Review: Nokia Lumia 928 - Part 4 - Final Thoughts
So it's a few weeks later, how am I getting on with the Nokia Lumia 928? Pretty well, I have to say. While I've already reviewed the hardware, what's not really been touched on is my emotional reaction to the phone. How do I feel about the Lumia 928?
I mean, it's a strange device, an offshoot of the Lumia 925 put together for one network in the US (Verizon) with the addition of a Xenon flash to act as a differentiator in the market, along with some slight tweaks to the size. Steve has convinced me that while the flash is a good addition, it's not as powerful or flexible as the one that will ship with the Lumia 1020.
Still, for me the camera is an improvement over the one in my day to day Windows Phone, the Lumia 820. The flash does help with the indoor images that I prefer to take, and thanks to the internal disk and increased memory, rattling off multiple shots in quick succession is not a problem - and in the background they're uploaded to SkyDrive without any any extra input from me. For day to day use, to capture the moments that happen to me, the Lumia 928 is a perfectly competent smartphone.
I'll be interested to see what difference the Camera Pro app will make when it is released. Right now I'm very much in the 'leave it in automatic' mode with my smartphones, and I suspect that a 1020 would be the same for me. I'm not one to automatically seek out the best in class camera (we have Steve for that) so the USP of the Lumia 928 is not something that would immediately appeal to me if I was looking for a US handset. That's not to say I wouldn't consider it, but the difference between the 925 and the 928 is not a huge jump for me.
What does work for me is the design of the 928 - comparing it to the 920 and the 925, the handset is far more boxy in construction. I prefer that harsher design, curves are always tricky to pack tech around, so the boxlike nature, primarily for the 4G connectivity, is something that historically I'm going to enjoy more than a supremely curved delicate shape.
I'm not one for lightness, but the Lumia 928 does come in as one of the lighter 'flagship' handsets. That might be a tipping point for some, but not for me.
Just like the Lumia 925, the Lumia 928 switches out the 920's IPS screen for an AMOLED screen. I think this helps Windows Phone's user interface, especially with the primary colours of the live tiles, and if you go for light text on a black background. For all the choices of wallpapers, pastel shades, and a million colours of other mobile platforms, the start functionality of Windows Phone is a welcome respite, and again, the simplicity of the implementation works for me. The design of the 928 screen augments that user interface, as any good design should.
Switching back to the smaller screen of the Lumia 820, and especially the Lumia 620, really shows the benefits of the higher specification screen on the 928. Although the Lumia 620 does wonders at its price point (as does the 520), Windows Phone 8 feels 'right' at 4.5 inches. I'll be interested to see how Windows Phone gets on with a 5 inch screen in the near future, but for now, 4.5 inches it is.
One thing I've done is kept the Lumia 928 relatively lean of software. I know a lot of focus is placed on the volume of third party apps, and it's an issue that has been talked about here a lot on All About Windows Phone. Most modern smartphones now come with a load-out of software that covers the basics, but the basics nowadays are much expanded, even from the first days of Windows Phone 7. As well as cellular functions, social networks, navigation and photography need to be covered. In some cases this involves the bundling of a third party client in the OS (such as the almost universal inclusion of the Facebook client on Android devices), but here Windows Phone has an edge, with social network hooks built into the OS.
While Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In, all have their own Windows Phone clients, you can get many of their features through the built in Windows Phone software. It just works (assuming you don't want to send or read private messages). For day to day use, I've not needed to use the additional clients from the Windows Phone Store.
Mapping is included out the box as well, with Nokia's HERE geo-location suite of tools providing, hands down, the best navigation experience on any platform., Put away your Google Maps or Apple Maps, because the Finns have got this all sewn up. My recent family holiday relied on the HERE Drive for navigation between towns, then detailed street level maps when exploring; the Bing local search to find coffee and cake, and then a geo-tagged picture to Facebook for the family.
The City Lens app is cute, but still feels gimmicky to an old timer like me - give me a star on a map any day - which with the Lumia 928 means keeping the phone flat to the floor in City Lens to stay in the map view.
The increased storage space on the Lumia 928 (compared to my regular Lumia 820) has meant that the more advanced Xbox Live gaming titles, such as Modern Warfare, Asphalt 7 Heat, and Mass Effect, are easily installed. The extra storage space required to unpack these games made them problematic to install on the Lumia 820 without stripping out a lot of third party apps and data - that issue is now gone. Physically, it's much more comfortable to hold the 928 in landscape mode for these games, with the squarer edges sitting in the hand and allowing for a more confident grip while using the accelerometer. It's not a deal-breaker, but it is a nice touch.
But the software situation is getting better. The volume of apps available, 160,000 at the last estimate, cover many features, and aside from notable gaming titles and the occasional web service that is digging its heels in, you'll find your additional functionality in the store - although it won't be pretty, and there's every chance that you'll only have the one option, whereas other platforms would have some competition.
There is a lot of work still to be done (yes, you may all start saying 'Instagram' at this point, and I'll point out my recent editorial on a related app issue), but that the work is ongoing can be seen in the apps that Nokia did announce. Even though the availability of Flipboard, Hipstamatic, Vine and Path was quickly pushed aside at the recent launch of the Lumia 1020, they are there, and will doubtless be available in the Nokia Collection for other devices, including the Lumia 928.
The Lumia 928 is an iterative design and illustrates Nokia's strength in creating a common hardware platform. That the Lumia 928 does not stand out against the Lumia 925, and only sneaks ahead of the Lumia 920 is not an issue, it's exactly what the device was designed to do. The nature of Nokia's approach to networks is to do these small differentiations to get the marketing budgets and mindshare in the retail chain. Personally I'd rather they went for an Apple approach of 'this is the model' rather than a Samsung Galaxy scattergun model, but the latter ships the units, and right now Nokia and Windows Phones need to be shifting units.
The Lumia 928 is not embarrassing, in fact it has some strong points. It works well day to day, and it has 'spare' capacity so it can be stretched when doing tasks. Assuming you've made the choice to go Windows Phone, and you're wanting to go with Verizon in the US, then the Lumia 928 is going to be a smart choice.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at