Nokia Lumia, best kept secret - review

2013-01-08 09:36
The Nokia Lumia is a smartphone alternative to Samsung, Apple and HTC devices. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The Nokia Lumia is a smartphone alternative to Samsung, Apple and HTC devices. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The new Nokia Lumia range of smartphones is one of the best kept secrets available because you get a decent device with some features only available to Nokia.

The Lumia 820 and 920 smartphones are the latest offerings from the Finnish company and the first thing that strikes one about these devices is the build quality.

They sport an Amoled high definition display that makes a difference in direct sunlight. The 820 measures 10.9cm and the 920 has a slightly larger 11.4cm display.

As would be expected from a top-of-the-line device, the display in both models is protected by Gorilla Glass, though (ahem) little hands can still cause them significant damage.

The smartphones uses a micro SIM, and one of the big selling points is that it's one of the few devices support LTE (Long Term Evolution) high-speed networks.


The Lumia phones run the Windows Phone 8 operating system and while the 920 has 32GB of storage capacity for content, the 820 only has 8GB, but the latter has the additional benefit of a micro-SD slot to expand memory.

Both Vodacom and MTN have announced LTE networks for SA, but national rollout will be slow as the operators are recycling existing spectrum while they wait on Icasa (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) to auction true 4G spectrum.

The Lumia devices have an 8 megapixel main camera with LED flash, but only the 920's secondary camera is high definition.

The devices do feature unique tricks: The image stabilisation in the 920 is hardware-based, resulting in sharp images with little blur, even in low-light conditions. The 820’s camera is also good, though semi-dark-shots-in-the-club can confuse the sensor.

Smart Shoot enables you to take the best possible group photos even if everyone in the shot doesn't smile, or look at the phone at the same time.

The City Lens application is sheer genius and works perfectly well for tourists and locals alike. On a test in Cape Town, it not only correctly identified directions to landmarks, but also little hole-in-the-wall drink stops.

You hold the phone up in the street and follow the directions - as easy as that.

User experience

In terms of navigation, Nokias come with their own mapping application (that works). Google Maps gives more traffic detail, but with Windows devices, you can download the complete SA map (about 130MB) unlike the portions on Android.

In terms of uploading content, Nokia has responded to user requests to return the device's content management system to that of the N9. Zune is gone. And good riddance.

You can load content directly on the Lumia and it reads it immediately - as it should be with no hassle.

Also, as with all Windows Phone devices, you get 7GB of SkyDrive internet "cloud" storage for additional content.

So why is the Lumia not the king of the hill? The 1.5GHz dual core processor is on the low end of top-flight devices in SA, although Windows Phone doesn't require a top-of-the-line brain to deliver a smooth user experience.

The Lumia 820 weighs in at 160g while the 920 tips the scales at 185g, making it heavier than competitors from HTC and Samsung.

Of course, with such an attractive device, little hands will want to explore the device. If you're confident enough in the Nokia build quality but you don't want them to call your boss at night, or see your "entertainment" images, the Windows OS offers a Kid's Corner where you can authorise access to specific apps and your little ones can even customise their space without changing your settings. (Useful tip: This also works well for your other half.)

The Lumia offers a serious smartphone alternative to the dominating Android platform and the highly priced Apple devices. The Nokia is also kind to your data bundle and the wireless charging of the 920 should be standard for all phones.

Then Nokia Lumia 920 is available from Vodacom at R399 per month and the 820 at R329 on a 24 month contract.

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