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.
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.
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.
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):
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:
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!