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

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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By Matthew Miller, Contributor on
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1 of 11 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Nokia Lumia Icon

Just after I posted my 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 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 , I think Nokia may have found the perfect size for a Windows Phone display and I believe the Icon may just beat out the 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 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 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

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Back of Lumia Icon and Lumia 1020

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Nokia Lumia Icon and Lumia 1020 side-by-side

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Metal, glass, and plastic are combined for a solid phone

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Nokia Lumia Icon in hand

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Verizon and Nokia branding

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20 megapixel camera and dual LED flash

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My wife and I in a dark restaurant, shot with the Lumia Icon

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Another dreary day in WA showing my new roof, shot with the Lumia Icon

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Downtown Seattle wall art, shot with the Lumia Icon

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Gray skyline in Seattle, shot with the Lumia Icon

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