Review by Andrew Kameka on Thursday December 13, 2012.
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Windows Phone 8 has an apps problem. More specifically, it has a lack of apps problem. Microsoft recently announced that the Windows Phone Store has crossed the 125,000 apps mark, but that high total does not mean there are not glaring omissions from the best of options available in the Apple iOS App Store or Android's Google Play. For first time smartphone buyers, having fewer apps may not be as big as an issue, but anyone who has used an iPhone or Android device is bound to come up short in their app search. Shutterbugs will be disappointed to learn there's no Instagram, music lovers shocked discover there's no Spotify or Pandora (both coming soon), and new readers will stare at blank pages if they seek Flipboard or Pulse.
The best that anyone can hope for is that a suitable alternative will be available, and that's not always the case. There's no Dropbox app, but there are apps for Box and SkyDrive. Fhotoroom actually has better photo filter options than Instagram, but it is much weaker as a social app because the people you wish to share photos with are far more likely to use Instagram. A search of the Windows Phone Store reveals that there are some great apps, but they are no match for the wealth of options available for other operating systems.
On the bright side, the apps that are available have a uniform and sensible style, and Nokia has worked to get more apps on its phone than any other Windows Phone device. Nokia has exclusive deals with some companies that mean they get apps and games first, so Lumia owners benefit by being the first of the last to receive key apps.
The Lumia 920 has a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.4 aperture still images and HD 720p video recording. The rear shooter has an 8.7 megapixel, Carl Zeiss optics-enabled camera with f/2.0 aperture. In bright lighting, the lens is not any more remarkable than what's seen on the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III. You'll still find images that do well to accurately depict colors and produce very good image quality, but don't go in expecting the world-changing upgrade in photo quality that resulted after Nokia oversold the device's capability with questionable marketing tactics. Instead, focus on the very real and reasonable improvements possible because of Nokia's floating lens system that allows the Lumia 920 to capture more light and provide better image stabilization than the average device.
The lens does an exceptional job at taking pictures at night or in poorly-lit rooms without relying on an LED flash that can make the subject too bright or remove details about the background. It does a better job of accounting for user shaking and movement than most devices, but it's not a miracle worker. Photos and videos will be more stable thanks to the floating lens, and this is definitely the best smartphone camera to have if you have shaky hands or need extra help taking nighttime photos.
Nokia does a tremendous job improving the image processing in the Lumia 920, but the actual camera software is mostly untouched. It's standard Windows Phone 8 fair with shooting modes for close-ups, sports, backlight, night, and night portraits. Users can enhance the software by downloading "Lenses" that introduce panoramic images, taking multiple photos to select a specific face, cinemagraphs, and edit photos.
Nokia Lumia 920
Microsoft and Nokia each gift users with a quality music experience for the Nokia Lumia 920. Nokia Music offers both local playback and streaming radio organized according to popularity, genre, or artist. The Echnonest-powered app limits users to skipping six songs per hour, provides options to purchase songs or entire albums, caches songs for offline listening, lists local concerts and music festivals in a "Gigs" section.
The Music+Videos app acts as a central jukebox that tracks history in the Nokia Music app or any other music-streaming app like Slacker Radio or Rdio. The app has a dashboard for music and video, but it also serves as the home of Xbox Music, Microsoft's streaming or download service. A $9.99 monthly Xbox Music Pass has millions of songs that can be downloaded or streamed on-demand or played with a Pandora-like Smart DJ feature. Collections are synchronized on Windows Phone, Windows 8 desktops or tablets, and Xbox 360, a bonus for users of all three systems.
A 2,000 mAh battery goes a long way towards improving performance, and the Nokia Lumia 920 puts in a solid day's work. The Lumia 920 managed about 15 hours under moderate usage and 12 hours when pushed to do more web browsing and streaming music. Connecting to LTE all day will shorten that time, and there's unfortunately no easy way to disable LTE. When the user does need to reach for a charger, the Nokia Lumia 920 supports the Qi wireless charging standard on separately sold charging pads for the home, office, and select locations.
The Nokia Lumia 920 is an incredible device. It has a fantastic screen, a unique appearance, and a peerless low-light camera that will rescue many photo taking opportunities. Stellar as those attributes may be, there are issues with the device. The hulking build of the Lumia 920 is a small issue, but the weaker Windows Phone apps options are a major concern. Many apps that I rely on daily are not available on Windows Phone 8, and others are available but receive features long after the Android and iOS versions. The Lumia 920 suffers from guilt by association because no matter how nice it dresses up Windows Phone 8, the OS and third-party software are still playing catch-up. This is a fantastic phone for someone who is a dedicated Windows or Xbox user, or someone with a patient streak who spends most of their time on the web. Users who rely on a healthy app market may find that this is a great phone held back the limitations of its software.
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.