Lumia 1020 Review - Review Feedback

Hi everybody! Below is my first ever phone review. I wanted to get your guys' feedback on the readability, flow, and information presented. I'm 100% open to constructive criticism. I'm currently trying to start a technology review YouTube show on my college's video club channel, so this was written for a video review format, with video footage to be cut to match the information spoken, but before I get there, I need to make sure what i'm saying is well explained and interesting. I recognize that the phone was released a while back, but it's new to me and therefore I thought I'd review it. Thanks in advance!

INTRODUCTION

The Lumia 1020 is the phone I get excited to play with every time I pull it out of my pocket. This model, in the attention-grabbing highlighter yellow color, consistently wows everyone who sees it. Perhaps that’s mainly because of the giant growth on the back that houses the enormous 41 megapixel camera, a first for such a consumer-facing smartphone. While the same camera was available previously on Nokia’s own 808, that phone ran an abandoned operating system, while the Lumia 1020 runs Windows Phone 8, Microsoft’s competitor to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

ECOSYSTEM

Windows Phone has been making moves lately, with the Windows Phone 8.1 update having been announced on April 2nd and major big-name apps finally getting published on the Windows Phone store. The most important name on that list? Instagram. While technically in beta, Instagram for Windows Phone 8 is a solid app that runs smoothly and has plenty of the functionality an Instagrammaholic could need, save for two major features: video and Instagram Direct. While third party apps already support Instagram video, the official app doesn’t yet, but we’re sure that will change once the app removes its beta tag. Instagram Direct? Yeah, nobody cares. Snapchat’s also on there, though not in official form. However, the unofficial app, 6snap, works perfectly well, and Snapchat has already announced their own official app will be ready soon.

So, good news on the app front, right? Well, sorta. While most of the big names are now firmly available, many aren’t up to par with their offerings on iOS and Android, unfortunately. As someone who lives and breathes smartphones and has bounced around from each of the three platforms more than I’d like to admit, it’s tiresome to open an app like Foursquare or Facebook and be greeted with long load-times, outdated designs, and missing features. Hopefully these issues will change, but to be honest, they’re more a symptom of app developers not having the time or resources to meet the small amount of demand for better Windows Phone apps. While Windows Phone is increasing in marketshare, it’s still easily dwarfed by the two giants, so expect the situation to stay the same for a while.

HARDWARE/BUILD QUALITY

Luckily, the Lumia 1020 has a lot going for it to make up for this, however. First of all, the build quality is amazing. The 1020 looks to be made from a single piece of mattle, silky-smooth poloycarbonate that feels more like something ceramic than the slimy plastics you see on previous flagships like the Samsung Galaxy series. While not feather-light, the 1020 has definitely shed some weight when compared to previous Lumias like the 920, which only had a 8 megapixel shooter. Around the sides, the volume rockers, lock and unlock button, and camera button have a satisfying click to them and feel like metal coated in the same matte finish as the rest of the body. At the bottom is a seriously underpowered single speaker that consistently got muffled by my pinky when holding the phone, along with a microUSB port for charging and data transfer. On top is a single microphone, a MicroSIM card slot, and the headphone port, leaving the left side bare. I wish the headphone port was on the bottom for optimal jeans-pocket-listening, but Nokia seems to disagree with me. On the front, there’s a gorgeous, deep-black 4.5 inch ClearBlack AMOLED 720p HD display. That means amazing sunlight readability, super-high refresh-rate to minimize blur while scrolling, and, like other AMOLED displays, selective lighting, which leads to both huge battery savings and less eye-strain when using a dark theme, meaning reading at night doesn’t blind you like other phones. I personally love the way Nokia smoothly curves the glass on their Lumia line – it looks like it was poured into the body perfectly, rather than slapped onto it.

Speaking of the screen, this Lumia has the Nokia Black update, meaning features like Glance and tap-to-wake are available right out of the box. Glance allows you to see the time and number of notifications in any app you choose without ever unlocking the screen, and since it uses the aforementioned AMOLED display, it doesn’t use up much battery doing so. While it doesn’t go as far as the Moto X’s active notification system, it’s an extremely useful feature that you don’t realize how valuable it is until you try it for yourself. Unlocking the phone itself is made easy as well, with a side-mounted lock/unlock button and the double-tap gesture both activating the screen quickly. The screen itself had great viewing angles with solid little color or brightness degradation and extreme angles, and it was extremely sensitive, easily responding despite wearing non-conductive gloves. No gloves are needed to keep the screen fairly fingerprint free, thankfully, with one of the most best oleophobic treatments I’ve ever had the pleasure of using on a phone. I rarely felt the need to wipe the phone of my finger grease, something few phones can do.

