REVIEW: Nokia's Newest Lumia Still Isn't The Best Windows Phone

nokia lumia 928 windows phone 8 home screen

Nokia has a unique approach to its smartphone business.

Even though it has other options, it still chooses to make its best phones with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system, which isn’t nearly as popular as Google’s Android. It’s a bold bet that Windows Phones will be the next big thing, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Late last year, Nokia introduced its top-tier 920 line of Lumia phones running Windows Phone. The first was the Lumia 920, which was only available on AT&T here in the US. This month it released a variation of that phone, the Lumia 928, as a Verizon exclusive.

On paper, the $100 Lumia 928 is pretty much the same phone as the Lumia 920. Most of the noteworthy changes are cosmetic, but there is a bigger emphasis on the camera this time around.  

Here’s the review.

Click here for photos of the Lumia 928 >

Hardware And Design
Specs-wise, the Lumia 928 is nearly identical to the Lumia 920. There are a few minor changes like a different screen and new kind of camera flash, but most people won’t notice a change in overall performance. The only reason the Lumia 928 even exists is because Verizon wanted an exclusive top-tier Lumia phone of its own. It’s the same phone we got last year covered in a different shell.

And that’s my biggest problem with the Lumia 928 –– its design. Whereas the Lumia 920 had a strikingly unique look to it, the Lumia 928 looks squared off and uglier than its older sister. It’s thick, heavy, plasticky, and not nearly as fun to hold or use as its chief Windows Phone rival, the HTC Windows Phone 8x. Yes, on paper 10.1 mm doesn’t sound very thick, but when you put the Lumia 928 next to an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4, it looks like a brick.

On the other hand, Nokia fans tell me all the time they love that Lumia phones are thick and heavy. They say it makes for a more substantial phone that’s less likely to crack if you drop it. They say the phone is thick because of Nokia’s advanced camera hardware and wireless charging. They say I’m “a wimp” and “should go to the gym” if I think Nokia phones are too heavy.

Those are all fair assessments, but I still prefer my phone to be thin, light, and pretty. Not thick, plasticky, and bulky. I suggest going to the store and holding the Lumia 928 for a few minutes before you buy one.

Design aside, the Lumia 928 is a fine device and performs just as well as any other Windows Phone from HTC or Samsung. It has a 4.5-inch AMOLED display, which I think looks better than the type of display used on the older Lumia 920. Battery life is good too. In my experience, Windows Phones tend to last longer than Android phones and the iPhone, and the Lumia 928 comes with wireless charging if you buy a separate charging pad. 

The Camera
Nokia is making a big fuss over the Lumia 928’s camera. If you look at all the marketing materials and videos, you’d think this thing was a camera first and a smartphone second.

There’s some truth to it though. The Lumia 928 has one of the best smartphone cameras I’ve ever used, but it’s not any sort of revolutionary leap forward in mobile imaging. It takes great photos in low light and there’s a handy dedicated camera shutter button on the side. 
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There’s also a special Xenon flash on the back, which is supposed to “freeze” your subjects in place when you snap a photo, reducing the chances of a blurry image. In my tests though, I didn’t notice anything special about the Lumia 928’s flash. It’s no better than what you’d find on any other smartphone camera. 

The advantages over other smartphone cameras are incremental and highly subjective. The Lumia 928 takes great photos, and that’s all you need from phone. Don’t let the camera be the deciding factor between this phone and something else.

Windows Phone
The current version of Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, Windows Phone 8, has been out since last fall, so I won’t waste too much time going over it again. Just know that it’s a slick and pretty operating system, and a good option if you’re looking for something different than the basic layout of the Android or iPhone home screen.

But Windows Phone is not good if you like to have the best apps. After all this time, developers are still wary of making apps for Windows Phones, and you won’t find many popular ones like Instagram, Gmail, HBO GO, and several others.
[image url="" link="lightbox" caption="" credit_info="Steve Kovach/Business Insider" alt="nokia lumia 928 next to htc windows phone 8x" align="left" size="xlarge" nocrop="true" clear="true"]

Things are getting better though. Pandora and Hulu Plus recently launched on Windows Phone, and Microsoft says more top-tier apps are on the way. There are a bunch of clones and alternatives to those popular apps, but I still think it’s better to have the option to use the services you want to use.

If you’re the kind of person who likes having the best apps and games on your phone as soon as they come out, then you shouldn’t get the Lumia 928 or any other Windows Phone.

The Lumia 928 is a good Windows Phone, but it’s not the best Windows Phone. Smartphones are very personal, and I think it’s better to have one that looks and feels good, something you’re proud to show off. I didn’t get that feeling with the Lumia 928. 

However, I am optimistic about another Lumia phone coming out soon, the Lumia 925. That phone has a metal casing, and based on what I’ve read so far it’ll likely be the best Windows Phone you can buy. (Unfortunately, it’ll only be available on T-Mobile in the US.)

If you’re a Verizon customer who wants a Windows Phone, you should take a look at the Lumia 928, but I still think HTC’s Windows Phone 8x is a better buy.

Click here for photos of the Lumia 928 >

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