Did everything go well in paradise?
So I’ve had the Lumia 920 as my daily driver for several months now, which is longer than I managed to struggle through using a Galaxy Note. So with all this time elapsed, how much do I like it? Reviewing this phone is sort of challenging, as I’ve said before, for a number of reasons. A phone can have the best hardware but it’s largely irrelevant if the software lets it down. In a similar fashion it’s easy to look at the software and say that there’s plenty of potential there, but very hard to say whether or not it’ll ever reach that potential. So with all that in mind, do I like the Lumia 290?
The Lumia 920 is a beautiful phone. Yes, it’s a little heavy, but I actually liked the weight (though I almost dropped it a few times). It’s exactly the right size for your hands. The screen is fantastic, call quality is great, audio output is great, and really most things about the phone itself are great. I can’t really complain about the phone itself too much. I say too much because I do have a few suggestions but on the whole it’s the proper form factor for a smartphone. Also battery life tended to be fairly good, I’d easily get through a full day without charging it (sometimes two) but I did have quite a few instances of random discharges – the rate would suddenly increase with no apparent cause.
The camera is on the whole quite good. I don’t find it to be the best of the lot in my testing in terms of all-round performance. Other phones seem to deliver better daytime shots than the Lumia 920, and it seems to occasionally have problems focusing for some reason. Maybe it’s a software bug. What did impress me was low-light performance (with minimal noise) and how its floating lens can actually work when it wants to. I managed to take some excellent photos from out the window of a moving car recently, and they looked fantastic with minimal motion blurring. Most camera phones cannot do that. When doing side-by-side comparisons though the weird loss of definition that I noted in my first review is still present post-Portico, which tells me that it’s a problem with the camera, not post-processing.
The lack of apps, and after putting up with it for a while, it’s crippling. But to clarify it’s not even that there aren’t many apps, but rather that there aren’t many devs that are even intending to release apps for the platform. Back in the early days of Android phones there was a similar problem – everything was released for iOS and not for Android. That’s all changed now and if iOS gets an app, Android generally gets one too (within reason). Windows Phone has been around for quite some time though, and it’s never managed to get the app support that it so desperately needs. Yes, some things are covered by the built-in apps. But they’re often not good enough to do the job. What few official apps there are for the platform are often miles behind their iOS or Android counterparts. I could ignore it if I knew that apps were on the way. But they simply aren’t.
The GPS also seems to be a little bit strange. Nokia Drive+ Beta or whatever the hell they’re calling it seems to randomly crash at times, but more than that it doesn’t seem to track properly. The GPS seems to lose signal and fails to recover, sometimes requiring that you quit out of Drive and try to re-launch it. Sometimes that’ll fix it, but more often than not it’ll pick up the location once and then refuse to track. It’s frustrating and I can’t play with it and drive at the same time, so it’s pretty much a deal breaker. The maps at least are competent but still not as good as Google Maps.
Even more tellingly, Google hate the platform and are dropping support. Granted, that’s a piss-poor move by Google when they also support iOS with its myriad of restrictions, but we all use Google services, so it’s still a problem whichever way you look at it. It’s this lack of support for the platform which is totally killing it. It doesn’t matter how good the phone is or the OS is, if nobody wants to write apps, it’s useless.
Windows Phone 8. Oh, the potential! WP8 makes Android look like a slug race, and challenges iOS in the smoothness arena. The Tiles are a great idea – they combine the clean look of iOS with the functionality of Android’s widgets. It’s something I’d like to see the others adopt, though I doubt they will. On the whole, there’s not much wrong with WP8 as an OS.
Except for notifications. A notification centre, along with more flexibility, is desperately needed. It’s been promised for ages and Microsoft have never delivered. Guys, step it up! The silly restrictions on lock screen notifications is getting frustrating. There’s no reason why so few things can be displayed, and why only one can have detailed information. You want to know what that new SMS message says and what your time next appointment is on? Tough, you can have one or the other, not both. Also, notifications can be remarkably unreliable. Facebook notifications sometimes turn up, but more often than not they don’t. Skype notifications meanwhile drive you batshit insane with their frequency. It’s broken, plain and simple.
No. That might seem strange to some of you, but it all boils down to one single point: support. The phone itself is great. It’s a fantastic piece of hardware which is everything a phone should be. Windows Phone 8 is a highly competent OS which is let down primarily by its abysmal notification support. But in spite of all this, there are no friggin’ apps. Support is so laughably backwards in terms of apps that I can’t recommend it at all. It’s not because the phone itself is bad, but because nobody wants to write applications for it. When people do, they’re often as an afterthought, and many of them still don’t offer full Windows Phone 8 support. Hell, a load of them don’t even support Live Tiles, and when they do they’re often buggy and drain the battery. It’s simply not good enough.
I can’t recommend this phone simply because of the poor app support. It’s absolutely useless unless developers are willing to write applications for it, and since most of them aren’t, there’s no reason to have it. No doubt some of you are thinking “It’ll get better! Just you want and see!” but we’ve been waiting for many years for Windows Phone to get the app support. It never does. Given the high cost of the phone and its rather limited utility crippled entirely by a lack of app support, I can’t recommend it.