AT&T continues its love affair with Nokia, adding the Lumia 925 to its burgeoning Windows Phone 8 roster. The 925 combines a slim, premium look with a powerful camera, a slew of compelling photo apps, and LTE speeds. Best of all, the handset is available for $99. If you're willing to give Windows Phone a shot, this is a great midrange option.
Somehow, the Lumia 925 has gotten even lovelier than the last time we saw it. While we liked the white version on T-Mobile, the phone looks absolutely fetching in black. The dark gray aluminum sides are cool to the touch, while the matte black polycarbonate back panel provides a firm grip. As attractive as this handset is, however, we do wish AT&T and Nokia offered more color options.
In one respect, the Lumia 925 is the inverse of the HTC One Mini, which has an aluminum back and polycarbonate sides. HTC's glossy plastic adds a hint of cheapness that takes away from the Mini's overall attractiveness. Both devices suffer from the lack of a removable panel.
The 925's 4.5-inch display holds court on the front of the phone, surrounded by a shiny black bezel. A 1.2 megapixel camera is above the screen, while a trio of backlit capacitive buttons (Back, Home and Search) sits at the bottom.
You'll find a microUSB port, micro SIM card slot and audio jack on the top of this Lumia. The volume rocker, power button and dedicated camera button line the device's right side.
The 925 is the thinnest and lightest Lumia on AT&T's roster at 4.9 ounces and 5.08 x 2.75 x 0.33 inches. Owing to its more powerful camera, the Nokia Lumia 1020 weighs 5.6 ounces and has a taller and thicker 5.1 x 2.HTC One1-inch body. The 4.4-ounce, 5.2 x 2.5 x 0.36-inch HTC One Mini is lighter but thicker than the 925.
The Lumia 925's 4.5-inch PureMotion+ AMOLED ClearBlack display serves up big helpings of eye candy. The 1080p trailer of "The Bounty Hunter" was an explosion of deep reds, rich, luscious and velvety blacks on the Lumia's 1280 x 768 screen. The display has generous viewing angles and is plenty sharp, showing off the intricate curlicues and designs in the marauding hordes' face paint.
In a side-by-side with the One Mini's 4.3-inch, 1280 x 720 display, we noticed that white objects such as clouds or clothing had a yellowish tinge on the 925. The One Mini had a more realistic color palette. However, the 925 delivered better detail, allowing us to see individual strands of the woman's raven hair as it blew in the wind.
Registering a dazzling 456 lux on our light meter, the Lumia 925's display is much brighter than the 392 smartphone average. The T-Mobile version of the 925 posted 429 lux and the Lumia 1020 reached 441 lux. The HTC One Mini notched 422 lux.
Thanks to Nokia's decision to use Corning Gorilla Glass 2, the Lumia 925's screen can hold up against life's inevitable bumps and scrapes. The Lumia 925 also includes a feature for adjusting the sensitivity of the touch screen, so you can use the phone while wearing gloves. We didn't have a pair handy, so we used a sock and successfully selected icons and executed pinch-to-zoom gestures.
The Lumia 925's rear speaker filled our room with loud, albeit flat, audio. When we did a quick sound-off against the HTC One Mini with Beyoncé's "Love On Top," the 925 delivered fairly clear vocals, but lacked the volume, bass and fullness of the HTC One Mini and its Beats Audio technology.
The 925's speakers reached 78 decibels during the LAPTOP Audio Test, which measures a smartphone's sound over the distance from the screen to the user's nose (13 inches). This reading fell short of the 81 dB smartphone average as well as the HTC One's 82 dB.
Software and Interface
The Nokia Lumia 925 runs Microsoft's Windows Phone 8, which has a strikingly different interface than Android and iOS. We really like the Live Tile interface, which constantly refreshes with new content. You can also resize tiles as you see fit.
There is a lot of different content that can be pinned to your Start screen, including people, websites, apps, photo albums, music albums, notes and directions.
Parents will appreciate the Kids Corner mode in Windows phone for approving apps for their children to use. There's also a Family Room feature for chatting and shared calendars.
However, Windows Phone 8 continues to suffer from some weaknesses. For instance, you have to tap the top of the screen to see your battery meter and signal strength, and you can't easily toggle such settings as Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi or brightness as you can on most Android phones. And although you can press and hold the Back button to switch between apps in a card-based view, you can't close apps from this menu.
