Look and feel
Nokia’s Lumia 920 has been on a massive diet, and the result is the overhauled, sleek and gorgeous Lumia 925. It feels solid and is comfortable to use, with none of the weight or bright colours of its predecessor.
Ease of Use
Windows Phone 8 is just as simple to use, although as always suffers from little quirks. We’re still not fans of Internet Explorer, for instance. The touchscreen can still be used with gloves on, which is a great idea.
We’re still gutted by the lack of Windows Phone apps, but Nokia has gone some way to rectifying that with some excellent apps of its own. The Lumia 925’s PureView camera is magnificent and Smart Cam captures some great action shots.
A dual-core processor can handle Windows Phone 8 as well as games and media with ease.
The Lumia 925 has to be charged every day, but can last a solid seven hours when streaming video.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,6/17/2013 4:54:11 PM
Ease of use
Fresh, slick, slim design;
Feature-packed, capable camera;
Bright and colourful screen;
No memory card slot;
Windows Phone still suffers from few apps and little quirks
Nokia’s Lumia 920 was one of the first Windows Phone 8 mobiles to be launched, and one of the most exciting thanks to its powerful PureView camera and ability to wirelessly charge. Sadly it was also one of the chunkiest, heaviest phones we’ve ever handled, and the battery never came close to lasting a full day.
And so, six months on, the Lumia 920 is shunted to a darkened corner as its slimmer, sexier brother, the Lumia 925, steps into the spotlight. It features most of the same features, with the odd tweak or improvement here or there, but the main difference is the fresh new grown-up design. Gone are the bright colours and body thick enough to choke a sperm whale. The Lumia 925 shares its looks more with the Lumia 720, another slender Nokia phone with serious visual appeal.
Slim and sexy
From the front, in fact, it’s nearly identical. The 4.5-inch screen stretches across most of the surface, which is coated almost edge-to-edge with glass. Where the glass ends, a metallic silver band wraps around the Lumia 925’s circumference. Around the back, you have a choice of three colours – white, black or grey. No hot pinks or bobby dazzler reds, showing a more straight-edged adult approach from Nokia. Don’t get us wrong, we’re all too happy to rock a colourful smartphone, but there’s an instant appeal to the Lumia 925’s sleek and simple design.
We found the Lumia 925 was comfortable to grip and use in either hand. All of the buttons are positioned on the right edge, but well spaced so we never accidentally tweaked the volume when trying to switch it off. As well as the volume rocker and power button, you have a dedicated camera button which launches your camera app of choice and also takes snaps. At 139g it’s far from a lightweight, but it isn’t mind-bogglingly cumbersome like the Lumia 920 either.
The back of the phone doesn’t open up, so the SIM card slot is housed on top. It’s one of those Apple-style pinhole efforts, but Nokia includes a pin in the box so you don’t need to go paperclip hunting to get inside – just don’t lose the damn thing. Sadly there’s no memory card slot, but you can grab either a 16GB or 32GB model, so you can carry plenty of media around and take a fair few snaps before the storage fills up.
Boot up the Nokia Lumia 925 and you’ll be greeted with the colourful live tiles of Windows Phone 8. Although it’s not a massive leap over the previous Windows Phone, it’s still an attractive and pleasingly simple OS that appeals to a wide range of users.
Socialites will enjoy the People app, which acts as a hub of sorts for all of your social media. You can quickly and easily sign into your individual accounts, including your email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and toggle which services you want to see updates from – so for instance, if you’re sick of non-stop baby and food photos cluttering up your feed, you can disable Facebook at any time. You can also directly post to your social media channels (including multiple at once), so you can tell followers about the thing you’ve just eaten or the super-cute cat video you just saw.
The usual range of great Windows features are in place, including Kid’s Corner which gives your offspring their own private desktop, filled only with stuff you don’t mind them playing with. Office is a great portable productivity app, while Wallet is a simple and safe way of storing your credit card info and other bits. Best of all, if you sign up for a Microsoft account, it makes transferring to another Windows phone incredibly easy. In fact, the phone will even automatically back up your text messages to the cloud, so you can carry them over to a new handset.
But as much as we love Windows Phone’s well-thought-out interface, there are still a few issues that turn us off. Some are minor, such as the clunky Internet Explorer browser, which often seems to glitch out and only allows you one shortcut button. However, the biggest problem is the sheer lack of apps on Microsoft’s online store, which for us is a major deal breaker.
Take the games section, which boasts only a handful of well-known titles such as Angry Birds and Where’s My Perry? Compared to the likes of Apple’s App Store and Google Play, which are rammed full of fantastic efforts from both indie and top-band developers, it’s a wasteland – although Windows Phone does at least give you the option of trying demos before you buy.
As for standard apps, quality restaurant/drinking hole apps were pretty much non-existent and some of our faves such as Flipboard were conspicuous by their absence. Things are getting better: for instance, Netflix is now available to download for subscribers, so you can stream movies and shows on the move. However, many brands still stick with iOS and/or Android when it comes to creating official apps, and it’ll be some time before that changes.
Be Here, now
Nokia has expanded on Windows Phone’s capabilities by including plenty of unique features of its own, including the impressive Here suite of apps. Here Maps is our favourite, a clean and helpful replacement for the dreadful Bing Maps, allowing you to quickly find anything you need in the local area. We like the new Here City Lens too, which is an augmented reality app that points you directly to the nearest pub, restaurant, tourist attraction and so on. Finally, Here Drive+ is a handy way of navigating Britain’s streets if you’ve got a car.
