While AT&T and T-Mobile users have enjoyed access to Windows Phones for years, Verizon customers pining for a phone of their own have had to sulk on the sidelines. No longer. With the release of the Nokia Lumia 822 ($99.99 with contract), Verizon is finally embracing Microsoft's OS. Powered by Windows Phone 8, the Lumia 822 has a dynamic Live Tile interface and Nokia exclusive apps like Nokia Drive and Nokia Music, plus a nifty feature that can help you keep from blowing through that data cap. Does Verizon's first Windows Phone have what it takes to swim in the deep end?
Where previous iterations of the Lumia series featured sharp angles and blocky unibody designs, the 822 boasts a softer aesthetic. The smooth white plastic chassis curves gently at the corners, framing a 4.3-inch AMOLED display that's flanked above by a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera and below by three touch-sensitive buttons for Back, Home and Search.
An 8-megapixel Carl Zeiss rear-facing camera provides the sole flourish on the all-white plastic backplate. The backplate itself can be removed, exposing the battery, microSD slot and SIM card -- a welcome change from the inaccessible batteries on other Lumia phones. The volume rocker, power button and camera button are located on the right side of the phone, a headphone jack on the top and a microUSB port on the bottom. Unfortunately, the 822's plastic design, which is also available in black or gray, picks up fingerprints more easily than the Lumia 920's unibody chassis.
At 5.0 x 2.7 x 0.44 inches and 5.1 ounces, the Lumia 822 is larger and heavier than the svelte Motorola Droid RAZR M (0.32 inches thick, 4.4 ounces), and thicker than both the LG Spectrum 2 (0.36 inches thick, 5.2 ounces) and the HTC Windows Phone 8X (0.39 inches thick, 4.6 ounces). Despite its size, however, we found that we could still use the 822 comfortably in one hand.
The phone comes with 16GB of internal storage, and can be upgraded to as much as 64GB via the microSD Card slot.
With a resolution of just 800 x 480, the Lumia 822's 4.3-inch WVGA AMOLED display falls far short of the competition in terms of pixel density. When reading articles on NYtimes.com, for example, text appeared much grainier on the Lumia 822's display than on the LG Spectrum 2 (4.7-inch, 1280 x 720 LCD), the HTC Windows Phone 8X (4.3-inch, 1280 x 720 Super LCD 2) and the RAZR M (4.3-inch, 960 x 540 AMOLED). Similarly, the Lumia 822's display isn't quite as bright as competing phones: At 410 lux, it outshines the 310 lux average, but is eclipsed by both the RAZR M (469 lux) and the Spectrum 2 (484 lux).
Nevertheless, the Lumia 822 boasts extremely vivid colors and generous viewing angles. When we watched a trailer for "The Hobbit" on YouTube, Galadriel's golden hair popped off the screen, and we could tilt the phone more than 45 degrees in any direction before losing clarity. The AMOLED display also made the screen easy to see in direct sunlight. What's more, thanks to its Corning Gorilla Glass 2 display, the Lumia 822 can withstand a fair amount of everyday wear and tear.
Although the bottom-mounted speakers on the Lumia 822 pump out enough sound to fill a large room, bumping the volume higher than 50 percent caused the treble to sound ragged and harsh. Listening to Iron Maiden's "Flight of Icarus" at maximum volume, Bruce Dickinson's iconic vocals rang out clearly, but the guitar, bass and drums sounded cacophonous.
Listening with headphones proved much more enjoyable. As with the Lumia 920, plugging in headphones lets you use the Lumia 822's built-in equalizer and Dolby Headphone settings. The equalizer features a number of presets, including Bass Boost, Vocal Boost, Acoustic and Hip Hop, as well as the ability to create your own custom presets. The Dolby Headphone setting simulates surround sound by bringing the bass more in line with the treble -- used in conjunction with the equalizer, this setting delivered rich audio through our ear buds.
Windows Phone 8
If the icon-based interfaces of Android and iOS have begun to feel stale, Windows Phone 8's UI will seem like a breath of fresh air. Utilizing Live Tiles, resizable squares that fit neatly into columns on the screen and change appearance depending on the context of the application, the Lumia 822's interface is a drastic departure from the static UI found on Android and iOS.
For instance, the Live Tile for the People App -- which links to your contacts from Hotmail, Google, Facebook, Twitter and a number of other social networks and email clients -- consists of a rapidly shifting collage of your friends' profile pictures. The Photos Tile, on the other hand, rotates between random photos from your camera roll, while the Weather Tile shifts displays the current weather and upcoming forecasts. This sense of vitality is refreshing. Whereas Android and iOS devices appear dormant until manipulated by the user, the Lumia 822 feels as if it's humming with energy beneath your fingertips.
Parents will appreciate the Kids Corner feature in Windows Phone 8. This mode enables you to decide which apps, videos, games and music your children can access. Junior will also get his own Start screen. This mode is best for younger kids because there's no browser.
