Nokia Lumia 925 First Impressions

P1150042I’ve been using Nokia phones non-stop since the 6280 and their cameraphones since Feb 2008 when I bought the N82. I’ve tested other phones (mostly Sony’s) but always end up going back to Nokia. The Nokia 808 has produced thousands of quality photos’ for me and many that I wouldn’t have had if I’d been relying on even a pocket digital camera but despite the 808 matching most of my phone needs, it’s just too slow for any web or internet application work. When I picked up a Nokia Lumia 620 last month I was convinced that I needed to give a high-end Lumia a shot. Nokia sent along the Lumia 925, now a sub 400 Euro unlocked phone, and I’ve been using it for about 20 days, non-stop.

I guess it’s no surprise when I say it’s a huge step up from the Nokia Symbian Belle-based ARM11-powered Nokia 808 when it comes to speed, web and apps but the main questions are – does it do the camera business, are the mapping apps as good and what’s the battery life like?

But first, how about that size? It’s a 4.5-inch (large) smartphone that’s way lighter than the Nokia Lumia 920, the Nokia 808 and even the Nokia N8. Its size makes it a little awkward in the pocket and less-then-secure in my smaller hands because of the stylish metal and plastics. As I reach over to a Sony Experia Arc I feel a much more ‘handy’ design. The Lumia 620 is even better when it comes to pocketability. Given that I have two Lumias with two multisim cards and synchronization though, I can pick any of them up and walk out the door without worrying.

That 4.5-inch screen is certainly a quality one. Wow, it works well outside and is now my preferred sunny-location reader. Kindle, Nextgen (RSS) and Bing News (which is surprisingly good on Windows 8.1, but a little US-focused on WP8 GDR2) are keeping me well-informed. It’ has an extremely low, low brightness which is great for reading in bed without disturbing the Wife. If only it had a screen rotation lock. I find it hard to believe that this missing feature wasn’t flagged up for inclusion in the GDR2 update.

 

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Audio playback quality is just OK but loud enough for podcasts. Audio quality on the phone side of things is exceptional. Audio recording is almost, but not quite, as good as the Nokia 808 which does a better job of ambient noise reduction.

How about that non-expandable storage though? 16GB is enough but I do like to be able to drop my music in on a micro-SD card. The cheap Lumia 620 has it, the 925 should have it too. Annoying.

There’s no HDMI and no DLNA that I can see which I’ll miss. The DLNA feature on the 808 was perfect for throwing photos and videos onto the family TV. I haven’t looked for DLNA apps yet.

Update: “Play To” by Nokia is in the Store and covers the DLNA gap. [Thanks @marauderz]

Windows Phone 8

I’m a big fan. My experience on the Nokia Lumia 620 was good. On the Lumia 925 it’s even better.

Android is fun but gets complex  and is, quite honestly, hugely distracting to me. It’s not pretty either. Not only does the simple UI of WP8 suit me, it feels easy as I’ve been using Windows 8 on touch laptops and tablets for the last year. There’s a level of synchronization between the desktop and phone that I find useful too although there could be more passed between desktop and Phone. How about IE bookmarks for a start?

Microsoft have done a good job though. It’s stable and efficient. Sure, there aren’t as many apps as on the #1 and #2 phone platforms, but most, if not all, of the apps you need are available. Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, TuneIn, Evernote, hundreds of weather apps and more than enough to experiment with. YouTube is a notable problem as the official Microsoft app has been blocked by Google and, on the same track, there’s nothing for Google Plus fans. Very advanced Twitter and Facebook users might find a few gaps but hey, there’s a fast browser that can help you…to a certain extent.

Nokia have added some nice apps of their own to the Windows Phone 8 OS and I’m pleased to see their very good mapping and navigation app. Offline maps work well and there are some nice discovery features too.  Nokia music is there (I don’t use it) Nokia Video Upload (to YouTube) and of course, the camera.

Or should I say cameras?

Nokia Lumia 925 Camera

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Windows Phone 8 allows deep integration of alternative camera user interfaces and I have to say, it’s still a little confusing. Touch to focus on the Nokia Pro Cam but touch to take a photo on the default cam. Cinemegraph and Smart Cam also offer different ways to use the camera. I’m still learning here but what is clear is that it’s not difficult to take a good pic, or video, even in low light.

Update after 3 weeks: I am defaulting to the Nokia Camera Pro app where touch to focus+meter works well.

Nokia Lumia 925 Torchlight Concert

For my first Lumia 925 camera test I took pictures at an evening outdoor concert. Low light, bright light, sky light, artificial light and movement. I threw away about 50% of the images I took, of which, 20% must have been errors through experimentation with the camera interfaces.

