Review by Andrew Kameka on Friday February 28, 2014.
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Windows Phone fandom hasn't been very kind to Verizon in the past, especially when you consider that the best option to date is the disappointing Nokia Lumia 928. Nokia and Verizon must have realized a change was necessary because the companies opted not to label its latest Windows Phone device with the same naming conventions. Instead, they branded that phone as the Nokia Lumia Icon, the first device to be called a name rather than a number. It's a fitting switch, because this isn't a by the numbers smartphone.
Hardware and Design
The Nokia Lumia Icon has quite a lot in common with the Nokia Lumia 928. The two devices have nearly identical sizes and are similarly large rectangles with zero distinguishing traits. The lack of outstanding design is especially noticeable with the smoky black color. However, the Icon has the advantage of having much better composition than we saw with the 928. The janky plastic build has been replaced with a solid metal frame with flat buttons. The frame is still boxy, but thanks to the hard materials offering a much more secure grip, there's no need to roughly grip the phone in a manner that makes the edges dig into your hand. The back of the phone is also a flat plastic without any excessive coating.
Along that metal frame is the nano-SIM slot as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack in the center. You'll also notice lines that stand out because they house microphones designed to enhance audio recording. Video samples later in this view illustrate that the company is successful in directional recording that lowers noise based on which way the phone faces. The back of the phone also has a small speaker that produces surprisingly loud audio. I like to sometimes play music with a phone while in the shower, and I could still hear the sounds of Oasis with the water running.
The only hardware problem is that the light behind the navigation buttons (back, home, and search) seems a little bit cloudy as if it will fade, an issue that I noticed over time with the Lumia 928. The Lumia Icon is otherwise not much to look at, which is atypical of Nokia smartphones of recent years. The black model is boring but the white and silver color combination makes things look less drab. Honestly, I was so pleased with the feel of the phone that I never felt truly troubled by its lack of color or standout features.
A detailed 5-inch OLED screen with 1080p HD resolution packs all of Nokia's display tricks. That means the Sunlight Readability helps viewing the display outdoors, and there's glove-friendly sensitivity in the reinforced Gorilla Glass 3 if you need to use the phone in cold weather. Unfortunately, Windows Phone only has three settings for brightness levels, and the very highest is too bright in some cases, and the medium not quite bright enough on rare occasions. We knew that from the get-go, so it's more of an annoyance than a dealbreaker. On the plus side, Nokia supports tuning the saturation and temperature. The screen looks more appealing when raising the saturation to "Vivid" and keeping the temperature at neutral. That quick switch and setting brightness to auto to bounce between High and Medium in most cases made the Lumia Icon pleasing to gawk at on a daily basis.
Performance and Key specs
The Lumia Icon is internally the same as the Lumia 1520 that we reviewed a few months ago. That's a very good thing. The same strong performance courtesy of the 2.2 GHz quad-core processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800) and 2GB of RAM leads to a mostly quick experience. It might be even a little bit better, though only by a very small degree. Windows Phone has always flowed and scrolled smoothly, and the upgrade in processor leads to quicker response times when using the Nokia camera. It doesn't do much for all areas of the software. You'll still run into those nagging "Loading" screens more often than one would expect to see on a high-powered device in this age. I'm not sure if that's a failing of developers or the operating system, but I can't help but feel like there should be an extra gear that Windows Phone just hasn't managed to tap into when it comes to launching apps.
- 5-inch OLED 1080p (1,920 x 1,080, 441ppi)
- 2.2 GHz quad-core processor, Adreno 330
- 2GB RAM, 32GB storage (29GB accessible)
- 2,420 mAh non-removable battery (Qi wireless charging)
- 20-megapixel camera (Carl Zeiss, OIS, f/2.4, AF)
- 2-megapixel front-facing camera
- 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC, Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.