Nokia Lumia 920 – A Brief Review by an iPhone Fan

A few months back, I saw a tweet from my buddy, Jeramiah Dooley, mentioning that he’d just received a loaner Lumia 920 from the Nokia@Work program.  Seems they were sending out loaner Lumias (say that fast three times) to folks who agreed to give them a try for a month, with an eye towards evaluating them for use in work/business.

Since I’d recently started a new job, and especially since my new company only offers a choice of an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy III, I reached out to Nokia@Work and offered to give their new Windows Phone 8 device a test drive.  We exchanged emails and postal addresses, and in short order, a Lumia 920 arrived on my doorstep, along with a personalized card.

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I thought about writing a long review comparing this feature or that feature of the Lumia 920 and my own phone, an iPhone 4S, but I don’t think that would really matter much to most people.  If you’re looking for an in-depth comparison of the Lumia 920 and the iPhone 4S/5 or some other smartphone, there are plenty of gadget blogs out there that can do a far better job of that than I can.

In this review I want to focus on a few items that make the Lumia 920 a phone I feel confident I could use on a daily basis – something I thought I wouldn’t be able to say before receiving it, and indeed even after playing with/ it lightly for a few days.

Size Matters

The first is size.  I knew the Lumia 920 was larger than my iPhone 4S, and even larger than the iPhone 5.  I’ll be frank, though – I’d bought into the iPhone fan mantra that stated the iPhone screen was the “right” size – and anything larger was just too large.  I was wrong.  Here’s a picture showing the Lumia 920 next to my iPhone 4S, with both sitting on my iPad.

IMG 4338

So why is bigger better in this case?  Photos and videos look better on a larger screen, and as a new dad, I take a lot of pics and videos of our son.  Speaking of which, the camera on the Lumia 920 seemed just as good as the one on my iPhone.  Reading websites and email and Facebook posts is also easier on my eyes on a larger screen.  I might still look at some of the gigantic “phablet” phones and consider them too large, but if they work for some people – great.  The Lumia 920 screen, at 4.5 inches, is something I grew accustomed to very quickly, and something I missed when I returned the phone to Nokia.  I’m no longer sure I’ll buy an iPhone 5S if that’s the next iPhone model, because I’d prefer a larger screen.

Apps Don’t Matter as Much as I Thought

There’s no denying it – the iOS App Store has many more apps than the Windows Phone store has.  I’m sure for some people, that’s an absolute deal-breaker.  I thought it would be for me, but just as I thought size wouldn’t matter, I was wrong in thinking the extreme difference in numbers of apps available would be a deal-breaker for me.

Could I find equivalents on the Windows Phone store for every single app I have on my iPhone 4S?  No way – but guess how many apps I have on my iPhone right this minute?  155.  How many of those do you think I use on a daily basis?  Counting built-in apps as well as 3rd party apps – about a dozen, and they are (moving up from the bottom of my home screen):

Mail
Safari
Tweetbot
Evernote
Weather
Facebook
Messages
Calculator
Reeder
Google Voice
Fantastical
Foursquare (which is just stupid and I should stop)

So why do I have 155 apps on my iPhone if I only regularly use 12?  Hell if I know.  I have maybe another dozen or so that I use less frequently, such as:

Instagram
iPhoto
Instapaper
Instacast
Amazon
Dropbox
1Password
Kindle
Expensify
Jabber IM
Urbanspoon
RunKeeper

When I started using the Lumia 920, I didn’t try to find equivalents for the 155 iOS apps I have on my iPhone – I focused on those apps I use every day.  Just as several of those were built-in apps on the iPhone, Mail, IE, OneNote, Facebook, Weather, an SMS app, and a calculator came built into the Lumia 920.  I found a decent RSS reader, a Google Voice client, and several free Twitter clients, as well as Evernote.  The only app equivalent I would say I was dissatisfied with was the Twitter client, but for all I know, if I’d been willing to pay for one, I could have found one that compared favorably to Tweetbot.

What surprised me, but really shouldn’t have, once I admitted I only used a fraction of the apps I had installed on my iPhone, was that my app usage is fairly mundane, and fairly reproducible across platforms.  So from an app perspective, the Lumia 920 worked just fine for me.  If anything, it might have begun steering me towards working with OneNote rather than Evernote.  Even though I’ve paid for a Pro Evernote account for a while now, several of my teammates use OneNote, and they were reluctant to give Evernote a try since you have to pay for the pro account to enable sharing.  So I began playing with OneNote and discovered how good the web client is, even on my Mac.

LTE is Nice

I took the Lumia 920 with me on a 3-day assessment at a client site, and I’m glad I did.  Their network was locked down so tightly I couldn’t easily do everything I needed to get my job done, whereas most of what I needed them to do was connect to me via GoToMeeting.  So after an hour or so of dealing with their firewall and web content blocking system, I’d had enough, so I turned on the hotspot functionality on the Lumia 920 and got down to business.  I spent the next three days tethered to the Lumia 920 and didn’t notice a single hiccup in the AT&T LTE service.

I ran a speed test on my MacBook Pro at our Knoxville office while connected to the Lumia 920 and it easily trounced the 1990′s style 1.5mb DSL connection we have.

And yes, I know the iPhone 5 has LTE, but my 4S only has the faux AT&T 4G, which isn’t nearly as fast.

