Nokia has fired another salvo in the ongoing smartphone war with the much-anticipated Nokia Lumia 928. This flagship device for Verizon Wireless keeps some of the best features of the Nokia Lumia 920 (8.7-megapixel camera, wireless charging and exclusive Nokia apps) while updating the design and enhancing the audio. The $99 price is nice, too. Ultimately, the Lumia 928 is a very satisfying phone, but does it do enough to steal Verizon customers away from the Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5?
The Lumia 928 has a design that's at once new and familiar. Similar to the Lumia 920, the rectangular chassis is made of glossy white polycarbonate, but Nokia has also squared off some of the 920's curves, leaving the 928 with a slicker, more angular look. The rear panel is rounded, which helps to somewhat mitigate the slippery plastic. Unfortunately, the Lumia 928 is only available in white and black, departing from the 920's 5 color options (white, black, yellow, red and blue).
We like how the 4.5-inch Corning Gorilla Glass 2 display and its glossy black bezel extends to the edges of the device. Branding for Nokia and Verizon sit atop the display with a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. Capacitive buttons for Back, Home and Search are underneath the screen.
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As with most Nokia Windows Phones, buttons for volume, power and camera are located on the right side of the device. A microUSB port, headphone jack and SIM card port line the top of the device. The 8.7-megapixel Carl Zeiss rear-facing camera is prominently positioned along the back of the 928 next to a large flash. A 4G LTE logo sits near the bottom of the panel above an oval-shaped speaker.
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Nokia managed to trim a bit of the fat from the Lumia 920. This 6-ounce phone is by no means light, but it's lighter than the 920's 6.5 ounces. The newer Lumia measures 5.2 x 2.7 x 0.39, while the older model measured 5.1 x 2.8 x 0.4 inches. Still, the 5.3 x 2.7 x 0.25-inch Samsung Galaxy S4 and the 5.2 x 2.6 x 0.4-inch HTC Windows Phone 8X weigh a svelte 4.6 ounces.
The 928's 4.5-inch, 1280 x 768 AMOLED display delivered a cornucopia of vivid color coupled with superb contrast. Text on Gawker.com and Clutch Magazine remained sharp even when zoomed in.
Watching the high-def "Agents of SHIELD" TV series promo yielded voluminous fireballs peppered with yellows, reds, oranges and blacks. Agent Coulson's cherry-red convertible gleamed as the agent's brow furrowed when warning a subordinate to keep his hands off. In a side-by-side comparison with the Lumia 920's IPS LCD, the 928 offered deeper blacks.
When we measured the 928 with our light meter, it registered 343 lux. That's much brighter than the 301 lux smartphone average, as well as the Lumia 920's mark of 310. The Windows Phone 8X, Ativ Odyssey and Galaxy S4 scored 312, 228 and 480, respectively. You can also adjust the screen's outdoor readability via the Settings menu. The phone automatically became brighter in direct sunlight, making reading a simple exercise.
The Lumia 929 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 over our hand instead. We successfully selected icons and executed pinch-to-zoom gestures.
We appreciate Nokia's decision to place the 928's speaker along the rear panel instead of the bottom of the phone like the 920. As a result, there's less of a risk of muffling the sound when holding the phone in landscape mode. Both phones filled our small test room with rich, full audio during our sound test, complete with crisp cymbals, big organ and smooth bass. We noticed that the treble on the 920 was harsher than the 928, which had a more balanced approach.
Plugging in a pair of headphones lets you take advantage of the built-in equalizer, which lets you choose from custom audio profiles, such as Bass Boost or Vocal Boost. You can also create your own profile. The Dolby Headphone setting boosts levels even more, making songs sound richer.
Windows Phone 8 and Interface
As with the previous two iterations of its mobile OS, we really like the dynamic, customizable Live Tile interface of Windows Phone 8. There's always something happening on screen, which keeps things fresh. You can pin a myriad of content your Start screen, including people, apps, websites, photo albums, music albums, notes, directions and more.
