Review by Sunetra Chakravati,8/4/2014 4:35:18 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Great design and build quality | Fast and powerful processor | 4G and wireless charging | Excellent camera
Windows Phone still needs work | Too few apps | No expandable storage
The Lumia 930 arrives at a strange time and has something of an identity crisis. Microsoft now owns the phone-making part of Nokia and has already said it won’t be keeping the Finnish company’s name for future handsets; all PR material calls this the Lumia 930 with no mention of Nokia, yet the phone itself has the name written on its front and back.
Names aside, this is a flagship smartphone and is designed to be the most desirable Windows Phone 8 handset yet, boasting a big HD screen, aluminium chassis, wireless charging, 4G, VERY bright colour options, and a PureView camera. This is likely the last major Nokia smartphone; is it a worthy send off to one of the oldest and greatest names in the business?
Like snazzy socks behind grey trousers and the glossy red sole of certain ladies’ shoes, the Lumia 930’s design tells two stories. The glass-covered front and black screen bezel are like any other phone and the aluminium chassis, while beautiful to touch and feel, is businesslike to the nth degree, turn the handset over and your eyes are in for a shock.
The orange rear of our review unit is bright. Retina-burningly bright. So bright it changes the colour of anything held nearby and it can probably be seen from space. It’s actually quite shocking the first time you look beyond the black and grey, and we love the phone for it. Alternatively, Microsoft also sells the 930 in green, black and white.
In raw numbers the phone weighs 167 grams and is 9.8mm thick, but the industrial feel of the squared metal body helps turn the extra weight into a sense of quality.
From the glass front which ever-so-slightly tapers away at each edge, to the metal power, volume and camera buttons, the 930 simply oozes quality.
The 930 has a 5-inch screen with a full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a pixel density of 441 per inch. In plain English this means everything is pin-sharp and just looks stunning. Viewing angles are very good, but colours take a small hit when viewed off-centre; basically they go a few shades paler, but this doesn’t get worse as you tilt the phone further away from centre. This is most obvious in Twitter, when the white background of your timeline looks warm dead-ahead but slightly cooler and blue from any other angle.
Windows Phone 8 underwent its first major update earlier this year, to version 8.1, which brought a pull-down notifications centre, support for Full HD screens, and more. But while the improvements were seen as nothing short of critical, Microsoft still has plenty of ground to make up if it wants to compete with iOS and Android on a level playing field.
The colourful tiled home screen is as fun as ever, with each tile displaying live information from the app it represents. Missed calls, unread texts, live weather forecasts and more can be seen at a glance, each tile can be resized, repositioned and deleted, making for a truly unique and personal experience. Adding to this with 8.1 is the ability to add a wallpaper, but only some tiles become transparent to show the wallpaper behind them.
Known as Action Centre, the new pull-down notifications panel lets you quickly turn Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Flight Mode and Rotation Lock on or off, but these cannot be edited and there is no shortcut to adjust screen brightness or volume - for those you’ll need to dive into the full Settings app.
The user interface is fast, smooth and responsive - as it should be, given the 930’s quad-core 2.2GHz processor and 2GB of RAM - but there are still some issues here. I occasionally got the “Resuming…” screen when opening an app and some design elements are frustrating. The official Twitter app, for example, displays just 1.5 tweets at a time (when they both include images, otherwise it’s still less than three), due to a huge menu bar taking up about 20% of the screen.
It’s issues like these - and the lack of official apps from the likes of Snapchat and Tinder - which make Windows Phone feel half-baked.
Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri on the iPhone, will be available on Windows Phone 8.1 in the UK later this year.
Performance is mostly great - it’s as quick as any other flagship smartphone - but the 930 gets warm, and eventually hot, very easily. Merely flicking through Twitter or Facebook caused the lower right corner to heat up. Despite this battery life was good, with the phone regularly surviving an entire day and night.
A nice bonus is wireless charging and - unlike the LG G3 - the charger is included in the box, in the form of a black disc which connects to the mains by USB and charges the phone simply by being in contact with it. Again, the temperature rises noticeably here, but never dangerously so.
Finally, storage is a generous 32GB, but this cannot be increased as there is no microSD card slot.
The Lumia range has excelled in the camera department for a couple of years now, and the Lumia 930 does a solid job of retaining that praise. It’s not quite the 41-megapixel behemoth of the Lumia 1020, nor does it offer optical zooming, but at 20mp it still packs a hell of a punch.
Somewhat confusingly, there are two cameras app - one called Camera and another called Nokia Camera. They appear to offer the same settings and manual control, but with differing user interfaces adding to the confusion.
Leave it in auto and press the shutter button however, and you’ll be impressed with the photos the 930 can take. Colours look natural and low-light performance (without the flash) is very good thanks to optical image stabilisation keeping motion blur in check.
The Lumia 930 is the best Windows Phone handset yet. It has a gorgeous, high-definition screen, a powerful quad-core processor, great, high quality design and an excellent camera.
But it is still let down by the Windows Phone software. Much has been improved with 8.1 but there are still glaring problems and omissions when compared to iOS and Android, and the app selection just isn’t good enough. There are too many knock-off apps filling the gaps left by major developers who seemingly can’t be bothered with WP8, and even those who showed up late to the party have done so with inferior application.
Ultimately the Lumia 930 boasts beautiful, powerful, industry leading hardware, but is let down by work-in-progress software. Only when higher sales convince app developers to put in the effort will this change.