A new flagship phone for Verizon: The Nokia Lumia Icon

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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


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).

How to buy a new phone: The CNET smartphone buying guide

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)...

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.

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