I’ve uploaded all the photos to Flickr so you can see EXIF details and download full sizes.

Nokia Lumia 925 Torchlight Concert (1)        Nokia Lumia 925 Torchlight Concert (6)Nokia Lumia 925 Torchlight Concert (11)

Here’s another low-light shot that’s particularly impressive. The clarity and contrast is exceptional for a hand-held shot. Original on Flickr. Settings: 1/40 ƒ/2 ISO 400 The F2 aperture is really helping keep the ISO down and the shutter speed up.

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Daylight images are crisp and clean, every time.

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Look closely on all images and, if you’ve been using the 808 as much as I have, you’ll notice a little more grain but in terms of smartphone images, these are extremely high quality.

As for video, it’s stable and the audio quality impresses. Here’s a one-take at a conference. The stabilizer is helping a lot. This YouTube upload was edited in Cyberink Power Director 11 on an Ultrabook.

Overall I find the 925 to have slightly more ‘popped’ images which may not be as pure as on the Nokia 808 but result in something more instantly aesthetically pleasing than the images on from the Nokia 808. I send a lot of images to my social networks and in that respect, the 925 is better. Only the xenon flash is missing and yes, I missed a few late-night party shots that could have been good.

Battery Life

It’s difficult to quantify battery life on smartphones as the range changes wildly depending on use. On one hand I don’t get the 2-3 days between charging that I get on the Nokia 808. On the other hand it beats many other phones given the same level of usage and I’m surprised that I was able to get through a full day of trade-show work on one charge. It’s impressive.

NFC

Tap-to-Send is a nice feature but has its limits. Sending a URL directly over the phone to my NFC-enabled laptop is quick and painless but once Bluetooth on my laptop is set up to trust the Lumia 925 it’s easier to send directly over Bluetooth than Tap-and-Send over Bluetooth. The file transfer seems to be slow too. Why, oh why, can’t this work over Wi-Fi Direct? I haven’t used NFC form a public tag yet but I suspect the URL transfer will be quick and easy.

Other Notes.

  • I miss being able to insert a Micro-SD card full of music.
  • Slightly slippery metal surface feels insecure when using in one-hand.
  • Notifications come and go on Windows Phone 8 (just as on Windows 8) and if you miss them, they’re gone. A notifications center is missing.
  • The browser is fast and capable of a good HTML5 app experience. Facebook, Gmail and even G+ (unless you want to post an image where you’ll need a separate Picasa upload tool.)
  • There’s a surprising number of ‘must have’ apps available. I wish Windows 8 Modern Store was as well-stocked.
  • Battery life usage stats would be nice although in general, battery life takes care of itself when using ‘battery saver’ mode.
  • I haven’t been able to test LTE yet. HSPA+ performance is solid. (6Mbps down/up in my home area)
  • Bluetooth transfers are slower than on many other devices I’ve tried.
  • It feels good to have such a stylish phone.
  • I miss the Nokia Belle Car Mode. Correction: You can enable the Lumia Car Mode with an app.
  • The latest OS upgrade (Amber) fixes Calendar sync with Google. I hope Windows 8.1 incudes this fix on the desktop too!

 

Summary

It’s not difficult to understand why one would be happy to change from Nokia 808 to Nokia Lumia 925 but consider this; I haven’t used an Android  tablet in the 3 weeks since I got the Lumia 925 either.

Yes, I miss some app experimentation. I miss FlightRadar24 (hands-up!) I miss Google Plus interactivity. I miss being able to test a new social network when it launches and, across the board, the features and richness of apps on the top two smartphone platforms. I miss having 10hrs of 3G hotspot to hand and portrait-mode reading and thumb-typing on a 7-incher is easier. For these reasons I expect to be reaching for my 7-inch Android tablet occasionally. Or perhaps I’ll continue with my 10-inch Windows 8 2-in-1 which brings me a better browser experience along with a desktop mode if needed. I’ve got my ‘always-on’ Ultrabook too.

The Lumia 925 is a stylish smart cameraphone with battery life, ease-of-use and stability that add too its appeal. If you need to be at the forefront of everything app-related then this is not the phone for you but if you want to get on with life, capture life and communicate with ease, the Nokia Lumia 925 is a very wise choice.

Update: Flightradar24 is available in the store. Things are getting better!

The Nokia Lumia 925 has been loaned to me on a long-term basis by Nokia. Check this page for the latest of my Nokia 925 reports.

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