Nokia Lumia 820 Review
Hands on with the Nokia Lumia 820 Windows Phone
We have waited for a long time to get our hands on another Windows Phone operated handset, and now the opportunity has arisen to road-test the Nokia Lumia 820, released in November last year. Being a die-hard Android fan, I can’t wait to see how the Windows Phone 8 OS differs to other Android handsets in terms of style, functionality and ease of use. In many ways, this review is as much an analysis of the phone’s operating system as it is about the model itself, which makes it twice as exciting.
There has been a huge media drive behind Nokia’s new Lumia range of handsets, so let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about.
The Lumia 820, I must admit, is slightly larger than I was expecting when I first took it out of its packaging. At just under 12cm long and 6 cm wide, the handset looks a little bulky, especially when compared with other models such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2. The thickness of the model is 9.9mm, which, these days, is quite cumbersome, especially compared with the 8.6mm depth of the Galaxy S3. That said, because the phone is half as wide as it is tall, it is really easy to use all applications on the phone with one hand.
The phone fits well into your hand and doesn’t feel too large in size, though one thing that stood out to me was the Lumia’s weight. While the phone looks a little bulky, as mentioned, picking up the handset for the first time, I was surprised at how heavy it felt. And at 160g it is quite a deal heavier than slimmer models such as the Galaxy S3, which weighs in at around 133g.
That said, the Lumia’s polycarbonate chassis gives the handset a luxurious feel, and I don’t feel like I have to worry about breaking or scratching the outer casing. However, I found it really tricky to get the back case off the phone to insert my SIM card, and while this is a bonus for making the phone feel sturdy, it’s a pain when you need to get into the back to change the battery or insert an SD card. Furthermore, unlike sleeker models such as the HTC One X, the casing means that the Lumia is much easier to grip, which is a bonus.
One feature that I liked about the Lumia’s build was its three visible, but not physical, buttons which appear at the bottom of the phone’s fascia. Unlike some handsets, these touch-buttons made the phone really easy to operate, as the icons allowed you to either go back to the previous page or application, to go back to the home screen, or to take the user straight to Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.
The Lumia 820 is also available in black, grey, red, yellow, white blue and violet, so there really is a phone for each individual out there. Because of the Lumia’s polycarbonate casing, the colours don’t look cheap and glossy, and I think that Nokia has succeeded in making the colour variations look luxurious and quirky, rather than gordy and plasticy.
Phone Set Up
The most novel feature of the Nokia Lumia 820 is probably its operating system, as the model is one of Nokia’s latest releases which sport the new Windows Phone 8 OS. As someone who is very used to Android operated smartphone, I thought that I would struggle to get accustomed to an entirely new operating system, but in fact, I found the transition quite easy.
The Windows Phone 8 OS, as you have probably seen on various TV adverts, is very visual, and features a home screen which houses live tiles which update in real-time. You can select which tiles you want to display on your home screen, making the tiles either smaller or larger, and moving them around. You can also change the colour scheme of the tiles, and can personalise the lock screen by selecting your own photos to display. The tiles are colour coded into different categories, for instance, blue for social applications, orange for business apps, such as Microsoft Office, and green for games and multimedia applications, which makes it easier to select different tiles without having to look too hard.
Operating system aside, the Nokia Lumia also has a great set of specs; it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, and is powered by a dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait processor. The Lumia is also 4G compatible, which means it’s right up there with competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5. The 8 GB internal memory may not be huge, but the Lumia has the capacity of extending its memory to 64 GB with an external SD card, which is more than what some phones, such as the HTC One X, offer.
Nokia City Lens
Nokia City Lens is a really handy application which is pre-installed on the Lumia 820. It allows you to find restaurants, cafes and bars, hotels, shops, and even famous sights which are close to your current location. Although other phones offer similar features, I found that the Nokia City Lens was really accurate in finding your exact location, and the app was also helpful in directing you to whichever site you choose using the in-built compass.
Local Scout is another similar feature which uses GPS to pin-point your location in order to find local destinations to eat and drink, see and do, and shop. The app displays their locations on little flags on a 2D street map, making it easy to visualise where each site is.
Nokia Drive is another app which uses the phone’s excellent GPS to direct you from A to B. I had the opportunity to test this feature when I found myself driving around to work, lost, through the snow this week. Although the app features on the phone’s home screen, you are still required to download it from the Window’s app store, which I found a little annoying, though it was simple enough to do. However, I was surprised at how well the app directed exactly to where I wanted to be, even calculating my speed and alerting me to oncoming speed cameras. The only downside of the app, when compared with HTC’s Drive feature, is that you couldn’t use voice recognition to select a destination, which means that you have to pull over to use the app in a safe manner. Also, when the device was turned up to maximum volume in order to combat all other background traffic noise, the sound quality wasn’t brilliant, and the directions were a little crackly.