Microsoft stubbornly refuses to add trace typing to Windows Phone, a favorite feature of Android typists. However, the Word Flow keyboard presents suggestions above the layout to speed up typing. You'll also find new emoticons, but the 925 doesn't offer haptic feedback, which is a bit weird considering the capacitive Back, Search and Home buttons have this feature. In lieu of haptics, you can enable a gentle tone to play with each tap.
At 165,000 apps and counting, the Windows Store continues to grow, but has a long way to go before it catches iOS or Android. We're pleased to see Pandora, YouTube and WhatsApp, but popular news apps such as Pulse and Flipboard are still MIA and "Candy Crush Saga" addicts will have to go elsewhere for their fix. You won't find Instagram, either, though Vine is on the way for Windows Phone.
A number of Nokia-branded apps assist in providing a more rounded user experience. Nokia Drive+, for instance, provides accurate and free turn-by-turn GPS navigation, while HERE Maps is better for when you're on foot.
HERE Transit could potentially be a godsend to public transportation users. The app lists nearby public transit locations as well as departure/arrival times. The app can also provide travel directions.
Nokia Music, a streaming audio service and built-in store, is also on board. The app will also point out nearby performances for concertgoers. Nokia has also preloaded its Care app with plenty of tips and tricks for users trying to get better acquainted with their device.
AT&T added its usual suite of apps, including Family Map, Navigator, Mobile TV, Radio, Address Book and the cloud-based AT&T Locker.
Third-party apps include Hulu Plus, Vimeo, The Weather Channel, YouTube, YPMobile and Vyclone, a social app that lets users create Nokia Lumia 925os with friends.
MORE: Best Apps 2013
The Nokia Lumia 925 has a built-in NFC chip, which lets you transfer data, such as photos, between phones. However, Windows Phones remain slightly clumsy in their approach. The 925 connects with other devices via NFC, but performs the actual transfer via Bluetooth. Sharing a photo requires opening the photo, pressing the three dots to call up the menu, selecting Share and then Tap+Send. It took between 1 and 2 seconds to transfer a photo, but we were unable to transfer video. Wi-Fi direct would be much better.
Thanks to its 1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 CPU with 1GB of RAM, the Nokia Lumia 925 is a pretty agile performer. The camera took about a second to open and many apps launched in less than a second. Navigating the Live Tile interface was nice and snappy. A run-through of "Asphalt 7 Heat" ran smoothly, allowing our superior driving skills to take us to the front of the pack.
When we ran WP Bench, which measures CPU, data and GPU performance, the Lumia 925 scored 221. This Nokia Lumia 1020 beats the 197 Windows Phone average. The T-Mobile version of the phone posted 224, matching the Nokia Lumia 1020 (1.5-GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor).
The Nokia Lumia 925 comes with 16GB of onboard storage. The lack of a microSD Card slot prevents users from adding memory.
4G LTE Performance
AT&T's 4G LTE network continues to deliver fast upload and download speeds. In our New York City office, we saw an average download speed of 11.28 Mbps on Speedtest.net. Upload speeds averaged 4.1 Mbps. The mobile sites CNN, ESPN and NYTimes.com loaded in 2.8, 3.3 and 2.9 seconds, respectively. The desktop version of Laptopmag.com loaded in 5.5 seconds.
Camera and Camcorder
The Lumia 925 features the same impressive 8.7-megapixel PureView camera with Carl Zeiss optics as the Lumia 920 and Lumia 928. The f/2.0 lens, combined with a dual LED flash, promises superior low-light photography.
Throughout our test shots of local flora, the Lumia 925 consistently delivered rich reds, but purples tend to oversaturate colors, making deep pinks look nearly fluorescent, as evidenced in a shot of multicolored daisies. However, our favorite shot with the 925 was a large bag of marigold flowers. The green stems popped against the orange flowers. A portion of the picture was slightly blown out due to the sun, but the camera was sharp enough to capture the cracks and dimples in the surrounding street.
The Lumia 925 continues Nokia's gold standard for low-light photography. When we snapped a few shots of somLumia 928tchotchkes in a nearly dark photo lab with the Lumia 928 and the 925, we saw surprisingly vivid color. Both devices were lacking in terms of sharpness, but the 925 delivered finer detail, enabling us to make out the MOET lettering on our gold cup.