Live Tiles can be resized using your choice of three options. Just long-press to make a tile smaller or as large as a rectangle that stretches across the screen. This gives users a lot of flexibility.
Windows Phone staples, such as the People Hub, Groups, Rooms and Kid's Corner, can also be found on the Lumia 928. People Hub aggregates updates from Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, Email and Twitter to its corresponding Live Tile. As its name suggests, Groups let you group-select contacts (say, Family or Favorites); opening that group then shows only updates and photos from those individuals.
Rooms allows users to set up a virtual network with selected contacts to privately share photos and calendars and send messages. The Kid's Corner feature lets you select kid-friendly apps, movies, games and music. Simply flick to the left from the lock screen to enter this mode.
We found the DataSense app to be one of the more useful apps, keeping track of our device's data usage. This feature also allows users to set data limits.
Camera and Camcorder
The Lumia 928 features the same impressive 8.7-megapixel PureView camera with Carl Zeiss optics as the Lumia 920. The f/2.0 lens, combined with a new Xenon flash, promises superior low-light photography.
Photos taken with the 920 and the 928 were nearly identical in terms of details. However, the 920 delivered better color in many of our shots, particularly photos taken at our local florist. Images captured with the 928 tended to have a bluish tint. Both devices tended to oversaturate brighter colors such as reds and oranges.
When we enabled flash for both devices, our photo editor noted that images taken on the 928 were too yellow with a slight haze. Reds and pinks looked fluorescent, leading to detail loss. Many of the 920's images had a bluish tint. However, both devices delivered sharp detail.
The Lumia 928 upholds Nokia's gold standard for low-light photography. When we snapped a few shots of some random tchotchkes in a nearly dark photo lab, we got surprisingly vivid color that was borderline oversaturated. However, it should be noted that much of the detail in the photos were soft and fuzzy.
Video shot of NYC traffic on the 928 was darker than we would have liked. There was also a hint of a white haze. Nevertheless, colors were fairly accurate and the text on the New Balance sign was nice and legible.
The 928 also has a trio of high-audio-amplitude-capture (HAAC) microphones that will capture distortion-free audio even in noisy settings (restaurant, concerts and nightclubs). When we recorded on a busy, windy NYC street, our conversation with a LAPTOP staffer was loud and clear despite the traffic and the whipping winds.
The 1.2MP front-facing camera shoots stills and video in 720p. Colors like our turquoise sweater and red jacket were nice and bright. The image also displayed a high level of detail, capturing our sweater's fabric pattern.
These days, a smartphone camera has to do more than take pretty pictures. Nokia adds some bells and whistles to the Lumia 928 using a few nifty apps. Creative Studio gives users 8 Instagram-like filters to trick out their photos. We took sweeping shots of the New York City skyline with the Panorama app. Nokia also took a few notes from Samsung and added a few fun and useful camera apps.
Smart Shoot combines three features found on the Samsung Galaxy S 4: Best Shot, Best Face and Eraser Mode. With Smart Shoot engaged, the camera snaps eight photos when the camera button is held down. Once the photos were taken, we flipped through the shots like a flipbook until we found the best overall shot.
We could save this photo or press the three dots to cue up the Change Faces and Erase Objects Modes. Erase Objects takes 2 to 3 seconds to process the photo. Objects like an errant photobomber are outlined in white. Once the object was selected, the phone took 1 to 2 seconds to remove what we wanted from the image.
Change Faces lets users choose the best headshots for a particular image. After taking a few seconds to process, Change Faces allowed us to scroll through the compiled shots to choose the best image. From there, it took 1 to 2 more seconds to stitch the completed photo together.
Cinemagraph is by far our favorite feature. Similar to Animated Photo Mode on the Galaxy S4, Cinemagraph captures video and converts it into an animated GIF. (In this case, Nokia was first.) We took a video of our nonplussed boyfriend waving at us. When we edited the video, the editor pointed out the three best points in the video to animate. Once we made our choice, the GIF played back and we could save, share or delete the GIF. Cinemagraph also incorporates filters from Creative Studio for a more artistic look.
