So I finally bit the bullet. After months of stalking tech sites like Whirlpool, CNET and Gizmodo and devouring reviews on the two new WP handsets, I headed out and obtained a canary yellow (“…canary yellow? That’s Australian Gold my friend and don’t you fucking forget it”. Sorry, a 12th Man reference for the uninitiated.) Lumia 920, the rarest of the species.
I had been hanging out for this handset since it was announced back in September. Admittedly I was disappointed in some aspects of the handset and I had (and I still do have) reservations about the phone.
Firstly, its size and weight. In this day and age, I see no excuse for Nokia to wheel out what is the heaviest and bulkiest handset of its size. It is on average about 30% larger than major competitors who seem to be able to do more with less. The Nokia fan boys (yes, they do exist) will shout down anyone who points this out as a major flaw with inane comments like “you need to work out more” or “it’s only a handful of coins heavier than an iPhone 5″. Well, I HATE carrying coins. And keys. And pretty much anything in my pocket, so if I have to carry a phone, I would on the whole prefer one that made itself as unnoticeable as possible. And the massive, canary yellow (insert 12th Man reference) 920 is anything but unnoticeable. And after spending a few hours setting the phone up and playing around with it, my hand did get tired – partly due to the weight, but also due to stretching my thumb and fingers to navigate the bigger screen. It actually felt such a relief when I picked up the Lumia 800 again!
I could almost over look the 920′s gigantism if there was a valid reason, something to compensate for the bulk, like an amazing camera for instance. However, despite Nokia blessing the phone with “Pureview” nomenclature, the camera bears no relation to the 41MP unit in the Nokia 808. Indeed, I wouldn’t want it to. Have you seen the 808? It is the Elephant Man of handsets, and the cancerous growth protruding from its body simply would not do for the Lumia range. So whilst I certainly didn’t expect the 920 to match the 808′s camera performance, I did expect it to trounce the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3. It doesn’t. In most instances, it doesn’t even equal them. That was a major disappointment for me, as one of my key requirements is an excellent camera. Again, the Nokia fan boys trot out idiotic comments like “Well if it’s so important you should carry a real camera”. I’d suggest that the camera performance is increasingly critical for many users, with the point of camera phones being that you shouldn’t need to carry a separate camera. I find it completely puzzling how Nokia, once the leader in camera phones, has utterly dropped the ball on the Lumia cameras, going back to the 800 and 900 models. Pictures taken with them lack sharpness and accurate light and colour reproduction. I previously owned the Lumia 800 and on a recent holiday I couldn’t bring myself to use it to take even quick happy snaps and yes, was forced to carry around a dedicated shooter. And at a recent wedding, I had to lug around shooter because my 800 was not up to the task. There’s no room to put a camera at table of 10 people at a wedding reception so I was stuck holding onto the bloody thing all night!
The one highlight of the 920 camera is the optical image stabiliser which helps it produce the best night photos, which is great, but I tend to take most of my photos during the day. I’m told that the problems with the Nokia camera can be resolved with a firmware update. I’m not convinced it is that simple.
My other WP8 option was the HTC 8X. A more svelte unit than the 920. This was actually very attractive to me but for the lack of dedicated apps that the Nokia came with. Things such as Nokia Drive, Nokia Music, Nokia Maps, Nokia Transport, Photobeamer etc. And the HTC camera is even worse.
Ideally, I’d have the Nokia 920 but in the HTC 8X body. I briefly toyed with the idea of holding out till the next Lumia, by which time I’d hope Nokia designers would have put the phone on Jenny Craig and sorted out the camera issues, but who know when or even if that would happen.
There is a lot riding on the success of the Lumias, which is why it is a surprise that Nokia botched the launch so badly. Even now, almost 4 months after they were first announced, supplies are only now trickling in. I suspect that many potential early adopters have lost interest with the wait. I’ve spoken to many a retailer who tells the same story – they’ve only been receiving a handful of handsets in each store and can’t get meaningful stocks. So you when you hear the phone is all but “sold out” in many stores, it is clearly a supply constraint rather than massive demand, a la iPhone and iPad. The unit I picked up yesterday was the last yellow 920 in Brisbane, probably till January!
Bulk aside, I really like the Lumia design and the bright colours available. I’ve long tired of the relentlessly boring black or white of the iPhone and its various imitators. I love the freshness of WP8, even though there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference from WP7.5. The perceived lack of apps doesn’t bother me. I have pretty much every app I need or want and the Windows Phone store continues to grow. The phone is funky, fast, fluid and the screen is vibrant and responsive.
It just needs to hit the gym.