The Real Question

Would I get a Nokia Windows Phone, either the Lumia 920 or whatever comes next?  Probably – especially if it continued to have a larger screen than the current iPhone.  I love my iPhone, just like I love my iPad and my Macs.  But using the Lumia 920 for a while taught me something very important – aside from a handful of regular apps that seem to be available for every major mobile platform, all I really want from a smartphone is a big screen, good build quality, and good performance.  The Lumia 920 has all of those.  If my employer were to offer a choice between a current iPhone, Samsung Android phone, or a Nokia Windows Phone, I’d go for the one with the biggest screen and call it done.  Will I make the switch with my own money later this year when my contract is up with AT&T and the new iPhone comes out?  Maybe – especially if Apple keeps insisting it doesn’t need a larger screen iPhone.

Thanks to the Nokia@Work program for letting me try out the Lumia 920!

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9 Responses to Nokia Lumia 920 – A Brief Review by an iPhone Fan

  1. Shaun says:

    Love this article and how you wrote it on the things that mattered to you. I agree with everything you’ve written here. The apps is a constant battle I have with friends and colleges who state we have more apps blah blah. I had an iPhone at one point and had the app creep and found out I didn’t use 90% of them after the honeymoon phase left. Again great post.

    • Mike Stanley says:

      Thanks, Shaun! I tried to go into this open-minded, which was hard because I LOVE my iPhone. The Lumia 920 impressed me, both in its build quality and how smoothly it runs Windows Phone 8.

      My contract is up with AT&T already (just checked) – so I’m going to give both Nokia and Samsung a serious look this Fall when the new iPhone is released. If Apple sticks to its smaller screen size, I just might jump ship.

      • Shaun says:

        Yeah it’s hard to buy into the “innovation” that Apple has with a new row of buttons and some iOS tweaks. yes they have done a few things and I still like my iPad (for the time being) but it’s not enough anymore. Tim Cook is a marketing genius, which is why they do so well. However he’s not the creative/innovative guy that Steve Jobs was. Look forward to hearing who you ended up with.

  2. Justin O'Hara says:

    Good review Mike. I have wondered about the Windows 8 stuff. I jumped from. Droid to my iPhone 5. I have loved it. I looked at some of the larger screens but really liked the size of iPhone in my pocket as the droids were to big to carry for me especially after adding a case of some sort. I also liked the fact that Apple seems to keep updating the OS something the Android OEMs can’t seem to get their act together on… I am good for at least another year so update your blog with which direction you go.

  3. arr4 says:

    disclaimer: raging Apple Fanboy

    What about content syncing? Lost device retrieval? It’s the iCloud and iTunes ecosystem for content syncing that I’m in love with on the Apple side. With all my content synced across tablet, phone and notebook with iCloud (and it’s only getting better), I’m much more efficient than when I tried to keep up with that myself. I had the very first Android phone (man, I miss that G1 sometimes) and a few subsequent, but since moving to iOS I’ve never looked back.

    Great article. I agree that it boils down to what you need to be productive. Big props for the Evernote mention. That’s a lifesaver now. The LTE is less of a deal if you’ve got it on your iPhone so I agree there. I tried using my wife’s iPhone 4 the other day on ATT 3G and holy amazing that was slow!

    • Shaun says:

      @Arr4 I’ll agree with you on the ecosystem aspect of the Windows Phones. It’s lacking but one of the most undersold items that Microsoft has at it’s disposal is Skydrive and how well it syncs across all devices. But yeah the ecosystem isn’t the best (Apple has done a great job there). One thing Apple is seriously missing (not sure if they fixed with the new iOS7) is a music service. Microsoft has had XBox music which is pretty slick., In Canada for 9.99 a month I can download as much songs as I want and all my devices (Windows Phone, Home Computer, Surface Device) all have the same downloaded songs. I could strip the DRM off and keep the songs however I’m not there anymore, 9.99 is pretty darn cheap for unlimited music.

  4. Mike Stanley says:

    Honestly, aside from PhotoStream & iTunes Match, I don’t do much content syncing in the Apple ecosystem, and I do most of the iTunes Match stuff on my Macs, not my iPhone. I do Exchange email and calendaring for work and Gmail for personal stuff, so iOS doesn’t buy me anything there than Windows Phone (or even Android) wouldn’t.

    I do depend more on iCloud synching of data on my Macs and my iPad, but at the end of the day, my iPhone, most of the time, is just a phone that I run a handful of apps on. If Apple comes through with a truly large screen device this Fall, I may stick with it – otherwise I may be looking to jump ship to get the larger screen because it turned out to matter more to me than I thought it would.

    • arr4 says:

      Trying to manage that stuff on your own is like swimming against the current… you may get ahead but you’re wasting a LOT of energy.

      I’m cool with living in the flow of iCloud. I also understand not everyone gets it the way I do. I’m sick of trusting Google for that stuff, since they keep pulling back features.

      • Mike Stanley says:

        I guess I’ve just never used iCloud for email, calendaring, or contacts, so I may not know what I’m missing. ‘Course, I’ve also had to deal with the craziness of having a Mac.com address, then a Me.com address, and now an iCloud address, and for some crazy reason (that likely makes sense to Apple) – were never the same. I tried living in the iDisk/.Mac universe for a while, but things were painfully slow/bad at times back then. And even Jobs admitted MobileMe stunk, so Apple lost me as a potential user of its cloud services.

        I am not thrilled with Google, but I have several domains with them via Google Apps (grandfathered in as free) – including this blog’s domain. I’ve toyed with the idea of moving my email and calendaring over to another provider, but if I did I would likely go with a hosted Exchange provider because, much as the Mac guy in me hates to admit it sometimes – Exchange works well.

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