The Nokia Music feature is one that makes the Lumia range stand out from the rest. Not only can you download or upload your music to the phone so you can listen to it whenever you want, but you can also access Nokia’s Mix Radio and music store in order to listen to all of the latest tracks. You can scroll through different genres in order to discover new songs or artists, with the categories ranging from blues and Bollywood to novelty, musicals and world, and everything in between.
The one part of the Music application which I absolutely loved on the Lumia 820 was its Gigs feature. Again, making the most of GPS, the phone displays a list of all upcoming gigs and concerts that are playing near you. They list displays gigs playing for the two weeks ahead, and doesn’t just list well-known bands in large venues; it also tells you about artists that you may not have heard of who are playing in pubs and bars as well as larger arenas. This app is brilliant for anyone who is into their music who enjoys discovering new, relatively undiscovered artists. The app is also a great way to fill your social calendar if you’ve got a particularly quiet week ahead.
One concern people have expressed about handsets which use the new Windows Phone operating system is the quality of the app store. As with most relatively new operating systems, the Windows Phone app store isn’t quite up to scratch when compared with the Apple or Google app stores. I myself had mixed results when road-testing the Lumia’s app quality. For instance, when looking for my most-used apps such as Facebook, Twitter, SkyScanner, and the Trainline, I found that the Windows store had it all. In fact, the Facebook app has a completely different look about it compared to the traditional Facebook format, which I found interesting. However, when I was snowed in at home with the recent weather conditions, I tried to install the National Rail Enquiries app to make my journey into work that bit easier, but found that it was unavailable on the Windows OS. It was much the same for photo-editing apps: though there is no Instagram app available for the phone, there are various other editing apps such as Lomogram, which do pretty much the same thing.
That said, I really liked the way that apps are organised on the Lumia 820; there are categories such as ‘travel kit’ for all your most relevant travel apps, ‘apps for kids’, ‘eco apps’ and even apps ‘for music lovers’. I found the ‘starter kit’ category really useful when using the phone for the first time, which eased me into the Windows OS smoothly. Also, while there might not be hundreds of apps currently available for the Windows Phone OS, it's still early days, and I foresee that given a few more months, apps will find themselves flying into the Windows’ store at a rapid rate.
Camera & Video
The Nokia Lumia 820 features an 8 MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a dual-LED flash. There is a physical camera button on the side of the phone which makes it really easy to take landscape photos, especially when you have gloves on. However, taking portrait photos using the physical button was a bit awkward and often required you to use both hands.
The camera quality of the Lumia was pretty standard for an 8 MP phone, and images taken at full zoom didn’t come out blurry or pixelated. I was disappointed with the lack of post capture editing features, and in this respect, I found the Lumia’s camera quite basic.
As you can see, the images taken with the camera are fairly good, though aren’t anything spectacular. This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I road tested the camera on one of Britain’s snowiest weeks in history, which meant that lighting conditions were quite dull.
I was quite impressed at how far the zoom function could enlarge a picture’s subject, and although I thought the zoomed-in image was a little blurry while I took the photo, when I scrolled through the camera roll afterwards, the picture emerged much sharper than I originally thought.
It is really easy to switch between camera and video, which makes it much quicker to make a transition. The video doesn’t produce a bad looking image either, at 1080 at 30 frames per second, which tends to be the norm for most smartphone cameras on the market. Although the Nokia Lumia 820 doesn’t allow you to take still shots at the same time as recording a video, which has become a popular feature on many Samsung and HTC phones, it does allow you to switch the camera to the mirror-view which is great if you are recording a blog, especially as most other phones only allow you to use the front-facing camera to take bog standard photographs.
One thing that I have heard many reviewers of the Lumia 820 complain about is the model’s short battery life. This is something that I hoped I could contest, but, much to my disappointment, I too found that the Lumia’s battery drained quite quickly, even when left idle. The most obvious explanation for this is probably the fact that the live tiles on the phone’s home screen are dynamic, which uses more energy to update continuously. When my battery was low, I charged it to almost full capacity, and even after turning it off overnight, I found that my battery had drained to half-empty by mid-morning.
I wouldn’t say that this is a major drawback of the Lumia 820, however, as most smartphone batteries drain at a rapid rate, and it wasn’t as though I couldn’t get through the day without charging the handset.
I also found that when the phone’s back case is removed, the battery doesn’t fit very snugly into the phone, and simply dropped out of the device. Although as mentioned before, the back case fits pretty tightly, minimising the chance of the battery falling out if the handset if dropped, it is still a little disconcerting.