Nokia Lumia 925 review

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Nokia brought some of its camera innovations to the Windows Phone platform with the launch of the Lumia 920. While the phone was praised for its low-light imaging prowess and the ClearBlack display, there were a few gripes. The Lumia 920 was panned for being an extremely bulky device. Also, just like other Lumia phones, the Nokia Lumia 920 sported a polycarbonate unibody shell and was made available in a number of colours. While many found the playful and colourful form factor of the Lumia range interesting, some felt that it was too radical for a mainstream flagship device.

With the Lumia 925, Nokia has tried to address these concerns and although the phone is not a major upgrade to the Lumia 920 in terms of hardware, it fits all the capabilities of the previous flagship device in a brand new shell that is much lighter than the Lumia 920. It's also the first Lumia phone that sports a metal frame, giving the phone a premium look. Inside, the Lumia 925 runs Lumia Amber, the latest build of Windows Phone 8 available at the time of writing this review.

However, with new flagship devices on other platforms breaking ground in terms of hardware specifications and design, is the Nokia Lumia 925 an effort too little, too late? We try to find out in our review.

Build/ Design
We'll have to say that the Nokia Lumia 925 is one of the best looking Nokia smartphones, thanks mainly to the aluminium frame that encases it, though the metal design gets inconsistent as one looks at the phone's back.

As we mentioned earlier, the phone is much sleeker and lighter than the Lumia 920 at 8.5mm and 139 grams, and comes in three rather restrained colour options, White, Black and Grey, unlike the 920 which was also offered in Red and Yellow variants. The White and Grey variants of the Lumia 925 look similar except for the colour of the phone's back plate. The new colour choices would appeal to a larger number of consumers, especially business users.

nokia-lumia-925-back.jpg We got the White Lumia 925 as our review unit. The phone retains the almost rectangular design of the other Lumia phones but gets rid of the polycarbonate. Instead, the phone sports a sturdy aluminium frame with brushed finish. The frame is curved all over and corners are rounded. There are two black bands on both the left and right side of the phone that accentuate the metal frame.

The front of the device features a glass panel that houses the 4.5-inch AMOLED display of the device, and merges with the aluminium frame seamlessly. The three capacitive Windows Phone keys are located just below the display and are backlit in White. The front-facing camera and the earpiece sit at the top of the display. In line with other phones in the Lumia line-up, the phone's hardware keys including the volume rocker, power/ screen lock key and the camera shutter key are located at the right hand side of the phone. There are no keys or ports at the left hand side or the bottom, while the top houses the Micro-SIM tray, the Micro-USB port and the 3.5mm headset jack.

nokia-lumia-925-side.jpgThe back of the phone is the only place where you'd still see polycarbonate and to be honest it does look and feel a little awkward. The back features a White coloured plastic plate. The big 8.7-megapixel camera lens, the LED flash and the speaker grill are all located at the back, in addition to a speaker grill and some Nokia branding.

It's worth pointing out that the battery powering the phone is not removable. The phone's back also sports three contact points for back shells (not included with the phone) that enable wireless charging.

Display
The Nokia Lumia 925 sports a 4.5-inch AMOLED ClearBlack, PureMotion HD+ display with a resolution of 768x1280 pixels and Gorilla Glass 2. While the pixel density on the phone's display stands nowhere close to the likes of 1080p displays of the HTC One and the Galaxy S4, you won't really notice it while using the phone's user interface. This is especially true if you use Windows Phone's dark theme that shines on the Lumia 925's display with text looking crisp and vibrant contrasting the deep blacks the phone's AMOLED display delivers.

While AMOLED displays are usually known for not reproducing colours accurately. Nokia has included special settings for tinkering with the screen's colour profile to set saturation and temperature levels as per the user's own preference with the help of a set of images that appear in the settings. The additional settings help in mitigating the issues that accompany AMOLED screens to a large extent.

nokia-lumia-925-display.jpgThe screen offers excellent viewing angles and although it's a little reflective, the under sun visibility was really good. Just like the Lumia 920, the Lumia 925 also comes with a super sensitive touch panel that works with even gloves on.

Overall, the Lumia 925 offers a great display that makes watching movies, reading text and browsing pictures a good experience.