A 1080p video we took of NYC traffic was nice and bright. Video was clear enough to make out the little pieces of debris blowing around on the street as the yellow taxis whizzed by.
The 1.2MP front-facing camera shoots stills and video in 720p. Our neon- green headphones were the highlight of the shot, but our fuschia dress also had rich color. The image also displayed a decent level of detail, capturing a few flyaway hairs in our locks.
Nokia Pro Camera App
Similar to the Lumia 1020, the Nokia Lumia 925 features the Nokia Pro Camera app, which helps novices snap images like the pros -- or at least that's the idea. Pro Camera comes with a number of manual controls that can be accessed via the multiple sliders in the interface. You can tweak everything from manual focus, ISO and shutter speed to white balance.
If you need some help along the way, Nokia has included a tutorial and a glossary to assist you in getting acquainted with all the modes. Using the extra bells and whistles was a fairly easy experience. Adjusting ISO and white balance was as simple as turning a knob on a radio, thanks to the radial controls.
We also appreciated the ability to preview our shots in real time. And if we didn't like our tweaked settings, we could easily reset everything back to default by swiping the on-screen shutter button to the left.
Nokia Smart Cam and Lens Apps
In addition to the Pro Camera app, the Nokia Lumia 925 has a Smart Cam app that boasts its own set of features. Change Faces let us to pick the best smiles and face in a series of shots, creating the best overall picture. Action Shot takes multiple pictures of someone moving across the frame and turns them into a single photo with the person appearing in several places at once.
Best Shot snaps off multiple photos and lets photogs pick the best ones to keep. Motion Focus Mode captures moving objects in the foreground while slightly blurring the background, giving a sense of motion.
Like Samsung's Eraser Mode, Remove Moving Objects mode removes photobombers from the shot while preserving the key elements.
The best part of the Nokia Smart Cam is that it simultaneously processes your photo through each of the four above effects at once, eliminating the need to take the same photo over and over.
Cinemagraph, which is by far our favorite feature, has also made it onto the 925. Similar to Animated Photo Mode on the Galaxy S4, Cinemagraph captures video and converts it into an animated GIF. Panorama is available for those fond of sweeping 180-degree shots.
In lieu of Instagram, Nokia preloaded Creative Studio, which lets shutterbugs gussy up their stills with eight fun filters to trick out their photos.
Once you've taken a cool shot, you can share it with friends with the PhotoBeamer app, which sends images from the Lumia 925 directly to any Web browser, whether it's on a Smart TV or a laptop.
After launching the app, we selected a photo from the 925. From there, we went to the PhotoBeamer website (www.photobeamer.com) on our laptop and received a QR code. Once scanned by the Lumia 925, the image was sent to the laptop. After the initial photo appeared on the display (there was about a 1-2 second delay), we were able to scroll through our entire gallery. It's an effective way to stream images, but we wish we could eliminate the need to scan QR codes.
When we ran the Laptop Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over 4G LTE), the Nokia Lumia 925's 2,000 mAH battery lasted 7 hours and 4 minutes, outlasting the 6:11 smartphone average. The T-Mobile version of the 925 clocked in at 5:47, while the Lumia 1020 lasted 6:33. The HTC One posted a time of 6:45.
The Lumia 925 has Qi wireless charging technology built in that can be used with accessories such as the Nokia Wireless Charging Pad by Fatboy. Charging is pretty straightforward; simply rest the phone on the beanbaglike device and the phone will begin to charge.
Available in black, yellow, red, blue and white, the Fatboy pad is a whimsical way to recharge the 925, but it takes up more desk space than a simple USB plug. Devices such as the JBL PowerUp Wireless Charging Speaker, which also lets you play music from your phone while it charges, may prove more useful.
As much as we like the Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel camera, the Lumia 925 for AT&T sports a slimmer design and many of the same great camera features for $100 less. We also love the 925's AMOLED display, and are fans of the phone's solid performance and long battery life.
Powered by Android, the $99 HTC One Mini has a greater app selection and better audio, but the Lumia 925's Live Tile interface is more approachable for smartphone newbies. Overall, the Nokia Lumia is a great choice for shoppers looking for a powerful phone at an affordable price.