The iPhone 5S is my primary phone but I’ve been committing adultery with a few Nokia phones recently. The latest has been with the new Lumia 1520. It’s another phone that’s way too big yet successfully allure a niche group of people. It’s stupid big but Nokia isn’t stupid, making it a fascinating device to examine.
Regardless of what you think makes the 1520 interesting, the only thing people will remember it by is its massive 6” display. It’s big enough to make the Samsung Galaxy Note’s 5.3” display look cramped. Yes, stupid big.
Like other Lumia products, the 1520’s display curves slightly on the edges. It makes the phone feel warmer, more human, and most importantly, more comfortable to use.
The glass flows gently into the curved body. Very elegant. I also like how the screen’s radii are larger than the body’s. Nokia understands the beauty of subtlety.
Something I appreciate about Nokia is that unlike most manufacturers, they really seem to care about their products. You know its genuine because you learn about it through using their products, not through marketing. Look at how beautiful those noise canceling mic holes are.
Every millimeter, every curve, and every detail of this phone is very on-brand. It’s crafted from polycarbonate like other Lumia devices. A little bird has told me that like other recent Lumia devices, this one is injection molded then polished to remove imperfections - not unlike Apple’s approach.
The level of craft here is staggering. There’s many people that instantly call plastic phones cheap. If you’re one of those people, really take a look at a device like this or the iPhone 5C. Apple isn’t bullshitting when they call their phone “unapologetically plastic”. Plastic can be beautiful, even premium.
I went with red as I prefer the more durable glossy finish on Nokia’s products. A glossy finish is harder to achieve as it’ll show imperfections more easily. It’s amazing how perfect the surfaces are on both the 1520 and 2520 - especially for being so large. The plastic has a solidity and depth to it that really doesn’t get enough appreciation.
The left side of the device features the SIM card and microSD card slots.The trays fit seamlessly; probably achieved through machining the slot. The AT&T model comes with only 16GB, so the microSD card slot is welcome.
Other than the two slots on the left, the device is completely seamless. Notice the three small charging pins on the back: the US model doesn’t have wireless charging and requires a case. Not sure why but I’m blaming the AT&T. They deserve it.
The bottom features micro perforation for the built in speaker. The device uses a micro USB port like all Nokia products.
The 1520 has a 20 MP PureView camera not unlike the one on the 1020. This is just in theory though. In use it’s actually quite mediocre. It has some serious issues with color reproduction and suffers from lots of noise. The wonderful screen also doesn’t help as it accentuates its flaws.
Using the phone is a completely two-handed experience. It’s nearly as tall and just 3cm narrower than Amazon’s latest e-ink Kindle. It’s a stupid big screen.
The phone is so large that it makes my full-size iPad look like a mini.
The 6” IPS display might be stupid big but it’s one of the most beautiful displays you’ll ever see. At 368 ppi, it’s even denser than the iPhone’s 326 ppi Retina Display. It’s pushing over 2 million pixels, and it fits inside your pocket. Sort of.
Windows Phone 8 looks great on the phone’s massive screen and matches wonderfully with the hardware’s design.
A few changes have been made to Windows Phone 8 to make it more usable on the larger screen. Most notably, the home screen has been modified to support more tiles.
Other than that though, the Windows Phone 8 on 1520 doesn’t seem all that optimized for the larger screen. Some of the typography has become outrageously large and none of the apps really make great use of the added real-estate. If the 1520 was a city, it would be Brasília. Massive, gorgeous, yet lacking some common sense.
A good example of poor optimization is the 1520’s keyboard. It’s great to type on, but it's simply a scaled up version of the normal keyboard. It’s grown grotesquely large vertically and uses more surface area than the entire iPhone’s screen. I was hoping for functional benefits from the larger display but all you’ll find is an experience that’s just physically larger.
It’s a bit unfortunate but I kept feeling like I was using a special device for the visually impaired during my time with the phone. There's no reason for the app list to grow that large. It's an amazingly fast phone though. The 1520 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor that makes apps load instantly. Windows Phones always run silky smooth but it’s even better here.
The biggest problem with using a Windows Phone is still the lack of apps. Instagram has finally released an app for Windows Phone though, scratching my biggest itch.
Nokia produces the best apps for the platform and Nokia MixRadio is my new favorite. It’s a streaming service like Pandora but is completely free with no ad interruptions. Nokia also lets you download mixes to your phone ahead of time to avoid heavy data usage.
The 1520 marks the beginning of radical change to Windows Phone. It’s the first Windows Phone with a 1080p screen and the first to use a quad-core processor with native support. It was also launched with official Instagram and Vine apps, two halo apps that hurt the platform a lot with their absence. It’s not enough though. Both apps don’t seem as polished as iOS counterparts and many of my favorite apps are still iOS/Android exclusives. We’ll see what’ll happen in the future but there are some serious shortcomings that can’t be overlooked.
In terms of hardware, the 1520 is beautiful, well crafted, and powerful. It’s ridiculous size is cumbersome though, and the software doesn’t reward you for changing into pants with larger pockets. So much intelligence is required to make something this beautiful yet the phone is... to put it harshly: stupid. It’s a gorgeous girl with no brains.