Then you have Nokia Music, a surprisingly decent free-to-use music service that allows you to enjoy a variety of pre-produced mixes. These cover everything from individual decades (e.g. 80s rock), specific musical genres (e.g. blues rock) and even chart stuff. Best of all, you can download up to four mixes to carry around on your phone, saving you from terrifying data bills when you’re travelling around.
But Nokia hasn’t left it at that. Dig into the menus and settings and you’ll find a number of other special features tucked away. For instance, lock the Lumia 925 and you’ll see a clock pop up instead of a plain black screen. This is what Nokia calls the ‘Glance Screen’, and it’s designed to keep you from fiddling with your phone during meetings – the clock stays off if the phone is sat in your pocket, but stays on if you lay the Lumia down on a desk, so you can see how much longer you have to endure business speak. You can tweak how long the clock stays on in the settings (default set to 15 minutes), and even activate a night time mode, where it glows red instead of white to avoid disturbing your sleep.
Nokia’s Lumia smartphones are known for their impressive built-in PureView cameras, and the Lumia 925 packs a brilliant 8.7 megapixel lens that takes excellent everyday shots. Standard outdoor shots and close-up macro snaps come out really well, with sharp focus and true-to-life colours, but the camera truly impresses when you get it in a dimly lit pub or some other dingy interior. This is where the PureView’s stable lens technology comes into play, allowing the shutter to stay open long enough to draw in plenty of light without producing blurry snaps. There’s an inevitable hint of graininess, but view the results back on a monitor and you can’t help but be impressed. You also get a built-in flash for when the lights drop right down. Shots are comfortable to take as the lens is ideally positioned, housed far enough away from the top edge of the phone so your fingers don’t accidentally stray across it.
A funky little app called SmartCam is going to be a big draw for people who like quirky photos. This can be assigned as the default camera app, and it works by taking 10 quick consecutive shots, then allowing you to either choose the best one to keep, or combine them all to create a modern masterpiece. For instance, shoot a friend on a bike cycling across the shot and you can combine all ten shots into a mind-tripping montage. You can also remove any people or objects that stray into your shot, handy for those touristy snaps of popular hang-outs.
You also get the excellent Cinemagraph lens, which allows you to animate parts of a photo. For instance, if you shoot a photo of someone doing a cartwheel in a park, you can have the cartwheel animate while bystanders and the rest of the scene remain static. It’s a cool little novelty that some people will undoubtedly love and use all the time, although sharing the results isn’t particularly easy.
Crisp and colourful
At this price point, smartphones have a lot of stiff competition from the very best mini media machines – the iPhone 5 with its uber-crisp Retina display, plus the supremely sharp HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 screens just to name a few. Thankfully the Nokia Lumia 925’s 4.5-inch AMOLED display is a marvel that holds its own against the big boys.
For a start, the glass is impressively thin, so the screen seems to hover on the surface rather than being sunken down inside the phone. Bump up the brightness and it’s fierce enough to fend off the strongest glare. Viewing angles are also as wide as you can get – the phone has to be tilted almost 90 degrees before images darken. Photos look truly magnificent, and you can even change colour saturation and warmth in the Lumia 925’s settings, to get it just the way you like.
The screen’s 760 x 1280 pixel resolution keeps everything crisp, and HD video looks sublime. We’d happily digest an entire movie on the Lumia 925. The sharp resolution also means web browsing is a doddle, as you can comfortably read text even when zoomed right out, while the screen’s excellent responsiveness means tapping tiny links is never a problem.
In fact, the touchscreen will even respond when you’re wearing gloves, a handy feature if you’re accustomed to our fantastic British weather. It responds well too – only occasionally will it miss a tap, and you can still use multi-touch gestures to zoom and so on.
I have the power
Nokia has packed a 1.5GHz dual-core processor into the Lumia 925, same as the Lumia 920, and once again it’ll comfortably handle everything you throw at it. Not once were we sat around waiting for the phone to catch up. We tried some of the latest processor-hammering games such as N.O.V.A 3, a 3D first-person shooter, and they ran like a charm. The back of the phone did get a little toasty around the camera lens after a while, but nothing too troublesome - we never actually felt our fingers were going to melt.
One of our major qualms with the Lumia 920, and one of the main reasons it didn’t score above four stars, was the lamentable battery life. Even if it was fully charged in the morning, it would be dead before we got home from work, even if we only used it to check emails, send texts and run other basic tasks. Even overnight, the battery would drain with no use whatsoever.
If you want to wirelessly charge the Lumia 925 you'll need to attach this funky back plate, sold separately...
Thankfully the Lumia 925 doesn’t suffer so terribly. Battery life is still merely average, so you’ll be charging the phone up every day, but at least you can use it on full screen brightness and still get a full 24 hours of life. We tried streaming video and managed a respectable seven hours before the phone died, so it can certainly keep you entertained on lengthy journeys.
Nokia has produced a stunning range of phones lately, including the entry-level Lumia 520 and great-value Lumia 720, and now it once again has a flagship premium smartphone to be proud of. The Lumia 925 packs a bright and tweakable high-res screen, a powerful PureView camera and some excellent unique features, and does away with the bulky, heavy build of the previous Lumia 920. And while battery life is still merely average, and the app store is badly understocked, we have no problems recommending the Lumia 925 to anyone who desires a clean, simple, feature-packed smartphone.