Unfortunately, the Lumia Icon doesn't currently support the Glance function.

    Thanks for the higher resolution large display on the Lumia Icon, you will now also find the ability for more Live Tiles on the home screen. There are now three columns for medium tiles and compared to my Lumia 1020 I am able to now put nearly everything I need on just a single screen. As expected, the Lumia Icon has been super fast and extremely stable.

    Developers have come a long way with apps and I don't see much of a gap when it comes to applications. I still want to see better notifications, voice control functionality, and more that look to mainly be addressed with the Windows Phone 8.1 update.

    Usage and experiences

    I have been carrying the Nokia Lumia Icon for the past week and have to admit the photos I have been taking in my life are so much better than they have been with my Moto X and HTC One. While I don't think I need the best camera with me all the time, it is a bit depressing when you realize experiences you can't capture again were captured with limited detail. The Lumia Icon is making me reevaluate my daily smartphone practice.

    Battery life seems solid, but I also live and work in an areas with solid Verizon LTE coverage so that helps a bit. The convenience of Qi wireless charging is significant as it makes it very easy for me to just set the Icon down at home or at the office.

    Some have said the Icon is a bit heavy, but I personally like phones with substantial weight and density. The Lumia Icon feels great in the hand and looks very professional. Verizon has it in black and white, perfect for the enterprise user.

    Pros and Cons

    To summarize my experiences with the Nokia Lumia Icon, here are my pros and cons.

    Pros Cons
    Perfect size Windows Phone display with high resolution Windows Phone 8 needs some work
    Well-designed form factor and materials Limited internal storage capacity
    Integrated Qi wireless charging  
    Latest mobile device specifications  
    Amazing Nokia camera  

    Pricing and availability

    The Nokia Lumia Icon is only available from Verizon Wireless. You can purchase it for $199.99 with a 2-year agreement, $23.06 per month on EDGE, or for $549.99 with no contract. Other places, such as Wirefly, also have the Lumia Icon.

    Since I don't want to pay the $100 monthly contract price for 2 years, I am considering a full price Icon to then use with Verizon Wireless on a prepaid basis. Verizon has some decent prepaid options today that can save some serious cash.

    The competition

    There are a ton of smartphone competitors for the Lumia Icon, including the iPhone 5s, Galaxy S4, HTC One, LG G2, Sony Xperia Zs, Moto X, and many more. Most of these are also available on Verizon and are true competitors.

    The Lumia Icon has an excellent camera and while these others have solid cameras, nothing beats Nokia's lineup.

    Specifications
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.2 GHz processor
    2GB RAM
    32GB internal storage
    5-inch 1920x1080 pixels resolution screen
    20 megapixel camera and 2 megapixel front facing camera
    802.11 a/ac/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 + LTE
    2,420 mAh battery
    Dimensions of 137 x 71 x 9.8 mm and 167 grams

    Conclusion

    I use my Nokia Lumia 1020 primarily for video and still photography, but rarely use it as a smartphone. I don't like that it requires me to put it into a shell for wireless charging and find the camera module a bit large for every day usage. Nothing really beats the camera on the 1020 so if serious photography is your thing then you should consider the Lumia 1020.

    For most people the 20 megapixel camera on the Lumia Icon will be better than they have ever experienced on a smartphone and it will satisfy their needs. If you are a Verizon customer then it is a pretty easy choice to select the Icon as well. I like the feel of the metal frame, curved glass edges, integrated wireless charging, and more.

    The phone sounds great, RF reception is solid, and the smartphone experience is solid. I would probably bump the Icon up to 9.5 with Windows Phone 8.1, but will have to wait and see what Microsoft shows off next month.

    Contributor's rating: 9 out of 10

  • Back of Lumia Icon and Lumia 1020

Topics: Mobility, Nokia, Reviews, Smartphones, Windows Phone

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Talkback

29 comments
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  • ?? No pro arguments at all?

    Enough "con" list to just say no.

    Or is that a typo?
    jessepollard
    • CMS is killing my lists for some reason

      Sorry, the new Gallery CMS is killing lists. I will try to get it in there somehow.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
    • Get some fresh air.

      We know where you breathe from.
      Owl:Net
  • I dont think 32GB of internal memory is a con

    I don't think 32GB of internal memory is a con, considering Iphone 5s comes with 16gb.

    I know 32gb and 64gb available but they are too pricey and not for every one.
    Mac_Win
    • With a high resolution camera capable of RAW it is

      Nokia rocks the camera on these high end Lumia devices so with the ability for capturing both RAW and JPG formats, as well as amazing video, I do think 32GB is a limitation when you have about 26GB actually available.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • OneDrive removes any limitation

        I have the Nokia 1020 for almost a year (41mb camera) - and I have NEVER had a storage issue on the phone. Pics are uploaded to OneDrive on the fly. 14GB available out of 29GB.
        gke565
  • Prepaid?

    "Since I don't want to pay the $100 monthly contract price for 2 years, I am considering a full price Icon to then use with Verizon Wireless on a prepaid basis. Verizon has some decent prepaid options today that can save some serious cash." - article.