As beautiful as Windows Phone 8 is, it suffers from its fair share of shortcomings and inexplicable design choices. We found it frustrating, for instance, that we couldn't see the time at the top of the screen while in most apps, and that the signal strength remained hidden unless we touched the top of screen. Even more frustrating (and baffling) was Microsoft's decision not to include a scroll bar in the music player that would allow us to instantly jump to certain points in the track -- instead, we were forced to manually fast forward or rewind. Considering that this feature has been available in the earliest iterations of both Android and iOS, its oversight seems particularly egregious.
Microsoft includes some handy apps with Windows Phone 8. The People hub aggregates your various contacts from Email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype and Twitter. Of course, if you're connected to all those networks, that can mean a lot of new information all at once. Two features, Groups and Rooms, let you contextualize and sort all this data. As its name suggests, Groups let you group selected contacts (say, Family or Favorites); opening that group then shows only updates and photos from those individuals. Similar to the workgroups in Microsoft Office, Rooms lets you set up a virtual network with selected contacts to privately share photos, calendars and send messages.
Two apps that are unique to Verizon's Windows Phone 8 devices (so far) are Data Sense and Wallet. Data Sense lets you set limits on your own data usage and automatically compresses data-heavy information (such as pictures) as you approach your limit. The utility will also allow you to see how much data individual apps are using; for instance, when we set a 30MB limit for the day, NFL Mobile accounted for 17MB of usage. In our experience, the app did an excellent job ensuring that critical information, such as text, remains legible even as images became increasingly grainy. With only 2MB of data left in our daily limit, we could still clearly read articles on NYTimes.com.
The Wallet app aims to make shopping easier by storing your credit card, PayPal, Microsoft gift card or coupon information on your phone. Using the app, you can link cards with certain apps, meaning you won't have to worry about remembering to use PayPal when you're shopping on eBay. The app also lets you find local deals in your neighborhood through services such as Living Social, as well as purchase items using the phone's integrated NFC chip at participating vendors. Although we're wary of storing all of our credit-card information in a single place, we can see the appeal for anyone who want to aggregate various accounts.
In addition to standard Windows Phone 8 apps such as Calendar and Internet Explorer, the Lumia 822 features a number of Nokia-branded applications. Nokia City Lens (which somewhat annoyingly opens only in landscape mode) lets you explore your current area, with tabs for food, hotels, shopping, sightseeing and transportation. The app also sports an augmented reality feature that overlays the names of nearby restaurants, stores and other locations on the screen of the phone. This feature strongly reminded us of the Monocle tool on the Yelp app for iOS and Android.
Nokia Drive syncs with Nokia Maps to give you turn-by-turn directions, using either a two-dimensional or three-dimensional view of the map. The app can be configured to give voice directions, display landmarks and -- most impressively -- give an audio alert when you're going over the speed limit. Nokia Maps itself features a refreshingly clean interface, with separate views for satellite, public transit and traffic.
The last Nokia app, Nokia Music, functions like a combination of Microsoft Music, Pandora and Gigbeat. Using the app, you can purchase and download songs from Nokia's catalog of 15 million tracks, stream music on custom radio channels, or buy tickets to shows that are playing locally through Songkick. The robust selection of songs available through Nokia Music goes a long way toward assuaging the fact that Pandora won't be available on Windows Phone 8 until January 2013.
Only two Verizon-specific apps are included on the Lumia 822. The first is My Verizon Mobile, which lets you view your usage, pay your bill and change your voicemail password. The second, NFL Mobile, gives football fans the ability to track their favorite teams, view game highlights and live stream the NFL Network at no additional cost.
One shortcoming of Windows Phone 8 is its dearth of applications. The Windows Phone Store currently features 120,000 apps, including many popular applications such as The New York Times, Netflix, Angry Birds and Facebook. Unfortunately, this is a far cry from the 700,000-plus apps currently available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Bundled third-party apps include ESPN and Univision, an official app for the Spanish-language television network. Thankfully, unlike the preloaded crapware on most Android devices, these apps can be uninstalled.
Packing a 1.5-GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM, the Lumia 822 delivered fast performance on both our synthetic benchmarks and in everyday use. On the Benchmark Free app, the Lumia 822 notched a 7.9 on every test -- the highest possible score. Its cumulative score of 47.4 exceeded the average Windows phone by 13 points and matched the Lumia 920 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X, both of which also use a 1.5-GHz S4 CPU.
On the WP Bench app, which measures CPU and GPU performance, the Lumia 822 scored 246.2. This not only beats the average by more than 100 points, it outpaces the Windows Phone 8X and Lumia 920, which achieved scores of 235 and 237, respectively.