Camera
Nokia continues to use the PureView branding with the Lumia 925 though technically it doesn't use the oversampling tweak that made its debut with the Nokia 808 PureView. Nokia even puts the PureView branding on the back of the phone. The Lumia 925 features the same 8.7-megapixel camera found on the Lumia 920 though it features one more lens on top of the five other lenses that the Lumia 920 featured. Nokia claims that the phone's camera is an improvement over the 920's camera.

nokia-lumia-925-camera.jpgIn our use we observed that the phone takes good quality images in daylight. Colour reproduction was accurate and the pictures retained a good amount of details. Although at times the focus does go a bit haywire, especially when you want to take a quick shot. You'll need to be a little patient if you want to take a perfect shot. The default app lets you tinker with the ISO, Exposure, and White Balance settings. In case you're wondering why the flash lights up while focusing, even though you've turned it off, we'd like to inform you that it's actually the Focus Assist Light. Thankfully, you can turn it off.

lumia925-camsample1.jpgThe high point of the Lumia 925's camera is the ability to take great pictures in low-light conditions. At times these photos do look a little artificial and it's hard to recognize that they had been taken in the same settings. But everyone wants to capture the best looking moment, and these photos are great for sharing on social networks.

The other area where the phone excels is image stabilisation. Nokia has suspended the entire Lumia 925 optical assembly using tiny springs that absorb shocks and the results are stunning. If you are fond of taking videos on the move, or just have shaky hands, you'll love the Nokia Lumia 925's cameras.

lumia925-camsample2.jpgWindows Phone 8 introduced the concept of camera lenses, which let you see and click images in a "different light". Nokia Lumia 925 comes with Bing Vision, Panorama, Cinemagraph and Smart Cam lenses to cater to various shooting moods and requirements.
The Smart Cam lens can even be set as the default camera app. The SmartCam app shoots a sequence of 10 photos and lets you choose the best photo among them or combine all of them into one, choosing between different effects. The effects include Motion Focus that adds blur to create an illusion of motion, and Action Shot that adds a strobe effect to show action. It also allows you to choose the best faces in-group photos and remove objects or people from photos. Editing pictures leads to down-sampling of the pictures from 8.7-megapixel to 5-megapixels, though. Also, the implementation is not that smooth and at times the effects don't turn out the way they're promised.

lumia925-camsample5.jpgThe Camera 360 is a similar lens app that allows you to add various effects to pictures. It even lets you preview effects before actually clicking the pictures.

As we mentioned in our Lumia 720 review, the Panorama lens is a horrible implementation of the Panorama feature. Instead of holding up your phone and just moving it around to take a Panorama, Nokia chose to go a peculiar way. You need to click a photograph and watch it appear on the left most corner of your screen and stay there. You are then expected to align this picture with the real world view that you see on your screen, and when the two are perfectly aligned, click another one, so that the phone can 'stitch' these photos together. It's extremely cumbersome to take Panorama shots.

lumia925-camsample4.jpgBing Vision can be used to scan QR codes and Microsoft tags.

The Lumia 925 is capable of recording 1080p video and the videos shot with it turned out to be really good. The built-in microphone also does a capable job of picking up the sounds, and the audio quality is good as well.

The 1.3-megapixel front camera can record 720p videos. Like most front cameras, it does a good job for video chats, and still photography in well-lit conditions. Videos and pictures taken with the front camera appeared to be grainy in low light conditions.

Software/ User Interface
The Nokia Lumia 925 comes with Windows Phone 8 featuring the Amber update that is essentially the Windows Phone GDR 2 update with Nokia's own tweaks. While the update doesn't bring any major changes in terms of the user interface or features, it does bring FM radio, improvements to the camera software, the Smart Camera app, the Glance and double tap to unlock gestures, the flip to silence gesture and some other minor changes including the Data sense app (which helps you to keep a tab on your data usage) now being compatible with all carriers. Other than these, Windows Phone 8 has not changed much compared to its first iteration.

lumia925-ui1.jpgNokia's new Amber update brings Nokia Glance Screen, which allows the phone to display the time, battery status and vibrate mode indicator in standby mode. Due to the AMOLED screen (that is more efficient at partially illuminating the screen) on the Lumia 925, the impact on battery life is minimal. Settings for this feature can be found under the display + touch settings menu and you can turn it off, or choose to see the time for 15 minutes after the phone enters standby mode, or keep it always on. It even offers a Peek option that turns the Glance screen on if you hover your hand over the phone. You can also choose to see a dim Glance mode through the Night Mode with a chosen time interval.

While we love the Glance feature as it comes handy to see the time without unlocking the phone, we feel that it could have been enhanced further by offering notifications for messages, missed calls and emails along with the time.

The phone also supports double tap to wake up which means you don't have to press the Power/ Screen lock key to unlock the phone when it's in the standby mode. Even this feature makes using the phone fun though it does use more power. The Amber update also brings support for Google services for Calendar and Contacts through CalDAV and CardDAV, and for Gmail through IMAP. This means that it's future proof and users will continue to be able to use these services after Google ends support for Exchange Active Sync which pre-GDR2 phones use. We were able to use Gmail smoothly and received emails via Push without any hiccups.