    You're able to do that with this phone? I was under the impression that 4G LTE devices couldn't be on prepaid plans, hence I'm in an edge "contract" at the moment for the Note 3. Also the reason I was given as to why older iPhones could be prepaid but newer ones couldn't.
    whelaro
    • Sorry, I had no idea

      As a T-Mobile $30/month prepaid user I had no idea that Verizon restricted access to their data networks with prepaid plans. I corrected the post and appreciate the information before I went out and paid full price for the Lumia Icon.

      I just assumed I could pop in a prepaid SIM like I do with T-Mobile all the time and it didn't even cross my mind to have to check out the specifics of their offerings.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • re:

        AT&T and Verizon are digging their own graves with stupid stuff like this. I think more and more people in the U.S. are going to start buying their phones from someplace other than the carriers and then going with whoever offers them the best deal for service. That could be the way T-Mobile (or Sprint if they were smart, which they aren't) hits the big time. Last time I signed up for a plan, my key decision factors were the availability of 4G LTE in my area and up to date WP8 devices. AT&T and Verizon were the only ones that had both. Since everyone is getting closer to parity with 4G LTE and phones themselves are starting to more readily available off contract, price competition for service may actually come to pass.
        Sir Name
        • re:

          Correction: Actually now that I think about it, Verizon's WP8 selection at the time sucked which is why I went with AT&T. And, with the exception of the Icon, I think it still does.
          Sir Name
  • Love my 1520

    I'm sure this new device is great, but I love my 1520 that replaced a 920 that I lost. I thought the 920 was the bee's knees until I had the 1520 for about a week. Not only does it not seem too big now, all other phones seem too small. The battery life and camera are phenomenal. The only downside I've found for the 1520 is the lack of Qi charging, but that's because of a dumb decision by AT&T to specify that Nokia remove it from the units AT&T buys from them.
    Sir Name
  • WP is the best OS

    In my opinion WP is already better than either Android or iOS, its more visually appeal, smooth, though out operating system and Windows Phone even made Android and iOS changed their design language to imitate its Flat UI , with 8.1 update WP goes to another level.
    bxbbrian
    • You're wrong

      It is basically *broken.*

      Blue may fix some of that (notification center, for one!) but doesn't look to be a big enough upgrade to make WP competitive.
      x I'm tc
      • He's right, you're wrong.

        Isn't it all subjective?

        I'm happy with how my WP works, I wasn't happy with how the Android phone worked.

        Wouldn't that mean that the Android phone is actually the broken one, since it couldn't do what I wanted it to do in a satisfactory way?
        William.Farrel
      • And what more does iOS have

        that will make WP not look like competitive(except no. of apps)? That's a real question. And I want a sensible answer.
        Ronty1996
        • iPhone

          More apps, more devices in use, more users familiar with the interface, extremely high carrier subsidies in the US, Apple stores. While technology-wise iPhones are far behind Android (which has other issues), they make up for it with consistent quality and very strong marketing/branding.

          WP (aka Lumia) has less consistent quality, just look at the battery drain issues of the 920. Pretty much all software-related issues/limitations I had with WP exist on iOS as well.

          In the end, each of the OSes has enough going for it that after trying a new one you'll like the others less than you did before, because you become aware of flaws you didn't know they have.
          Sacr
          • I was saying about the OS features.

            I specifically ignored the no. of apps. That's not related to the software features. Of course, iOS has the most no. of apps but WP can have that many too if its market share increases. I have a Lumia 520 and I have no problems with the quality of the OS as well as the phone itself.
            Besides, I think you are forgetting that there is a world outside the US. I live in India & there are no carrier subsidies here. Even the iPhone 5C is >4x expensive than my phone. And, I know that there are many other countries where there are no carrier subsidies. There is not even a single Apple store in my city(none that I know of). Do you really feel it would be that difficult for WP to gain market share in a country like ours when here, WP already has a greater share than iOS since a long time?
            Ronty1996
    • How can Windows 8 be the best OS when there is no support ?

      Please realize Nokia cut all support options for WP. So all the bugs and restrictions and unnecessary ennoying issues will be there forever and will never be corrected. Unlike my PC where I get updates every month. E.G the WP Calendar is a mess, when travelling to other timezone all your appointments are messed up even the dates are changed automatically. So not suitable for professional use only nice for playing. Not a serious alternative for the reputed Symbian phone. They missed that opportunity. Pity of the superb hardware. Waste of your and my money. I regret very much that I trusted Nokia would correct all issues soon like they did after I bought my Symbian phone. But no.
      vbeekjan
  • Got the 1520 and love it, so the Icon is a beauty also

    I love my 1520, which has the same internals as this, accept I have the international (rest of the world) version, so loving my wireless charging built in :)
    simmomelb
    • re:

      Curse you and your superior international version with handy Qi wireless charging! My only defense is that I had to get mine right away and didn't have a chance to check that out. I bet you don't have that stupid AT&T deathstar logo in the upper right corner either.
      Sir Name