I have been living a nearly iOS exclusive mobile life since the iPhone 3GS. I have tried the Nexus S and hated it but liked the Nexus 7 so much that I nearly switched to Android. However, Apple’s polished experience has always convinced me to stay.
Note: I just want to make it clear that I do work at Microsoft but it has not tinted this review in anyway. I work in the Xbox division and have had no interaction with Windows Phone. MM has always been and will always be an honest journal of my thoughts.
Last week, I went to a Microsoft Store and bought a Nokia Lumia 920. I frequently say that Nokia has some of the best looking phones in the market today and have also publicly shown my admiration for Windows Phone. However, these things have never convinced me to switch perviously. So the question is, why now?
Well, it’s iOS 7. I’m sure I’ll be soon receiving emails arguing that it’s still in “beta” and that I’m a total idiot. Well, I know that it’s not complete. Frivolous things like icon design aren’t even the biggest problems I have. To me, iOS 7 is sailing in a completely wrong direction. What needed to happen was a significant rethinking of iPhone but all we received was a facelift. An ugly one at that.
iOS7 is so poorly executed that it has made Windows Phone even more beautiful. This is the origin of Apple’s poorly implemented “flat design”. It’s unbelievably clean, sharp, and rational in design. Somehow, Microsoft and Google have surpassed Apple in mobile interface design.
Switching from a Apple centric life proved to be a bit of a pain in the ass. iCloud services like iMessage, contacts and calendar are simply not supported outside of the Apple world. So I decided to go Google. I am now using Google to sync things like calendar and starting to rely more on Gmail. Initially, I thought I was compromising but I now realize that I've gained freedom. I can now move to any platform I want to, and my data will be in sync.
You might be wondering why I went with the middle-aged 920. Simple - I wanted wireless charging and loved the unibody polycarbonate design.
I really do think this is visually the most sexy phone since the iPhone 4. The iPhone 5 and HTC One look a bit too busy and the HTC 8X has that horrible earpiece.
The biggest drawback of the 920 is its sheer size. It’s feels extremely dense and rather heavy in your hand.
Despite the large size, the 920 doesn’t feel clumsy. The curved shape feels welcoming. The machined polycarbonate is feels substantial and oozes quality.
If the display was .5" smaller, it'd be perfect.
All the controls are on the right. The one on the far left is a fantastic two-stage shutter button.
One of the great features of the Lumia 920 is its camera. It has an 8.7MP PureView camera with optics by Carl Zeiss. Yes, the same company that makes the RX1’s lens. The photos from the 920 look great but the iPhone has an edge on software with features like HDR.
I like how Nokia has used a black frame to hide the ugly shape of micro USB ports.
Nokia should be much more vocal about their design prowess. This level of cohesion and quality is very hard to find.
Where the 920 really makes the iPhone look ugly is with software. Windows Phone 8 is a much more successful execution of a truly “digital” aesthetic. The overly fine lines and microscopic use of Helvetica on iPhone look dishonest and tedious in comparison to Windows Phone.
Again, iOS7 is much too fragile. Apple had mastered legibility but threw it all out with fine Helvetica and reduction of contrast. Windows Phone is a treat to use with dynamic tiles making use of imagery and bold typography.
One of the best uses of the Windows Phone design language is the music/video app. When you enter an artist, the app automatically populates the background with a photos of the artist. Check out the typography and well balanced icons.
The playback screen has the same trick for the background.
And the image shows up on the lock screen too.
Despite Microsoft’s own apps looking and working brilliantly, the third-party app selection is slim with tons of poorly designed apps. For instance, Windows Phone doesn’t even have a Instagram app and third-party clients are universally ugly. This is by far the biggest problem with Windows Phone - and it's a critical one.
If done well though, the experience is spectacular. The IMDB app for example is far superior on Windows Phone.
A must have for the 920 is Nokia’s wireless charger. The name “Wireless Charger” is misleading though.
The small ring surrounding the Nokia logo on the pad is made of rubber to prevent scratches.
Operation is dead simple. Just place the 920 on the charging plate. I had initially thought this was a bit of a gimmick but in actual use it’s very convenient. I almost want to get another one to put on my desk at work.
So, I suppose I need to end with a conclusion.
The Nokia 920 is a beautiful phone and Windows Phone is surprisingly good. The first day of switching from iPhone was like pulling teeth. I even considered changing my mind. But once I converted my calendar to Google and realized I could live without iMessage, I felt really good. I now know that I could go to Android or even back to iPhone once iOS looks sane again. For many years, I have lived an almost Apple exclusive life but sadly, things have changed. I believe in using what's truly the best product - after all, I'm using my own money here. Today, I’m a Mac user but I have no issue with proudly saying that my phone is a Lumia 920.