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Nokia Lumia 930 review: Is this the Windows Phone you've been waiting for?

Is the latest all-rounder from the Nokia stable your next business device of choice?

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

When you think about Windows Phone handsets that make headlines, they're often one of two types: the low-end unit-shifting 520, for example, or at the other pole, the high-end or .

But what about the mid-market smartphones? What's Microsoft, now the proud owner of Nokia's devices and services business, cooking up there?

The latest addition to its mid-tier portfolio is the 930, a bigger and chunkier successor to the steady-as-she-goes 925. It may not have the low price tag of the 520 or the eye-catching specs of the 1020, but when it comes to enterprise devices, the 930 is where Windows Phone-curious buyers should be looking.

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2 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

Design-wise, it's exactly what you'd expect from a higher-end Nokia: substantial and colourful.

In keeping with Nokia's design language, the Lumia 930 is available in both staid black or white and eye-catching (bright orange, bright green) colours. The disadvantage of the eye-catching colour we tried was that it was dirt-catching as well — it showed up scuffs quite noticeably — so if you're a neat freak (or indeed not into 90s neon), you might be better off going for one of the more sober colours.

Marks aside, it's a nice device to hold thanks to its smooth polycarbonate back and the decision to smooth out the 'pimple' around the camera sensor. Gone are the curves of the 920 in favour of a more blocky form factor. There's a solidity and heft to the device – the excellent build quality you'd expect, as well as 9.8mm of thickness. It weighs in at 167g, which is a little on the heavy side compared to the competition, but not unmanageably so.

Design-wise, there's the usual three soft buttons under the screen (back, home and search) and three hard buttons on the side (the volume rocker, the camera, and power buttons), although the latter could have been more responsive on the device we tried.  

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3 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

Under the hood, the specs are solid.

The 930 has the same 32GB of internal memory you'd find on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the mid-level iPhone 5S but, like its predecessors, it doesn't have MicroSD support though — presumably an effort by Microsoft to push users towards Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage instead. Currently, there's 15GB, up from 7GB, of storage as standard with the service.

The 930 is powered by a Qualcomm 2.2Ghz Snapdragon chipset, which is nice and fast and a tad below the faster 801 found on the S5 or HTC One. You're unlikely to notice too much of a difference though.

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4 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

The Full HD screen is one of the 930's strong points — it's bright and crisp, and at five inches, it's a large enough display to make using it for document viewing or, dare we say it, gaming for longer periods quite feasible, but without the palm-busting downsides of owning a phablet.

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5 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

Another noteworthy feature of the 930 is its camera.

That said, for a company with a lot smarts when it comes to imaging, Nokia-Microsoft appears to have neglected the front facing camera somewhat — there's been no obvious change in front camera specs between the 920, 925 and 930. Bad news for selfie fans and Skypers everywhere. 

The rear-facing camera is a 20-megapixel one so more substantial, and is accompanied the Nokia Camera app, a staple on new Nokias since late last year. Cunningly, two versions of each image are saved — a low-res version to tweet, email, and so on, and a higher-res version for storing and manipulating. Close-ups are handled particularly well too.

The rear camera also delivers satisying performance in low-light conditions (handy if you're the sort of person that either likes to snap big nights out or pictures of your curl-edged sandwiches under the sickly glow of the office desk lamp), though it does have moments where it can leave the image a little washed out, and manual tinkering with the settings is sometimes necessary.

 

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6 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

The 930 has a 2420 mAh battery, but that perky screen means you may find that you're recharging the device more than you'd like.

There's a Qi wireless charger included with the 930 (in the UK, at least) and there are other wireless charging accessories available, including wireless wireless chargers – that is, where one part of the charging kit is plugged in, with a separate cordless pad that the phone is placed on to recharge.

Nokia is not the only phone maker to include wireless charging on its devices, but it looks to be the one making the most noise about its inclusion. Whether the convenience of not having to plug in a charger outweighs the extra energy bill (it's only convenient if you leave the charger plugged in and switched on even when not in use, consuming energy needlessly) is a matter for debate, but if that's your thing, it's built in for your lazy enjoyment.

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7 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

The Lumia 930 runs on Windows Phone 8.1, which you may have already have an opinion on – plenty of ZDNet writers have chosen one side of the fence or the other.

There are plenty of niggles, including for me Microsoft's ongoing failure to allow exporting contacts to the SIM (no, I don't want to store all the details of everyone I know on Outlook or save it as an Excel file and then reimport it, thanks) and the way that every app demands to know my location regardless of whether it needs it to operate.

That said, there are other nice additions in the OS, including the much needed on Windows swipe to text. There are still other major problems remaining — for me, the app list is an inelegant way to show all of the apps available on the device, particularly when the devices are larded with so many tangential Bing/Nokia apps straight out of the box.

Take Wallet, for example — a Windows Phone version of Passbook. Only no one uses Passbook, and from the looks of things, even fewer companies support Wallet. Unless you have a burning urge to put your Lufthansa ticket on your mobile, you'll probably not be opening Wallet any time soon.

Other bloatware highlights include the Bing Health and Fitness app. With fitness bands having proven to be the only wearable that anyone in the world wants to wear, having a fitness app is a smart move. A library of dry information on diets (Susan Somers has her own artificial sweetner? Who knew?) is perhaps not the best way to go about it. Extra negative points for having so many of them allowed to run in the background by default, gently caning the battery that the lovely screen is already hammering.

The 'app gap' is often used as a stick to beat Windows Phone with and it's not really an argument worth going over again here, suffice to say that Microsoft-Nokia does appear to be making up some ground in courting the higher-profile app makers to take their offerings to Windows Phone (though the lack of certain Google-made software is keenly felt).  That said, it feels like Windows Phone has most of the everyday apps you'd expect, but it's still lacking anything  desperately unique to the platform.

This could be an area where Nokia can help – the Nokia-made apps on the device feel fresh (if not necessarily must-haves), while their Bing equivalents feel bland and missable. (Tip: Nokia, please sort out Transfer My Data. If it worked, I bet it could be a rather useful thing.)

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8 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

Lack of breathtaking apps aside, it's got the usual Windows Phone enterprise lineup, such as Office and OneNote onboard. There's also better VPN support, thanks to Windows Phone 8.1, and the options to set up workplace account (in other words, let your admins sort out corporate permissions and provision corporate Windows Phone apps).

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9 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

Voice control functionality is painful though – voice commands are correctly transcribed, but often badly executed. They're also slow to process, so in the time it takes to make the request and wait for an answer, you could have performed the same action manually.

While Microsoft's press materials make reference to Cortana being onboard for the 930, though it's not apparent where. A few weeks ago, Microsoft made reference to Cortana coming to the UK in "a few weeks" so presumably the Cortana curious won't have too long to wait til the service is available on these shores in some form.

 

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10 of 10 Jo Best/ZDNet

As Windows Phones go, this is pretty much the best out there, delivering the pick of the specs on any Microsoft device so far. Whether it's enough to win over the Android and iOS faithful remains to be seen (though is anything?) but if you're in the Windows Phone camp for work or personal reasons, then the Nokia Lumia 930 is an upgrade to consider.

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