Unlike Android, Windows Phone 8 doesn't offer much flexibility to the manufacturer in terms of customising the OS, however Nokia has included its own apps that may well prove to be the differentiator compared to the competing devices.

lumia925-ui2.jpgThe Lumia 925 comes with several exclusive (and non-exclusive) Nokia apps like HERE Drive+, HERE Maps and Nokia Music, as well as other Nokia apps like Nokia Care and HERE City Lens. We love the HERE Drive app that offers offline navigation complete with turn-by-turn directions. As we mentioned in our previous reviews, Nokia continues to set the benchmark in navigation apps, even ahead of Google Maps.

The other services included are HERE Maps, which is a huge improvement over the stock Bing Maps, and Nokia Music, that offers unlimited music free for a year. For some reason we were not able to connect our Nokia Music account with this handset.
The software also includes the mobile version of Microsoft Office, Skype integration and a great email client.

As mentioned in the Camera section, the phone comes with some lenses, which also show up as stand-alone apps. These are Bing Vision, Cinemgraph, Panorama, Camera360 and Nokia Smart Cam. PhotoBeamer is another interesting app that lets you beam your photos to any computer over Wi-Fi, providing an instant, wireless slideshow you can see over a large screen. During our tests, this worked as advertised.

We also love the software keyboard. The 925 also comes with a host of pre-installed apps like BIGFLIX (entertainment), Cosmopolitan (lifestyle magazine), Flipkart eBooks, and Zomato (food/ restaurants guide).

However, the annoyances with the OS still remain. One of the major among them is the lack of quality apps. Many mainstream apps including Instagram, Path and even Pocket are absent from the Windows Store, though you can find some third-party alternatives. For instance 6tag is a nice third party app for Instagram. The new Facebook app now levels up to its Android and iOS counterparts while the native Twitter app is also good enough.

The lack of a centralised notification tray/ hub is still a pain point. The 'Me tile' tries to fill that gap, at least for social networking needs, but the experience is a little crippled. For instance it's not possible to do a reply all for tweets.

Performance/ Battery Life
The Lumia 925 is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor with 1GB RAM and Adreno 225 Graphics chip. There is 16GB of internal storage, which unfortunately, is not expandable. Windows Phone 8 is not a power hungry OS and the hardware has been optimised for good performance. We did not experience any lag at all while launching apps, playing games like Asphalt 7 Heat Gravity Guy and Jetpack Joyride, clicking pictures, scrolling web pages in Internet Explorer or switching between apps.
 
We were able to play full-HD clips, and formats like AVI are natively supported by the phone's video player. The speaker delivers decent quality sound at high volume levels and the loudness is above average.

nokia-lumia-925-music.jpgWindows Phone 8 supports Bluetooth file transfers. The phone also offers NFC functionality. 
The call quality was top notch and the phone was able to easily latch on to the network even in weak signal areas. We were very satisfied with the network reception.
 
The phone comes with a 2000mAh battery, and in our usage, it lasted us a full working day. We charged the phone in the morning, and our usage ranged from medium to heavy, including 1-1.5 hours of phone calls, three email accounts with push notifications, playing some music (both on the phone and via Internet radio), Twitter notifications and WhatsApp chats. It's worth pointing out that we had turned off Wi-Fi and the auto-brightness mode on. The phone was hooked to a 3G network. Of course having the screen brightness at the highest level, means that the battery drains much more quickly. Altering these settings might help in running the phone for a longer duration, depending on your usage pattern.

Verdict
The Nokia Lumia 925 is undoubtedly the best Windows Phone smartphone available in the market. Although, some would argue that the Lumia 1020, which was unveiled last month by Nokia in the US and is expected to be launched soon in the Indian market, is Nokia's top of the line device as it sports a 41-megapixel PureView camera and more RAM, we don't think the 1020 is a mass market phone due to its bulky form factor. It's also expected to be priced at a much higher price point and everyone doesn't need a camera-focused phone. The Lumia 925 on the other hand sports an attractive form factor, offers a stunning display and takes great pictures in low-light conditions.

nokia-lumia-925-keys.jpgThe app situation has definitely improved but Windows Phone still has a long way to go before it can begin to compete with Android and iOS. If you're looking to try the latest mobile game titles and apps, then Windows Phone is probably not your cup of tea.

However, if you primarily use your phone for making calls, connecting with friends through chat apps, taking pictures, staying connected with social networks and playing casual games, then we have no qualms in recommending this phone. It offers a great smartphone experience.
 
At Rs. 33,499, we feel that Nokia has priced the phone sensibly though it faces stiff competition from the likes of the iPhone 4S, Nexus 4, LG Optimus G, Sony Xperia SP and previous generation Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X+.

We do feel that the Lumia 925 should have been the first flagship Windows Phone device. Having said that, it's evident that Nokia continues to innovate and the major roadblock in the success of the platform is Microsoft's laidback attitude in offering software updates.

Price: Rs. 33,499


Nokia Lumia 925: In pictures

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