Nokia Lumia 930 Hands-On: Bright Display, Powerful Imaging Apps

Microsoft has just announced Windows Phone 8.1, but it's not too soon for the new operating system to find a standard bearer. We had a chance to spend a few moments with Nokia's just-announced Lumia 930 and were impressed with the flagship handset's attractive design, brilliant display and powerful mix of imaging apps.

The first thing we noticed about the Lumia 930 was its colorful backside, which is available in green, orange, black or white. Made from a polycarbonate material, the back has a smooth but sturdy feeling and an attractive matte surface. Unfortunately, unlike the less-expensive Lumia 635, the back cannot be removed so there's no way to change the phone's color or swap in a replacement battery.

If the Lumia 930 looks and feels a lot like the Nokia Lumia Icon, that's because the two devices are practically twins. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop even said that the company has no plans to release the new phone in the U.S., because it is focusing on selling the Icon here.

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As with the Icon, the Lumia 930's sides are adorned in matte aluminum while its front has the all-black look we've come to expect from Nokia. On its right side, the Lumia 930 has a dedicated camera button in addition to its power and volume controls.

As we looked closer at the front and back, we noticed four tiny microphone holes, two on each side.According to a Nokia rep, these microphones allow the 930 to filter out background noise in videos by suppressing anything that's coming from behind the shooter. 

The Lumia 930's 5-inch, 1080p display seemed particularly bright and colorful as images such as live tiles and photos really popped. Even at 90 degree angles, these colors didn't fade at all. In a demo station at its press event, Nokia showed how the Lumia 930's screen stays colorful even under simulated sunlight.  The Icon's screen, which is likely the same panel, measured an eye-burning 475 lux on our lightmeter which is extremely bright but not quite as high as the Samsung Galaxy S4 (480 lux) and iPhone 5s (525 lux).

As with any Nokia flagship phone, imaging is a key element of the Lumia 930. Its 20-MP PureView camera features a Carl Zeiss lens with optical image stabilization for sharp, shake-free visuals. We  didn't get to shoot a lot of photos with it, but we were impressed with the wide range of controls Nokia's Pro Camera app offers, By default, everything is set to auto, but users who want to can exert fine control over the ISO, shutter speed and white balance.  We used this software on the Lumia Icon and were impressed with its flexibility and with the Icon camera's image quality, but we did notice a slight bluish tint on  many of our photos. 

Nokia also provides some useful and entertaining imaging software. Similar to Samsung's Story Album, Nokia Storyteller takes your photos and turns them into albums based on time and location. In addition to just organizing the images, the app now creates videos, along with music, of your pictures.

By default, the device captures a new type of photo it calls "Living Images," which are stills that have just a small degree of animation. Though they  look a lot like animated GIFs, a Nokia rep explained that Living Images are actually small MP4 files which are composed of the 15 frames before you took your shot. Storyteller then uses these Living  images to make its videos even more compelling. We particularly enjoyed looking at a Storyteller video and some Living Images of one Nokia rep's day trip to San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.

As with the Icon, the Lumia 930 comes preloaded with Nokia Creative Studio which allows you to edit the images you've shot. We opened up a couple of images and enjoyed changing their color temperature with Creative Studio's filters. However, we didn't see any functions in Creative Studio that we haven't found in Snapseed or other mobile image editors.

On the inside, the Nokia Lumia 930 has solid components, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal memory. In our brief time with the device, moving around the UI and launching apps was smooth and seamless.  The phone packs a 2,420 mAh battery which Nokia says will provide up to 9 hours of video playback.  The Lumia Icon, which has the same battery and components, lasted a strong 7 hours and 2 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery test, which involves continuous surfing over 4G.

The Lumia 930 will launch in June for an unlocked price of $599. Nokia plans to roll the device out globally but has no plans to release it in the U.S.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.