SOFTWARE (PART I)

The lockscreen can be customized by different apps, a nice feature that I wish iOS had, allowing you to catch up on your Facebook, news sources, or, as shown here, Instagram feed. I’ll refrain from talking too much about the Windows Phone OS itself until the end of the review, as many of you probably already know about the OS and are more interested in the phone itself, but needless to say it’s extremely well designed and beautiful, though a little lacking in features when compared to the more mature iOS and feature-rich Android. With Windows Phone 8.1, however, a lot of that will change. A new lockscreen, notification-center, digital assistant, new tile aesthetics, and camera changes are all coming with that update, which is available now if you register as a developer.

CAMERA

Now, onto the most important part of the phone, and make no mistake, this is the reason why most people will probably buy the phone. This camera is amazing. Sure, it’s slow to load upon opening, slow to take and save a photo, and the UI lags when fiddling with its more advanced features, but the photos it takes are absolutely breathtaking. I love that the Nokia Pro Camera app allows me to tweak each and every aspect of the camera as if I were using an expensive DSLR rather than a smartphone – aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and manual focus are all fair game. But even on auto settings, the photos it produces are super-sharp, color-correct, and ready to be shared or edited easily. Plus, with Nokia’s insane amount of apps available, there are so many ways to take and play with your photos you’ll never get bored. With Refocus, you can take a photo and change what’s in focus or not after the fact; with Smart Cam, you can use burst mode to get the shot you want, create awesome composites of extreme action scenarios, remove pesky photobombers, and make it so everyone is smiling and has their eyes open at the same time – nothing short of black magic at a family gathering; and with Cinemagraph you can create looping semi-animated photo/video hybrids that can be both creepy and hilarious. Those are only three of the many, many "lenses" you can activate through the camera app, an awesome feature that neither of the other operating systems have. And with those 41 megapixels, you can reframe or crop your photos later without losing any detail, perfect for a situation where getting closer to the subject isn’t possible like a graduation or a sporting event. I love this camera. Also of note, both the rear-facing camera and 1.2 megapixel front camera have a nice, wide field of view, so both Snapchatting and street photography is easy and fun. Also of note, the quality of video that comes out of this phone's shooter is absolutely astounding. I'll be adding a link to a sample video to the review soon. Additionally, sample photos from the phone as well as beautiful shots of the hardware of the phone can be seen in the Verge's great review here.

BATTERY LIFE

Battery life, like most Windows Phones, is fantastic, easily lasting a day and a half to two days at the most, though taking lots of pictures quickly drains the battery. Nokia solves this somewhat by offering Camera Grip accessories – cases that have an integrated battery and a significant hump to grab onto when snapping photos with the dedicated camera button, something you may want to invest in if you plan on using this more as a camera than as a phone. I felt scared I’d drop the 1020 every time I pulled the phone out to snap a photo, as the huge camera protrusion and slippery body meant there was little place to grip the phone, but the camera grip solves this handily. Also, Nokia gives you a wristband that slots into the bottom if you so choose, but it got in the way of me using the phone and sliding it in and out of my pockets and felt a little too much like I was carrying a purse, so I ditched it.

SPECIFICATIONS

Spec-wise the 1020 is pretty much at the peak of the Windows Phone game, with 2GB of RAM, which should easily keep the phone performance competitive for at least another year and a half due to Windows Phone’s low-hardware performance optimization, 32GB of non-expandable storage, 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, and LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and fairly high pixel-density at 334 pixels per inch.

The phone is slim everywhere except the camera hump, where it balloons out to 10.4 mm, a far cry from the iPhone 5’s 7.6mm, but it never feels outrageous. The one annoyance with the camera hump’s thickness, however, is how it makes the phone rest on flat surfaces, but luckily through all my use of the phone, not a single scuff or scratch occurred anywhere, surprising considering the stress that one edge had to endure. Needless to say, the phone is build like a tank. Though I’m totally against drop and scratch tests, I’m sure the phone would hold up well, thanks to the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and the solid build quality mentioned earlier. If you’re looking for a Windows Phone to buy, this is the one, and if you’re looking for a new phone in general, you’d be missing out if you ignored Windows Phone altogether.

SOFTWARE (PART II)

Windows Phone Details: Live tiles are a fantastically innovative way to surface important information in an engaging manner, showing you the latest headlines, photos posted by friends, missed calls and texts, the weather, and distance until the next direction while walking or driving. The consistency of the design of apps was a breath of fresh air, with each and every one having similar methods of navigation and informational hierarchy, keeping the learning curve low. And with plenty of business-focused customization options, the ability to create and edit office documents on the go, and a comfortable keyboard, even getting work done on a phone isn’t a difficult task. Features like Kids corner, a special area of the phone that can be customized with certain apps and limited access that’s great for both handing your phone to your kid or for nosy friends without worrying about personal texts, emails, or photos, being found, and backup and security functions, Windows Phone is really beginning to feel mature and usable, and will soon be on par with other competitive offerings.

**DISCLAIMER: I interned at Microsoft this last Summer (2013) and will be returning this upcoming Summer (2014). My views do not reflect those of Microsoft, and are my own.