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Mobile & Wireless

Smartphones

Nokia Lumia 920 review

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Software

The Lumia 920 runs Microsoft's new mobile operating system – Windows Phone 8. If you're using Windows 8 you'll recognise the brightly coloured tiled interface. The two operating systems now share the same structure but Windows Phone 8 doesn't have all of Windows 8's features. For example there's no charms bar and you can't use a gesture to switch between apps.

Windows Phone 8 interface

The most prominent feature of the software is the new Start Screen made up of 'live tiles'. You can fit more on the screen compared to version 7.5 Mango because most tiles can be one of three sizes. The bigger you make a tile, the more information it can display. The Start Screen is highly customisable by rearranging and resizing tiles however you want them.

Further customisation comes in the form of colour themes. These set the colour of the tiles on the Start Screen. There are, however, only 20 themes and certain tiles, like Games and Office, remain a fixed colour. The Start Screen can look brilliant but you can also end up with quite an ugly mix of colours.

A swipe away from the Start Screen is the vertical list of installed applications. Beyond this you're stuck with the way Microsoft has laid the OS out. There are beautiful animations which escort you round the OS but it's not an especially intuitive mobile operating systems to navigate.

It can be easy to get lost in the system - the back button and recent apps don't always take you where you expect.  It's worth trying out before you commit to see if you can get on with it.

Xbox SmartGlass is a cool app for those with an Xbox. It provides a 'second screen' experience where you can control the console from the handset and interact with certain games during play. Since Window Phone 8 is Microsoft's mobile OS it's no surprise that there's integration with Office too. Rather than a lengthy rundown of Windows Phone 8 we'll focus on the new features and those exclusive to the Lumia 920.

Within the People Hub (your contacts) there's a new feature called Rooms. This provides you with an area to share private content including messages, calendars and photos with whomever you chose. This could come in handy in various situations but only makes sense if your friends have a Windows Phone 8 device.

You can still invite non-Windows Phone users but the process is much more complicated and requires the user to open a Microsoft account and log into Windows Live to see certain content.

Those with children will find the Kid's Corner feature a boon. This essentially puts the device into a separate and customisable mode specifically for kids. You choose what your child can do on the phone without having to worry about them wiping it or accessing inappropriate content.

Lumia 900 Windows Phone 8

Exclusive Nokia apps

To set the Lumia 920 apart from the competition, such as the HTC 8X, Nokia has a range of exclusive apps and features. Aside from photography ones, which we'll come to in the next section, there's things like Nokia Music. This is a free non-subscription music streaming service with no adverts which we're told offers 20+ million tracks and offline caching.

Nokia City Lens provides local attraction information in a fun, somewhat gimmicky, augmented reality view via the camera app. Open the app, pan around the spot where you're standing and it will tell you what shops, hotels, restaurants and attractions you're looking at.

Nokia Drive provides turn-by-turn navigation and while Nokia Maps is present and now supports offline mapping, this feature will come pre-loaded on every Windows Phone 8 device.

While there are plenty of pre-loaded apps, the selection on offer in the Windows Store is sub-par to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. At the time of writing key big name apps missing from the Store include Spotify, BBC iPlayer, Instagram and games like Bad Piggies and Temple Run.

A lack of apps like the iPlayer might not be so bad if Widows Phone 8 had Adobe Flash support - but it doesn't. Consequently, you can't simply open Internet Explorer 10 and view Flash-based content like video.

Microsoft is confident things will get better, stating that soon there will be 46 out of the top 50 apps available in the Store. The problem is there's no guarantee and future 'top apps' will most likely be launched on iOS and Android first so you'll need to be patient.

Cameras

We weren't entirely convinced by the camera on the Lumia 900 but Nokia is touting the 920's as the best thing since sliced bread. There's a dedicated camera button which is a good start, meaning you can launch the camera app quickly and easily when you need it and avoids having to hit an onscreen shutter button.

On the most part we found still photos from the 8.7Mp PureView rear facing camera with its Carl Zeiss lens very good. Colour balance, saturation and exposure were all of a good standard but some photos weren't quite as sharp as we'd hoped. We also found a lot of noise reduction leading to a loss of detail.

The most outstanding feature of the 920's camera is its optical image stabilisation. It's the first smartphone to have a floating lens which means video footage, which can be recorded in full-HD, is extremely smooth.

Nokia says the camera is excellent in low light conditions and we certainly found this to be the case. Where most phones would struggle to cope we managed to get usable, but not remarkable, results. There's a built-in flash for those moments where it's just too dark.

The front facing 1.2Mp camera also provides a good quality image although there is some obviously graining.

If you like having a laugh with your camera then Cinemagraph is a fun and creative, if a bit gimmicky, app. It essentially takes a short video clip and allows you to choose which parts you want to animate. For example, we took a Cinemagraph of someone flipping a coin and only animated the shadow of their hand and the coin falling on the floor.

Another bundled camera app is Smart Shoot. It takes five photos in quick succession and automatically picks the best one, or you can choose yourself. What's more impressive is the ability to erase sections you don't want - like someone walking into the shot unexpectedly. If the photo is of an individual or a group of people you can choose the best face for each person from the five photos taken, helping you to eliminate things like frowns and shut eyes etc.

Creative Studio allows you to do some nifty editing on any of your photos. You can make adjustments like colour balance and brightness or make fixes such as cropping, rotating and red eye removal.

Cinemagraph, Smart Shoot and Creative Studio are all exclusive Nokia apps which you won't find on rival Windows Phone 8 handsets.

Battery life

Nokia has fitted the Lumia 920 with an above-average sized 7.4Wh battery pack. As we mentioned earlier, this is non-removable. The Motorola Razr i, which has the same capacity battery, lasted us two days so we were hoping for a similar result from the Lumia 920. Unfortunately the 920 didn't last as long.

We got comfortably through a full day of use with the Lumia 920 and at the end of the day we had nearly 25 percent of the battery remaining. While this is typical of today's Android handsets, we were expecting more.

Luckily the wireless charging feature should help you to easily keep the Lumia 920 topped up. A Nokia wireless charging dock will set you back around £40 so keep one on your bedside table or at work and you shouldn't find yourself running out of battery.



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