There is this recurring theme in the world of mobile phones, we live from leak to announcement to review. After that last step there is usually not much more, it almost seems like the life of a certain device ends after it got reviewed and there is nothing left but to look forward to the next leak. We seldom here about how a phone behaves on the long run, what kind of quirks it can develop overtime and most importantly there is very little coverage of how a device holds up in a day to day routine.
In order to set the stage, I’m writing this about my own personal 920 which I bought full price on the day it launched in my country. Initially I was torn between an 820 and 920, but a trial unit swayed the decision in favour of the Lumia 920. So is the love for it still there or is it just a case of sticking together because going our separate ways is too expensive? Let’s find out.
Exterior: a marriage of style and ruggidness
Even after half a year of seeing the Lumia 920 it is still as striking as it was on day one that I held it. There is a certain timeless beauty to it that lets it stand the test of time so much better than competing devices. However, with newer Lumias being released it is obvious that the design of the 920 isn’t the best fit for a device of this size. This is most noticeable at the corners of the body, where the sharp edges worked very well on both the N9 and Lumia 800 they don’t work so well on the 920. Combined with the heavier than average weight (and thickness) it can sometimes feel awkward to handle, which I didn’t want to believe from initial reviews. In fact, the sharp angles and thickness have been wreaking havoc on my pants and resulted in excessive wear where I keep my phone.
Wear and tear on the phone itself is minimal even with rough usage and without using any type of case or screenprotector although one should really be careful with the oliophobic coating on the screen as it scratches easily. They aren’t visible with normal day to day use, but when outside on a rather bright day be prepared to see some damage. The back has held up better and still looks pretty good although my glossy white unit has sustained some miniscule scratches, luckily they are only visible in bright light and under a specific angle. A special mention should go out to the camera strip on the back. Nokia chose to go with a ceramic zirconium type of metal that should be scratch resistant. Well, I can say that it is since it still looks nearly as good as new.
‘…it still looks nearly as good as new.’
The internals have aged pretty well, in fact when doing some rather unscientific browser tests between the 920 and a Surface RT the 920 was winning about 50% of the time. Besides that, the OS feels nice and zippy even after 2 months of non-stop usage and apps start up nice and quick.
In no way does the Lumia 920 feel dated, it is still quick in your everyday tasks, it packs enough memory for all your music, apps and photographs and has a gorgeous screen to view it all on. There might be a yearning for 1080p displays by some people, but let’s be honest here; is it really necessary? It’s a non-pentile 768p model in the 920, has great viewing angles, absurd speed during scrolling and don’t underestimate that sunlight legibility. No, 1080p you won’t miss in the 920 even when you buy one today and intend to use it for 2 or more years.
A thing to look out for when buying a Lumia 920 second-hand is a few hardware quality issues in the first batch. There are units out there with loud vibrating motors, I had this with an early trial unit, but later batches don’t tend to have it. Even if you come across one that has it, don’t worry. It isn’t a sign that the vibrator motor is going to do it is just a little too noisy when it vibrates. One other issue is dust in the front facing camera, also a thing that doesn’t affect all batches, but if you have one with this problem, apparently it will get fixed under warranty although I’m not 100% sure on that.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the 920 was and is the camera, excellent low light performance and videos that are actually worth watching. To start on a positive note, it does deliver on those promises. Where it fails or failed was daylight photography, on launch firmware there was a weird fuzzy cloud over every photo and a severe lack of detail.
‘I’m still not convinced that
this is the best
that can come out of the 920′
This was addressed by Nokia in a newer firmware, but I’m still not convinced that this is the best that can come out of the 920’s camera unit. The fuzziness is gone, but colour reproduction is not where I would like it to be. Whenever there is (visible) sunlight involved there is this yellowish tint to pictures, it lacks the natural feeling.
This lack of natural feel could be a conscious decision by Nokia since it appears to be what people want, that oversaturated look. Personally I don’t like it and based on early reviews of the upcoming Amber software version there are improvements on the way.
One of the reasons I bought the 920 was the idea of having a big enough battery that would last through the day. Generally it does provide enough battery life to last you through the day, but it can be a mixed bag at times. Even with similar usage it can sometimes be a day and a half, but the next day it will only last you just 16-18 hours or so. A day is good but less than that feels rather dissappointing from a large 2,000mAh battery.
Your mileage may vary as I do have 3 continuous syncing mail account, am an active user of Twitter and do quite a significant amount of web browsing. With only moderate browsing and email duties I’ve seen battery life go up significantly up to a maximum of 3 days during a holiday (with 3G off, but with a lot of photos and video taking) Besides my own experiences I can confidently say that the Lumia 920 performs good in battery life and will get you through the day.
More than enough has been said and written about Windows Phone 8 and what it lacks. I won’t say that it lacks apps, apps are far too personal and for some the Windows Phone store just holds all the apps they need. What is lacking is certain system functionality that people expect even from low end Nokia S30(!) phones. Separate volume for ringer and music playback for example or quick access to essentials like WiFi or Bluetooth.
What I did find a real problem with the Lumia 920 was the endless stream of crashes it had on the early firmware. Initially it didn’t suffer from them, but when it started it just kept on crashing, luckily I haven’t a single crash since the latest firmware update.
There have been very few times I have been really annoyed by the 920, the times that I didn’t like it were mostly related to software. That, however, doesn’t mean that the 920 as a phone is a bad device. What is worth keeping in mind is the design as that won’t change with a software update. When handling it for just a week or two the weight, size or anything else won’t irritate you. Overtime though, the thickness (not the weight!) and sharp corners can become annoying when you are someone who wears tighter pants (not the skinny kind, just normal non-baggy kind) as the phone won’t fit properly in your pockets.
Following (Nokia) phones from rumour to launch often leaves very little surprises, yet I have been pleasantly surprised by the apps Nokia creates. Where the early Windows Phone 7 apps could feel clunky and cumbersome to use, the ones that come with the Lumia 920 are mostly a joy to use. Apps like Cinemagraph and Smart Shoot that really emphasize the imaging prowess never seem to stop amazing me, but also Android and iOS fans.
Eventhough it wasn’t so much a surprise, the image stabilization is still like alien technology to me. Coupled with the HAAC mics it makes for quite some amazing video recording, in fact it recorded sounds at a concert my own ears didn’t even hear.
Conclusion: like a fine wine
Am I content with the 920, even after 6 months? Yes! Although I kind of regret that I didn’t get a more colourful version like the yellow or red one. Before buying my own personal unit I got a yellow trial unit, that felt garish at first, but living with a ‘plain’ white one for half a year has strangely made me yearn for a bit more colour. Although that might just be due to the lack of real summer here in the north-western part of Europe.
‘Should you still buy a 920?’
All in all, I don’t regret buying the 920. It had a few teething problems on the software side, but that has been fixed in subsequent firmware updates. The hardware still feels great and there isn’t really anything that is missing, to me that is.
So should you still buy a Lumia 920 with the Lumia 925 also being available? Yes, prices on the 920 have been gradually dropping to a level where it is basically a steal for what you get. A proper PureView camera, OIS, 32GB of built in memory a HD screen, large battery and an array of colours to choose from. If you can get past the slightly chunkier frame and the idea of having ‘an older device’ it is definitely an excellent buy!