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Nokia Lumia 1020 Review

Review by Andrew Kameka on Wednesday July 24, 2013.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 start screen
Nokia Lumia 1020 start screen

Software and Apps

A Windows Phone 8 handset is like a rose when it comes to software; by any other name, it's still a Windows Phone. There's a consistency and familiarity across Windows Phone 8 devices that makes using the device fairly predictable. The Lumia 1020 follows that tradition with very few exceptions. On the Windows Phone side, the same concepts play out again. The interface relies on Live Tiles to provide app shortcuts and limited updates related to things like email count or song information for streaming music. Users can customize the appearance of their home screen, but if you've seen one Lumia software offering, you've seen them all. I get an odd sense of deja vu whenever going from one Windows Phone to the next. I always talk about how much I like the Rooms for group communication but can't take full advantage of it because no one I know has a Windows device. I like the simplicity of Internet Explorer. I really like the music player. But I don't particularly love much about Windows Phone, other than the free Microsoft Office included for viewing and editing documents. Windows Phone is a good operating system, but there's nothing that makes me think I need to cast aside my iPhone or HTC One to enjoy it on a permanent basis.

AT&T has its usual suspects of preloaded software: Address Book Family Map, Locker, myAT&T, Mobile TV, Navigator, Radio, and Yellow Pages Mobile. Nokia also contributes better versions of its HERE mapping suite of applications for free turn-by-turn voice navigation and enhanced local discovery through maps and transit directions. It also preloads Nokia Music and ESPN Hub.

Microsoft has yet to make any substantial changes to Windows Phone 8, so there's still the problem of not having a dedicated notification center and having fewer options when it comes to apps. Despite Windows Phone fans always countering that third-party alternatives or workarounds can make-up for app shortcomings, they don't beat the genuine article. Nokia is at least taking steps to rectify that by encouraging adoption by more big name apps. On the day the Lumia 1020 was announced, Path, Vine, Flipboard, and Hipstamatic all announced plans to support Windows Phone 8. It's not the groundswell needed to catch the likes of iOS or Android, but it's an encouraging sign that some big names are no longer neglecting the platform. It's time for Microsoft to follow suit and introduce some more features to push Windows Phone beyond its current state.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera
Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera


Even with Windows Phone 8's uniformity, the Lumia 1020 is not just another phone. The 41-megapixel sensor and a new Pro Camera app built to harness every single one of those pixels sees to that. I'd venture that anyone considering a Lumia 1020 would be drawn to the camera. The camera is the 1020's biggest selling point and best feature. Not because it has 41 megapixels, but because it has so much going on.

The front-facing camera has a 1.2-megapixel wide-angle lens that looks great. The rear camera actually has 6 lenses that work in conjunction. The Lumia 1020 employs a tactic called oversampling that captures more image data to take photos that are called oversampling. The larger sensor captures more light and detail than is necessary, and then compacts that into a 5 megapixel image. Oversampling lets the Lumia 1020 reduce noise and create a photo that looks clearer than what a 5 megapixel camera is supposed to be able to capture. What's great about this set-up is that Nokia actually takes two images when a photo is captured - one that's 34 to 38 megapixels, and another that's 5 megapixel. Taking two photos introduces a bit of lag between shots but the results are good. I could pen an entire article discussing the complexities of the Lumia 1020 camera but Nokia already has explained it in this white paper.

I'd rather give the short and simple answer: Nokia nailed it. The Nokia Lumia 1020 is the most impressive smartphone camera that I've ever used. The 1080p HD video recordings are remarkable and the Xenon flash captures more of the scene at night. The abundance of camera apps is a bit obsessive yet seems worth it once someone is able to see the sharp, vivid images taken with the multiple options. The Lumia 1020 is the kind of camera that will spoil photo snobs with glee.


Nokia hasn't made many battery advancements in the Lumia 1020. It has the same 2,000 mAh non-removable battery present in all of the premium Lumia devices of the past 9 months. One change is that this does not support Qi wireless charging natively. The addition of the camera and a desire to keep the phone thin required that Nokia deliver wireless charging through an add-on case, which kind of defeats the purpose of wireless charging.

The Lumia 1020 otherwise lives up to the standard of other Windows Phone 8 devices. Windows Phone 8 tends to do well when it comes to power management, so that's no surprise. In my first day obsessively loading and testing apps, taking lots of photos, and watching video, the phone lasted more than 10 hours. In subsequent days of heavy usage, it last 11 hours. Moderate use can make the phone last the whole day on a single charge.

Nokia Lumia 1020 after being chipped from a fall
Nokia Lumia 1020 after being chipped from a fall


Once dominant Nokia has relied almost entirely on the benefits of its camera in the smartphone wars, so it's no surprise that the Lumia 1020's appeal is determined entirely by a prospective user's desire for great photography. The Lumia 1020 is above and beyond anything that can reasonably be expected of a smartphone camera. Someone who obsessively captures every building passed or smile seen will absolutely love this device. Others simply looking for a great phone will be less swayed by this device and may even be turned away by its price tag.

AT&T has made a potentially damning mistake by charging $300 for the Lumia 1020 when purchased with a two-year agreement. That's $100 more than most other smartphones even though it has similar unsubsidized prices as the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S 4. Why should the average consumer spend more for the promise of a better camera when the camera on most existing smartphones is already adequate for most people's need?

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a nice upgrade to the Lumia 920 and a big upgrade to most smartphone cameras. However, its enhancements don't warrant the higher price tag unless a customer can't walk away from the striking photos and videos it's capable of catching. The Lumia 1020 is a tough sell at $299, but the actual device sells itself for anyone willing to pony up the extra money.


Nokia Lumia 1020 speakers
Nokia Lumia 1020 speakers

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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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