Saturday, April 19, 2014

Nokia Lumia Icon

As some of you know, I've been using a Windows Phone since early 2013. I had been planning on writing a review of Windows Phone 8 at some point, however, with the impending release of Windows Phone 8.1, I will hold off on that since the new OS is a major change and I'll have a lot more to write about.

Just last week, my HTC Windows Phone 8X decided it didn't want to charge any more. Full disclosure, it was my 3rd HTC 8X because I broke the first 2 (swimming and dropping). In general I liked the phone, however there were some quirky things that it would do. For example, due to a poorly designed SIM card tray, the phone would lose contact with the card and either shut off or not be able to make any calls until I restarted it. This was due to the tray deforming due to the placement under the power button and the plastic case of the phone. The simple fix was to "thicken" the SIM card with two pieces of tape, basically jamming it in the slot. So when the third one died, I decided it would be better to upgrade to a new phone.
My Start Screen

Enter the Lumia Icon. It's Verizon's top of the line Windows phone, and, according to many reviews, one of the best out there. It definitely lives up to the hype. It comes with 32 GB memory, a 5" AMOLED full-HD screen, a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor running at 2.2 GhZ, wireless charging, and a 20 megapixel (!) camera. The folks at WPCentral have written a nice, detailed review of the phone, so I am not going to go into a ton of detail here, but I am going to write about some of the things that I like about my new phone.

Restore process

First, I want to quickly mention the restore process. While this isn't phone-specific, it's something that Windows Phone does really well. When I first got the phone and turned it on, I was asked if I wanted to restore the phone, and presented with a number of options (dates of backups) to restore from. I selected the most recent one, and the phone started working. It downloaded and installed most of my apps (there were certain HTC apps that are not available for the Nokia phone, and a few apps that needed "attention" or wifi to download), my account settings (though I needed to put in my passwords once the settings were downloaded), my text messages, and my call history. Since my contacts are managed through Exchange Server, once I entered the password for that account the contacts synced as did my e-mail. The only thing it didn't do was set up the start screen by pinning the apps I had on the screen on my old phone. Basically, I had a fully functioning phone with all the apps, account settings, and features that were on my old phone within about 20 minutes.

The Phone

The Lumia Icon is a nice looking phone. It's square with slightly round corners, a slightly raised screen and a tapered back. The back is plastic, and the sides are aluminum (black on my phone, silver on the white version). The screen is a basic Windows Phone screen, with the three control buttons at the bottom (back, home, and search) and the phone buttons (power, volume, and camera) are on the right side. It's heavier than my HTC was, but not too heavy. The 5" screen allows for an extra column of tiles compared to the 4.3" screen of my HTC. This allows me to see more live tiles per screen, though the actual tile size is a bit smaller than on the other phone. One disappointment is the lack of an expansion slot, so I am stuck with the 32GB of memory. That isn't bad for me, though, as I hadn't filled my 16 GB on the Windows Phone 8x, but for some people it could be an issue.

I've had the phone for about a week now and I am enjoying the camera. The Nokia Pro Camera app has several advanced options, including the ability to manually focus, select the iso setting, and adjust white balance among other options. The picture quality is great though I should note that the format is a 5MP + 16 MP oversampling shot, which allows for sharing of lower-resolution pictures and the ability to zoom in to see the great detail provided by the 16MP shot. The only issue I have had is that sometimes it has trouble focusing when I am trying to get close to something to scan a QR code, but I am not sure if that is a camera issue or a software issue with the QR code scanner I use.

Call quality is decent - I haven't had any issues. I haven't noticed a real difference from my old phone, but that one had good call quality as well. Battery life is also decent. I can use the phone all day and not need to charge. On a typical work day, it has gone from 100% in the morning to about 30% at bedtime, which is something I can deal with, especially with the wireless charging - I'll keep a charging plate at work, and one at home, so all I have to do is set the phone down to charge.

The Apps

I am planning a blog post on my favorite Windows Phone apps, so I am not going to go into every app I like, but I do want to mention a couple of Nokia apps that come with the phone. First is Nokia Beamer. This app allows users to share their phone screen or the camera view with anyone. They either send a link via e-mail, SMS, or social media (Twitter) or, for local sharing, they can scan a QR code on a Web browser. Then, they can either shake the phone to share the current view (screen or camera), or can set the phone to "auto share" which updates periodically (basically whenever the image changes).

Nokia's map and driving directions apps (Here Maps and Here Drive) are also great additions to the phone.* They provide all the features of Google maps, including turn-by-turn directions with street names, Places (which includes a "street view" feature), etc. There is also a "my commute" feature where you can enter your daily commute location and it will let you know the estimated commute time when you are ready to leave. This last feature needs some improvement, as it is not as nice as Google Now's similar function, but it is nice to be able to glance at a live tile and see about how long it will take me to get home.

Conclusion

I'm happy with my choice of phone, and am enjoying the Windows Phone platform. The Nokia Lumia Icon is a great example of what Windows Phone can do and is a great piece of hardware. The lack of an expansion slot is a minus, but since there is 32GB of memory it's not a show-stopper. If you are looking for a new phone and either currently use Windows Phone or want to switch, I would recommend taking a look at the Lumia Icon.

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