Those who want their smartphones to stand out as much as a hazard sign, the Nokia Lumia 930 practically screams "Pick Me!" Similar to the Lumia Icon, the Lumia 930 ($599 unlocked) has plenty of power underneath its Day-Glo exterior. Packing a 1080p AMOLED display, 20-MP camera and a Snapdragon 800 processor, this phone is as nuclear as its rear cover would suggest. Having Microsoft's Cortana assistant on board is yet another perk. Am I going to ditch my iPhone 5s for the Lumia 930? Nokia makes a really compelling case.
Although the Lumia 930 is only available in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, some third-party retailers in the United States are selling the phone unlocked for anywhere from $599 to $699.
The Lumia 930 can operate on GSM (850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 1900 MHz), WCDMA (850, 900, 1900 and 2100 MHz) and LTE (bands 1, 3, 7, 8 and 20). Unfortunately for AT&T and T-Mobile customers, that means the phone will not support those carrier's LTE speeds.
Nokia has never been shy about trying bold colors on its phones -- remember the canary yellow Lumia 920? -- and the Lumia 930 is no different. The neon orange of my review unit definitely stands out from the traditional grays and blacks of most other handsets; it practically glows in the dark. If orange isn't your new black, you can also get the phone in a fluorescent green, white or, yes, black.
While its back is polycarbonate, the Lumia 930's frame is made of aluminum, which makes it feel sturdy. However, I'm not a huge fan of the phone's squared-off sides; not only did they make it feel less comfortable than competing phones, but the more-tapered edges of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 made it much easier to reach my thumb across those phones' displays without having to shift the phone in my hand.
The Lumia 930 has the same squarish look as the Lumia Icon, and at 5.39 x 2.79 x 0.38 inches and 5.9 ounces, it is identical in size and weight. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is larger but thinner, at 5.6 x 2.9 x 0.31 inches, and weighs a lighter 5.1 ounces. But its plastic construction feels cheaper than the Lumia 930's aluminum frame. However, the Lumia is even heavier than the 5.6-ounce HTC One M8, which has an all-aluminum back.
Just like the Lumia Icon, the Lumia 930 has a 5-inch, 1920 x 1080 OLED display with ClearBlack technology that makes everything
Click to Enlargeon the screen look tremendous. Colors were extremely vivid in the "X-Men: Days of Future Past" trailer. Trees were a deep shade of green, and there were no signs of artifacts in darker scenes. Skin tones were a bit reddish, but we could make out every last detail, from the wood grain in Beast's front door to individual hairs in Charles Xavier's stubble.
With a brightness of 296 nits, the Lumia 930 is on a par with the Lumia Icon (305 nits), but falls short of the category average (355 nits), the HTC One M8 (368 nits) and the Galaxy S5 (373 nits).
Click to EnlargeWhile the Lumia 930 was able to display 164.3 percent of the sRGB color gamut -- well above the One M8 (115 percent) and the S5 (158.4) -- it was far from accurate. Its Delta-E score of 13 (numbers closer to 0 are better) placed the Nokia far behind the One M8 (4.1) and the S5 (0.9).
However, I like that Nokia provides far greater control over the display than its rivals do. Go into the Display control panel, and you can adjust both the color profile (temperature, tint and saturation) and the brightness profile (how bright the screen will be on Low, Medium and High settings).
Another bonus is the Sunlight readability setting, which will brighten the display when you're outdoors.
The rear speaker on the Lumia 930 was loud but harsh. P. Diddy's "Bad Boy for Life" was grating, with higher tones very abrasive, and completely drowning out the lower and mid tones. Jr. Walker's "Shotgun" was similarly tinny; the old-school track sounded like it was coming from an equally vintage transistor radio.
The Lumia 930 does get loud, though. At 83 decibels, as measured from 13 inches away, it's as powerful as the HTC One M8 (83 dB), and blows past the S5 (73 dB).
Windows Phone 8.1 OS
Click to EnlargeThe Lumia 930 is one of the first phones to ship with Windows Phone 8.1 out of the box. This update to Microsoft's mobile OS has some welcome additions that bring it close to Android and iOS, though it still trails those two.
In particular, I liked the status bar at the top of the screen, which not only shows such useful things as Wi-Fi, battery life and the time, but also now remains there permanently. It's about time it did so.
Swiping down from the top also gives you quick access to what Microsoft calls the Action Center. At the top are four icons for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode and Rotation lock, which can be customized to the settings you find most useful. A small icon below lets you open all settings, which I found to be much quicker than scrolling through all the apps. Below this are notifications for things such as missed calls and messages.
Long-pressing the Back button shows all the open apps on the phone. Simply press the X in the upper right corner of each to close that app. It's a huge improvement over the previous version of the OS, which required a lot of Back-button pressing to accomplish the same task.
Another new addition to Windows Phone 8.1 is Word Flow, a Swipe-like keyboard that lets you drag your finger from letter to letter in order to type words. I found it worked well, and I liked the orange trail left by my finger as it moved across the display.
Click to EnlargeMicrosoft's answer to Siri and Google Now, Cortana is a voice-activated digital assistant that's good, but still needs work. (Just like the rest of Windows 8.1.) When you first use Cortana, you have to tell it your name and answer a few questions about your interests, what you like to do when you go out and what kind of news you find most important. Cortana then uses this info to provide custom updates that best match your profile.
