First impressions of the Nokia Lumia 920

Lumia copying

Last week I got a brand new Nokia Lumia 920 and I thought I would share the experience so far here.

For the sake of context and transparency and context, my company, Brilliant Noise, is working with Nokia on marketing around the Lumia and business. That said, this is my personal blog and these are my own impressions.

This is not, then, a completely unbiased review (there’s some links to some more impartial reviews at the end of this post). That said, if I really didn’t like it what I would do is stay quiet – as I want to share my experiences, it’s fair to say I am pretty positive.

These devices called smartphones are now so much a part of how we live that a review of the hardware alone (there’s a very good one on The Verge) just aren’t enough to understand what they are like. You need to live with the devices.

Working with Nokia on some projects connected to the Lumia, I definitely needed to not just play with a device, but commit to using it all of the time. For everything. 

Changing mobile devices is a big deal 

In 2008 I switched from PCs to Macs. It was a big deal – I had to learn a lot of things. Today, changing phones to one using a new OS is not less of a significant change.

In fact it is slightly more significant – when I changed to Macs it was largely about changing the support system for how I work. With a phone, it is about the systems I use for everything, all the time: exercise, listening to music, communicating with friends, taking and sharing photos, reading. Everything.

On the journey home and for much of the next day, I will confess I was slightly anxious. There were lots of things missing on my new phone. Lots of fiddly things about battery management and how the interface worked that I was having to learn.

Changing devices also makes you think about who you are, how you use technology to get things done. The hardest thing for me personally – like a few other switchers – was Instagram, which has yet to arrive on Windows Phone (get a blummin’ move on will you, Instagram? It’s either rude and/or just weird they haven’t got round to creating a version for this platform, isn’t it?).

But accepting that not everything is going to be the same, that you are going to need to learn new ways of doing things is part of being an early adopter, part of the adventure. It was time, I told myself, to be a big boy and accept that Instagram and a couple of other faves aren’t everything.

It made appreciate: changing isn’t just a big decision, it requires some hard work. But it turns out, it was worth it.

The experience

For the first day or so I was a little disoriented  (Andrew Missingham likens it to learning a new language). Then the design of the hardware and UI began to work their charms on me  it started to really make sense as a platform.

A reviewer on The Gadget Show the other evening put it best when she said something along the lines of “I just think of what I want and it seems to happen”. That’s a good way of describing the UI once you are used to it – it flows… 

You can get to people, to apps, to tasks faster, especially because of the Live Tiles, the highly customisable home screen and the Groups function in the People section.

As you build up a larger collection of apps, they are organised alphabetically and you can call up a grid directory to get to your app. This is a lot more efficient and satisfying than trying to remember where the app is among my tens of iPhone all folders.

It really does feel like a People app too, rather than a re-named address book – people’s contacts details and social media status updates are pulled together from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc. as soon as you’ve set up your accounts. Oddly, you don’t notice how cool and useful and smooth this all makes things for a few days – it creeps up on you.

The experience makes the prospect of going back to iPhone less appealing. The folders system, the slow Spotlight search, the far superior phone call quality – these are things I would really miss if my Lumia was suddenly taken away from me.

There are bugs and glitches – especially with sync-ing to a Mac – some quite frustrating. But on balance, I’m pretty happy and I’m ironing out bits all the time.

The device

At first the phone seems large – as you can see from the picture it is significantly larger than an iPhone 4S. I’d read that it was heavy and, in comparison with the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy devices, it definitely weighs more – but it hasn’t annoyed me. In fact it feels about the same weight as my old 4S and after a little time the iPhone screen starts to look small.

It’s well built and tough – Nokia employees love to demonstrate this by smacking their phones on table corners and the like. I’d be petrified of doing that with iPhone – I recently coughed up £140 for a new screen after it smashed for the second time. So, I feel good about its ruggedness (in fact I think Brilliant Noise has paid out c. £450 in iPhone repairs in the past year.

The screen is beautiful and so is the the OS. In fact the OS grows on you the more you get used to – smooth animations.

Nokia also gave me a wireless charger – a little pad you lay your phone on instead of plugging it in to re-charge. Prevously, I’d thought that this was an unnecessary feature – plugging something in isn’t too hard – but it is surprising how quick you get used to it and appreciate the simplicity.

And I mentioned the call quality? There was one morning when I called my colleague Maddy on our iPhones, then we switched to Lumia at the same time (not planned) and were amazed at the difference in sound quality. This is a PHONE. I’d forgiven the iPhone for a lot when it came to phone calls for years – in fact I think O2 probably took the blame. Sorry ’bout that, O2…

Photography is gorgeous. Here’s a gallery of shots I’ve taken with it – some of them processed through Adobe Lightroom. I think the camera is harder work than the iPhone 4S – because it gives you more control and options (ISO, White Balance etc) but is definitely superior. And the Nokia Cinemagraph and Smartshoot apps that come as standard or free are excellent – the former is a photo GIF creator and the latter shoots 5 – 10 shots rapidly then lets you choose the best, automatically deleting the others.

