It’s official. Nokia’s just taken the wraps off its worst-kept Windows Phone 8 secret: the Lumia 920. The device, announced at the manufacturer’s event in New York City today, is a spiritual successor to the 900 that first broke onto American shores and can largely be seen as a response to critics of that former device. With a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU (the same one that drives the the current US supremos, the HTC One X and Galaxy S III), a “better than HD” 1,280 x 768 LCD display, PureView imaging (albeit with only eight megapixels), NFC capabilities, 2,000mAh battery with wireless charging and a next-gen Redmond-baked OS, this handset’s a big break proposition for the flailing Finnish company; an attempt to up the ante and compete on even ground. From the outside, it may appear as though not much has changed in this generational hardware leap, but rest assured that what Espoo’s packed inside should take the mobile outfit to the next level. So, follow on after the break as we dive into our first impressions of this curiously-hued smartphone splash.
If you’ve fondled a Lumia 900 before, you’ll know what to expect here. The 920 retains much the same form factor as its predecessor, with an all polycarbonate chassis (in this case, a sunny, near neon yellow) replete with rounded side edges and a familiar button placement. The finish of the body has changed slightly, with the 4.5-inch screen now blending gently into its polycarbonate border — a nod to the “sinuous tapering” of the original, awesomely-built Lumia 800. But, on the downside, what once was matte and grippy is now a polished, glossy affair. It’s a design decision that we wish Nokia hadn’t made, since it lends a cheapness to the handset that belies its hearty internals. Obviously, that last bit is a matter of personal taste and it’s entirely possible the company went with this less premium exterior to keep costs down, but we miss that matte refinement.
In the cramped constraints we operate under during these official launch events, it’s not always possible to test out a phone’s imaging capabilities. We weren’t able to put the dumbed-down 8-megapixel PureView module to the test. What should be apparent from that spec alone, and the device’s smooth back, is that this Lumia won’t deliver the same awe-inspiring optic performance of the 808. Perhaps Nokia’s saving that ace for another smartphone reveal, but in the meantime, users will have to suffice with the 920’s other types of optical wizardry. Nokia said during the announcement that its sensor can capture “between five and ten times” the light of any other smartphone, which presumably relates to the Zeiss lens’ f/2.0 maximum aperture — and yet the One X also has an f/2.0 lens, so perhaps something else is going on here. Then there’s also “floating lens” image stabilization, which Nokia insists can even beat the optical stabilization of DSLR cameras. Even at our most open-minded, we can hardly absorb marketing claims like that until we’ve had a chance to test the Lumia 920’s photo-taking performance for ourselves — which hopefully won’t be far off.
So, you know how it looks, how it feels and even what’s inside, but let’s not forget the most important piece of this smartphone pie: how it works. By now, you should be well aware that this is a Windows Phone 8 device. It’s infused with the mobile OS Microsoft crafted from the bottom up and one that shares a kernel with its desktop sibling. Fans of WP will feel right at home when they power on the handset, as that start screen — now expanded to fill up the entire 4.5-inch real estate –pops with an array of live tiles and a balanced vibrancy of color, even without the contrasty AMOLED technology of the Lumia 800. WP8 is a beast unto itself, so stay tuned as we update this post with further software impressions.