Cortana worked pretty well in my testing, but had more trouble with contextual questions than Siri does. For example, asking, "What's the weather like near me?" brought up the local forecast, but following that up with, "What about tomorrow?" resulted in a Bing search with results for the movie "Tomorrow Is Another Day."
"How do I get to Times Square" brought up directions from my office, and opened Here Maps, which not only offers driving directions, but also public transit and walking directions. If you choose to drive, the phone will open Here Drive, which shows traffic, too. While both map apps are intuitive and well designed, it would be a lot less confusing if there were only one.
The biggest challenge to Windows Phone's ultimate success will be the number of apps available for the platform, and while it has been making some gains, it still has a ways to go. At somewhere over 240,000 apps, it's nearly 1 million behind Apple and Google's respective app stores.
However, many apps are still missing from Windows Phone. A recent survey from Windows Phone Central found that, of the top 25 free apps in the iOS store, only six were available for Windows Phones. While Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, Pandora, Spotify and WhatsApp are all there, YouTube, Snapchat and WatchESPN are still missing.
Inside the Lumia 930 is the same 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM found in the Lumia Icon. Not surprisingly, the two phones got nearly the same scores on most of our benchmark tests.
In everyday use, the Lumia 930 proved fairly speedy. When playing "Halo: Spartan Assault," I didn't notice any slowdown, and the camera took about 1 to 1.5 seconds to ready itself between shots.
Also like the Lumia Icon, the 930 has a 20-MP PureView camera with an f/2.4 lens and backside illuminated sensor. I like that you can easily go from fully automatic mode to manual just by pressing the menu at the top. It's a feature other phone makers would do well to copy.
The 930 has largely mitigated the bluish tint that plagued previous Nokia phones. Ice chips in indoor shots of a fish counter were white, and tuna steaks, red snapper and salmon all had the correct hue of red and pink. However, the colors in a similar shot taken with the iPhone 5s popped a lot more, and the overall image seemed warmer.
Outdoors, a bunch of purple flowers was more saturated on the Nokia than on the iPhone, but otherwise, both were vivid and crisp. I also saw a lot more gradations in color in a close-up of a red flower; the iPhone's shot seemed a lot flatter by comparison.
When I took a photo of a handsome gent in a darkened room, the 930 had a bit of trouble focusing on the subject; it took a few tries to get him in focus. Compared to an iPhone 5s, the 930's image had less detail, but was also less grainy than the reluts from the iPhone. Colors, such as the blue in my subject's shirt, also appeared more saturated on the Nokia.
Click to EnlargeNokia phones also set themselves apart from competitors' because of what you can do with photos after you finish shooting. Nokia Creative Studio, for example, not only lets you adjust color balance and brightness, but also has options for reducing red-eye, blurring the background or creating a tilt-shift effect. Color Pop was especially fun. This feature turns a picture black and white, and you can re-colorize sections by simply touching them. I felt like I could make enough stylish photos this way to set up a stand outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Click to EnlargeOther apps on the Lumia 930 include MixRadio, Nokia's version of Slacker. You can listen to mixes made by Nokia's experts, or listen to stations based on a particular artist. Best, you can download a particular mix to make it available offline.
The free version of MixRadio lets you skip up to six songs per hour. If you upgrade to MixRadio+ ($3.99 per month), you can use unlimited skips, download an unlimited number of mixes and access MixRadio through any HTML5-compatible browser on any device.
For some reason, the Lumia 930 has triple redundancy for navigation, as the phone packs HERE Drive+, Here Maps and Maps. As it did last year with its camera apps, I wish Nokia would condense these three choices into one app.
Nokia Beamer lets you share the 930's display with others either locally or remotely. After opening the app, I sent an email containing a link. After I opened the link on my notebook, the Lumia 930's screen appeared in my browser. While it doesn't change automatically, you can simply shake the phone, and a new screen will appear in the browser. Unfortunately, you can't save beamed images to your computer this way.
Bing Health & Fitness
Click to EnlargeMicrosoft is jumping on the fitness bandwagon with the Bing Health & Fitness app, which you can use to track your steps, diet and workouts. The app will record your runs on a map. For a dedicated runner such as myself, I especially like that it keeps track of your split times. I like that the app also includes videos and plans for yoga, Pilates and strength training, and that the nutrition section provides tips and tricks.
A news section aggregates stories from Reuters and HealthDay. Once the headlines have sufficiently scared you, the Medical section lets you self-diagnose with an interactive symptom checker.
Click to EnlargeOn the Laptop Mag Battery Test (Web surfing via 4G), the Lumia 930's 2,420-mAh battery lasted 7 hours and 19 minutes on AT&T's HSPA+ network, with the brightness set to medium. That's on a par with the Lumia Icon (7:09), but a bit below the category average of 7:44, the HTC One M8 (9:52) and the S5 (9:42).
The Lumia 930 also features Qi wireless charging, although this standard hasn't yet been broadly adopted. A Qi wireless charging pad, which you must plug in, costs $49. One such pad is the Nokia Wireless Charging Pillow by Fatboy.
Click to EnlargeIf you're tempted by the prospect of owning a Windows Phone, then chances are you'll like the Nokia Lumia 930. It boasts a great, 5-inch, full-HD display; excellent camera; a host of useful Nokia apps; and an attractive, albeit bulky design. Just keep in mind that this phone isn't available directly from a U.S. carrier (at least not yet), and its battery life is slightly below average. However, international travelers looking for a phone that stands out, in more ways than one, should consider the Lumia 930.