As with other Lumia devices, Nokia adds several of its own services and apps to the Windows Phone party. For example, Nokia Music is a free service that lets music lovers search, stream and download music. As a bonus, you can also find where artists are playing locally.
Nokia's highly detailed HERE Maps apps is also included, which displays satellite and traffic views along with a layer for public transit lines. The app came in handy in New York City. The Nokia Drive+ app syncs with Maps, dispatching turn-by turn directions in either a 2D or 3D view.
People looking to explore their neighborhood should check out HERE City Lens. The app maps out nearby restaurants, nightspots and tourist attractions in an augmented reality overlay.
If you're having trouble parsing through the Windows Phone App Store's 135,000 apps, Nokia App Highlights which compiles the newest and most popular apps.
Verizon-branded apps include VZ Navigator and MyVerizonMobile, which enables users to pay their bills, update plan features and track data usage. There's also NFL Mobile, which offers the latest news, stats and video on demand.
Third-party apps include CNN, ESPN and The Weather Channel. Overall, the Windows Phone Marketplace has steadily improved, having added WhatsApp, Pandora and YouTube both fairly recently. However, there are still several key apps missing that you'll find on Android and iOS, such as Instagram, an official version of Dropbox, Flipboard or Pulse. "Candy Crush," Snapchat and Path are also MIA.
The Nokia Lumia 928 has a built-in NFC chip like its predecessor for data transfer between phones. However, the 928 is slightly clumsy in its approach. The phone 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 1-2 seconds to transfer a photo, but we were unable to transfer video.
The Nokia Lumia 928's 1.5-GHz dual-core CPU with 1GB of RAM was snappy when navigating menus and launching apps. The Calendar, CNN and ESPN apps took about a second to launch. The camera was a little sluggish, taking between 2-3 seconds to open. The "Asphalt 7" game 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 928 scored 226.85. That's enough to top the 160 Windows Phone average. However, this was not enough to overtake the Samsung ATIV Odyssey (1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 CPU) or the HTC Windows Phone 8X (1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm S4 CPU), which scored 242 and 233.
The Nokia Lumia 928 comes with 32GB of storage. Unfortunately, the phone lacks a microSD slot for further storage expansion.
4G LTE and Web Browsing
Verizon has the largest 4G LTE network in the nation and delivered fast downloads in our testing. It took the mobile versions of CNN, ESPN and NYTimes an average of 2.6, 2.8 and 4.7 seconds to load on the Lumia 928. The full desktop of Laptopmag.com took an average of 6.9 seconds to load.
We used the Lumia 928 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., taking about 40 minutes worth of video, then snapping numerous photos, browsing the Web, checking Twitter and Facebook and making phone calls. After that time, we had about 6 percent battery life remaining. We expect you should get more than 6 hours of runtime during everyday use. That's decent, but other phones last up to 8 hours of near-continuous use, such as the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD.
Similar to the Lumia 920, the Lumia 928 has Qi wireless charging technology built in that can be used with the Nokia Wireless Charging Pad by Fatboy. Charging is pretty straightforward; we simply rested the phone down on the beanbaglike device (which was plugged into the wall), and the phone started recharging. After an hour, the meter went from 6 to 54 percent.
Available in black, yellow, red, blue and white, the Fatboy pad is a whimsical way to recharge the 920, but 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.
Over Verizon's network, calls to another smartphone across the country were generally good. While our caller complained it was a little difficult to hear us, we were outside in a fairly windy location. We could hear her well, though.
The Lumia 928 is a solid refresh of the Lumia 920 and a compelling Windows Phone option for Verizon shoppers who have been waiting to get their hands on Nokia's PureView camera. While still on the heavy side, the updated design makes for a sleeker, easier-to-manage device. We also applaud the new camera apps and improved audio quality, as well as the brighter AMOLED display. The Lumia 928 still suffers in the apps department versus Android phones and the iPhone 5 -- and some may want to wait for the aluminum Lumia 925 for T-Mobile -- but at $99, this Windows Phone is a strong value.