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Image: an unfiltered shot from my Nokia Lumia 920

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Image: Another shot using the Lumia – I might have put this through Lightroom for extra contrast – can’t recall now… 

And the video is incredible too:

 

Apps

The last time I tried a Lumia there were only about 25,000 apps in the store and I’d found it hard to find things I liked there. That is changing now – there are c.125,000, which is small compared with Android or iOS, but it’s big enough that you can find apps that are useful and in many cases very innovative and distinctly Windows Phone, rather than ported versions of apps from other platforms.

It can be hard to find good quality apps in the store, but that’s very true for iPhone too. The best apps I found for iPhone were usually based on recommendations rather than through the search function. That’s the same here – after a few days i’ve begun to gather a collection of really nice apps for most of the things I need on my phone. Comments in reviews and apps round-ups seem to be the best source…

As Christina Warren says in her Mashable review, you can really see the potential of this platform for app developers, small as it is right now. Camper, a Basecamp client, was the first example of an app that worked so well and looked so beautiful that I really got excited. An instance of something I would miss if I suddenly had to go back to iPhone.

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WordPress is better on Windows Phone:

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And – mainly because of the larger screen, Kindle is a winner too…

For the record, other apps I’m liking at this early stage are:

  • RSS reader: Flux (has better Diigo support than Reeder, the best iPhone app).
  • Twitter: Rowi‘s looking promising. Very fast and customisable.
  • Photosharing: As I menitoned, I MISS Instagram. It’s needed on this platform. Meantime, Lomogram is good for sharing to Twitter, FB, etc.
  • Blogging: WordPress looks way better than the iPhone version and seems to work well – it’s another example of the potential of the platform, I think.
  • Skype: As you’d expect, since it is owned by Microsoft – Skype is really well integrated. I used it instead of the phone to make an international call.
Some useful staples were exactly as good as I expected them to be – Amazon Mobile, Evernote and Flixster (as I may have mentioned in a previous post, I like going to the cinema).
Also, in terms of maps – you can download whole country maps to the phone so you can use them offline, which I really like. And the SatNav works even when not connected to a data network – I can imagine this being really useful on holiday in car hires that don’t have SatNav built in, for instance.
I’m conscious that I’m not using all of the apps and features of the phone to their fullest potential yet – I’m still learning. Overall, there’s now some great apps, some awkward absences and doubtless some cool things to come.

Advice for changing

Plan your switch: I changed in a haphazard way. But I’m always like this with new technology – straight out of the box, don’t look at the instructions.

  • Research your switch: Get the advice on battery, the best apps, switching your data over. Top tip – there’s an app on the Lumia which will transfer all your contacts from your old phone via Bluetooth. I have about 2500 contacts and it took about 12 minutes.
  • Relax and accept there will be some bumps in the road and not everything will be the same as your last smartphone
  • Look for opportunities in the change – I’ve rethought how I organise my day and some workflows based on the opportunity of using a new device to organise things…
I’ve a load of bookmarks from my switch on Diigo, including reviews and app recommendations, by the way…

Other (less biased) reviews are available

 

For much more impartial reviews of the new Nokia Windows Phone devices, I recommend these:

  • http://twitter.com/madman2 Robert Campbell

    I’m due an upgrade and the Lumia looks increasingly like a good option to iPhone5. I can’t do without Instagram though as I’m still yet to complete my 365 #onceadayeveryday project and Excitor’s DME isn’t ready yet either.

    Mmmm decisions, decisions.
    MM2 

  • http://twitter.com/amissingham amissingham

    Hi Antony, Firstly – thanks for the hat tip! But mainly, thanks for a very thorough and educated review. I think that the capability as a phone goes hand in hand with the People app (again – agreed, its appeal is a grower; not instantly apparent) to make the usp of the Nokia/WP8 platform a surprisingly obvious one: it’s probably the best way of staying in touch with people you care about when you’re mobile. Take care and speak soon, Andrew

  • http://twitter.com/amissingham amissingham

    Hey Robert, If you’re missing Instagram and other iOS apps, you can always keep your iPhone and use it as an iPod Touch. Yes, I know it adds another item to your pocket, but think of it like Apple’s version of a nicotine patch – until you wean yourself off (or the addictive stuff like Instagram’s in WP8). All best, Andrew

  • Per Kjellqvist

    Here is my tip for Nokia. Run out and quickly make patents for: mobile device that can take a photo without being switched on, smartphone design with rounded left/right edges and flat top, smartphone with “advanced phone quality algorithm” (or an even fancier name, preferably non-descriptive) that can actually make a high quality phone call, smartphone with long range wifi, multiple colour phones (if no one else already has this patent), and much more, before Apple copies them and hands in their patent applications.