We also ran the AnTuTu Benchmark app, which measures CPU performance, 2D graphics, and read/write performance. The Lumia 822 scored 10,143, which falls well behind both the Lumia 810 (11,074) and the unlocked version of the HTC Windows Phone 8X (11,609).
Like the Lumia 920 and the Windows Phone 8X, the Lumia 820 launched the camera app in just over 2 seconds from a blank screen. Opening apps and swiping between screens proved equally smooth.
4G LTE and Web Browsing
The Lumia 822 delivered impressive speeds on Verizon's 4G LTE network. Using the My Speed Test app, the phone achieved an average download speed of 11.3 Mbps and an upload speed of 7.0 Mbps. Loading Web pages proved equally snappy -- the phone loaded the desktop version of NYTimes.com in 13 seconds and the mobile versions of CNN.com and ESPN.com in 5 and 6 seconds, respectively.
The Lumia 822 has built-in NFC, so you can transfer data from the phone to other devices. However, the process is somewhat cumbersome. In order to share a photo, you have to open it, press the three dots on the screen to access settings and select Tap+Send from the Share menu options. With Android devices, it's much simpler; simply tap on the image while the two devices are touching.
Camera and Camcorder
Photos taken with the Lumia 822's 8-megapixel rear-facing camera proved colorful, if not extraordinarily sharp. When we took pictures of tchotchkes in our office, the bright blue finish on a plastic Cyclops bobblehead popped off the screen, but we noticed some graininess in background, particularly in areas of a solid color. Outdoors, the camera fared much better. A photo of a scooter parked on Fifth Avenue appeared bright and crisp, and we could only discern pixelation in much smaller figures across the street.
Nokia also offers a free Lens app through the Windows Phone Store called Smart Shoot that lets you shoot a series of pictures in quick succession and then choose the best photo of the bunch. Two innovative features of this app are Face Change and Remove Objects. Face Change automatically identifies faces in each of the photo, and then lets you choose the "best face" of each person in the picture, After choosing, the app automatically stitches the best face onto the photo.
Remove Objects behaves much the same way, except instead of identifying faces, it looks for objects that appear in one photo but not another. It then highlights those objects and gives you the option to "remove" them from the photo -- in effect, merging the photo in which the object did not appear with photo you've chosen as the best. It's a neat feature that will make it easy to remove random objects or people from an otherwise perfect photo.
Captured 1080p video of traffic on Fifth Avenue appeared vibrant and smooth. The bright yellow taxis stood in stark contrast to the beige office buildings, and we could easily make out the text on street signs and on food trucks. The camera quickly adjusted to differences in light exposure as we tilted it toward the sky and back again to the ground.
Pictures taken with the 1.3-megapixel rear-facing camera appeared surprisingly colorful and sharp. Our red flannel shirt contrasted nicely with our pale complexion, and we could easily discern fine details such as the crow's feet at the corner of our eyes.
Call Quality and Battery Life
When we called family over Verizon's network, sound quality was acceptable, though not outstanding. Our caller reported that she could hear us clearly and without distortion, though on our end, we noticed a distinct fuzziness each time she finished speaking.
On the LAPTOP Battery Test, the Lumia 822's 1,800-mAh battery lasted a respectable 6 hours and 52 minutes on Verizon's LTE network. That's nearly 45 minutes longer than the smartphone average, and two hours longer than the Samsung ATIV Odyssey. However, on the Peacekeeper battery test, the Lumia 822's time of 3:54 device came up short compared to the HTC Windows Phone 8X (5:04).
The Lumia 822 lets you charge the device wirelessly, but unlike the Lumia 920, this capability isn't built into the device. You'll have to purchase a separate Nokia Wireless Charging Cover ($39.99, available in black or white), as well as a charging plate ($49.99) or pillow ($79.99), to take advantage of this technology. In our experience, the added cost is worth it, as devices charge fairly quickly and it's intuitive to use. We just wish the technology was integrated in the Lumia 822 as it is on the 920.
Frequent flyers and caffeine addicts will be pleased to know that Nokia plans to place wireless charging stations at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shops (which has more than 850 stores) and Virgin Atlantic lounges.
While the Nokia Lumia 822 has a lot to recommend it -- an attractive design, zippy performance and service on Verizon's fast 4G LTE network -- the phone doesn't wow. Not only is the Lumia 822 thicker than competing $99 phones, it suffers from a lower resolution display. If you want a better Windows Phone, pick up the identically priced Nokia Lumia 920 on AT&T, which has a better PureView camera along with integrated wireless charging. If you want a Verizon Windows phone, check out the $199 HTC Windows Phone 8X, which also has wireless charging capability built in and sports a sleeker design than the Lumia 822. Otherwise, we suggest the Droid Razr M, which, for the same $99 as this Lumia, has a sharper screen and lasts much longer on a charge. The Lumia 822 makes a good first impression, but unfortunately the good vibes don't last as long as we'd like.