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Nokia Lumia 1520 Review - Windows Phone 8 hits the grand stage


Review by Andrew Kameka on Monday November 25, 2013.

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Nokia Lumia 1520 running Instagram
Nokia Lumia 1520 running Instagram

Software and Apps

While upgrading the hardware might address one Achilles Heel of Windows Phone 8, there's still another requiring strengthening - the software. That's where Microsoft comes in. Nokia's future owners have introduced some new software features in the GDR 3 update that improve the experience of using a Lumia device. The software has orientation lock to keep a phone in portrait or landscape mode, better Bluetooth connectivity, assigning ringtones to types of notifications, and a Driving Mode to auto-reply or turnoff text notifications while driving. These are all features that Android has enjoyed for a long time, but it's important to see that Microsoft is plugging holes. Now we just need them to refine the experience so those holes are completely eradicated. For instance, it would much easier to have shortcuts to turn settings on or off, so getting to orientation locks wouldn't require someone to sift through several menus to perform a task that can be completed with two flicks in the blink of an eye.

The latest version of Windows Phone 8 adds a third column of Live Tiles. I've always liked the way that Live Tiles have allowed users to have shortcuts to apps and show live updates for things like email count or the currently playing song in Pandora. The 6-inch display now has more room for updating users and letting them know what's going on in the areas that matter most to them.

Otherwise, Windows Phone has undergone little change. The excellent keyboard remains flat and now supports even faster typing thanks to the extra space, and Office remains the best way to handle Office documents on a mobile device. No surprise there. Nor is it a shock that Rooms still remains a good but useless communicative feature because it has such a fragmented situation on other operating systems.

Nokia Lumia 1520 texts, groups, MS Office
Nokia Lumia 1520 texts, groups, MS Office

The only thing truly surprising about the software and apps situation is that the issues related to app envy are slowly being chipped away. One year ago, the lack of Instagram, Pandora, Spotify, and several other popular apps made Windows Phone embarrassingly behind the curve. It's still not on par with app choices afforded to iOS and Android, but the apps that matter are making their way to the Microsoft Store. There will always be absent marquee names and new features won't launch first on Windows Phone, but the day-to-day experience is tolerable. All but four of my must-have apps are now on Windows Phone, and the progress seems to be trending towards apps arriving late but still managing to meet the needs of users.

Nokia Lumia 1520 notifications, Bing News, Apps List
Nokia Lumia 1520 notifications, Bing News, Apps List

Camera

A 20-megapixel Pureview camera takes good photos, and Nokia didn't have to place the giant lens a la Lumia 1020 to make that possible. While customers have to sacrifice the zooming and detail capabilities of the 1020, they still benefit from a camera with great use of sharpness and color. The software does a better job at applying the appropriate white balance settings and focusing on close objects. Unfortunately, it's not as good for video recording. A dual LED flash is present for dark photos, and a 1.2-megapixel front camera with a wide angle handles the self-portraits. Below are full-size sample images taken with the Lumia 1520.

Data & Communication

AT&T has somehow managed to snag all of the best that Nokia has to offer, so anyone interested in the Lumia 1520 better hope that the network performs well in his or her area. I've predictably seen download speeds of 3.9 to 7 Mbps and upload speeds of 3.54 in my immediate area, on par with every other 4G LTE AT&T phone. Speed and performance will vary by area. The HSPA+ and quad-band LTE phone operates on bands 2, 4, 5, and 17.

Both the speakerphone and earpiece in the Lumia 1520 lead to excellent call quality. The presence of dual microphones and noise reduction aid video recording, and Nokia has tuned its phone to have better than average voice quality. I had no problem being heard and understood when placing calls outdoors as long as I was in a strong AT&T coverage area.

Nokia Lumia 1520
Nokia Lumia 1520

Battery Life

The Nokia Lumia 1520 has a 3,400 mAh battery, so you can expect to have a long-lasting device. The enormous 1080p HD display obviously takes a lot out of it, so the large capacity battery is a necessity more than a luxury. Watching videos will drain the phone down just as fast as any other model would, but moderate to slightly above average use for other activities can keep the phone running throughout an entire day. The best way to extend battery life is to keep brightness at Medium or lower because even the Medium setting is very bright.

Conclusion

The Nokia Lumia 1520 feels as though Nokia has spent the past year compiling a list of every negative comment that someone has made about its smartphones. It's fairly obvious that Nokia then set to work erasing those complaints and tidying up a few other things just in case more issues arrived. As a result, the Lumia 1520 is the best that Nokia has to offer for anyone who can put up with an extra-large phone. Windows Phone 8 is better off than it was a year ago, Nokia is still making great smartphone cameras, and the large display is truly something to marvel at in many cases. The only problem is that it might literally be too much to handle.

Nokia Lumia 1520 speaker
Nokia Lumia 1520 speaker

 
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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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