Nokia 928 review – confessions of an Android user

June 12, 2013
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nokia lumia 928 aa in my hand

The newly launched Nokia Lumia 928 has received a lot of praise from consumers and media, and has even been called a contender to the title of best smartphone of the year.

Sure, the still limited selection of apps for Windows Phone 8 is disappointing, but the Nokia Lumia 928 is still a great player through its hardware, design, and user experience. And, as Android lovers and mobile geeks, we’re always interested to see how the grass is on the other side. So let’s take a look at this bad boy, shall we?

If you’re in a rush, jump to the bottom of the article for the video, otherwise, stick with us for an Android user’s review of the Nokia 928.

Design and build quality

Remember a few years ago when Nokia phones were considered virtually indestructible? Their build quality was out of this world, and we tend to make a lot of nostalgic jokes about it these days. It’s been a long time since I held a Nokia phone, but let me tell you, Nokia’s still got it.

nokia lumia 928 aa front

While the Nokia Lumia 928 is made entirely of glossy plastic, the device immediately feels very sturdy in the hand. High standards were set for the build quality of this device, that’s clear.

The Lumia 928 features rigid corners and a nearly flat profile. It isn’t a heavy phone, but it does have a certain heft, and because of its relatively small 4.5-inch screen, the phone is very easy to handle with one hand.

nokia lumia 928 aa in hand

The front of the device is made up of the screen, a front facing camera, and the standard capacitive buttons at the bottom. Looking around the back, we see its white body and one black slit down the middle. This is the Carl Zeiss-powered camera next to the flash, and the speaker grill is at the bottom.

nokia lumia 928 aa back

Finally, the microUSB port and SIM card slot are located at the top, while all of the buttons are on the right. From top to bottom, those are the volume rockers, power button, and the two stage dedicated camera button. It’s a fairly thick device, we have to say, but not overly so.

When it comes down to it, the Lumia 928 is an attractive device that is nice on the hand and on the eyes. While I didn’t do a dedicated drop test, the phone was dropped from about table height landing on concrete. Those jokes about Nokia phones? There’s more truth to them than you might think — despite falling on concrete there were only a few small scuffs around the corners, while some devices, in similar situations, would come out with a damaged screen.

nokia lumia 928 aa dropped

This is a great testament to Nokia’s high build quality standards.

Display

If you follow smartphone trends, you might be disappointed to learn that the Lumia 928 doesn’t have a 5-inch screen. While some of us may have gotten used to larger screens on smartphones, the lack of one shouldn’t be looked at as a downside — this is because the display on the Lumia 928 is actually very well put together.

nokia lumia 928 aa display

The AMOLED panel comes in at a 1,280 x 768 resolution and is rated at 332ppi. So, despite a smaller screen, you still get very nice saturated colors and good sharpness. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic style of Windows Phone 8 — the capabilities of this screen go way beyond the primary white and black colors. However, there are a few issues.

Viewing angles are decent, but, at even a slight angle, you begin to see a bit of a blue hue, and you’ll have even more trouble with it in broad daylight, since the screen’s brightness is just not powerful enough.

nokia lumia 928 aa viewing angles

All in all, the AMOLED display is a great fit on the Nokia Lumia 928.

Performance

The Nokia Lumia 928 has a Snapdragon S4 Plus under the hood — not a Pro. This is basically the dual-core variant of the same processing package clocked in at 1.5GHz. It’s definitely not the fastest CPU around, but it still lets you smoothly fly through the 928 with little to no sluggishness.

nokia lumia 928 aa performance

Backed by the Adreno 225 GPU and 1GB of RAM, this phone gives you just what it needs for multitasking and optimal gaming. Of course, in the Android space, this might be considered a mid-range device, however, you have to keep in mind that Windows Phone 8 isn’t as demanding as Android, due to its more simplistic nature.

Hardware

The hardware under the hood of the Lumia 928 is fairly simple. We have 32GB of onboard storage without a microSD card slot. Being a Verizon exclusive phone, you’ll get the blazing fast LTE network. Additionally, there’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and GPS available.

nokia lumia 928 aa phone speaker

Call quality is good, as the call speaker is very loud. Even having it cranked up at three quarter volume, there were no issues hearing the person on the other end of the line. However, if it is set loud enough, it can muffle out the details of the call.

Finally, the rear-mounted speaker is loud as well, but it unfortunately lacks richness and detail.

Battery and camera

On the Nokia Lumia 928 we have a 2,000mAh battery. It can’t be removed, so that might be a downside for some, However, it will get you through the day with ease, but, as you might expect, nightly charging will still be required.

nokia lumia 928 aa battery

As for the camera, the 8.7-megapixel f/2.0 rear Carl Zeiss optics, while a mouthful to say, is a very, very good performer. You can activate the camera app by pressing down on the shutter button. You can do this at any time — even when the phone is locked. When it comes down to it, the app is pretty standard, but there are some options that let you adjust ISO and exposure, and extra modes are available via downloaded add-ons, or so-called lenses.

Carl Zeiss, 2.0 aperture, and PureView stabilization work together to make the quality of the pictures very good. It’s certainly good for portrait shots too, which is great to hear for those just graduating.

The aperture brings depth of field while the Carl Zeiss optics bring some really good vibrancy and detail. Finally, PureView brings some stellar low light performance. Broad daylight and indoor shots looks great, and lower light shots will benefit a lot from the Xenon flash. All in all, this nifty camera will create some really great pictures, which is something Nokia is known for.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

nokia lumia 928 aa camera 3 full

Click to enlarge.

Software

There’s a lot to like about Windows Phone 8 — until you get to the user interface, though, it looks much nicer in its Zune-ified design than previous renditions.

What you get is a black or white background behind all of the elements in a color of your choice. The elements are customizable and simplistic. That’s not a bad thing though — the whole point of Windows Phone 8’s Live Tiles is to give you information you need in an easy way.

Live Tiles are basically homescreen shortcuts to all of your apps, however, in Windows Phone 8, they do a bit more than that. When you resize any tile into a larger tile, that tile will give you more information. For example, the photo tile will give you more info by providing previews of your most recently taken pictures and the music title will show you what song is playing. It’s a nice way of getting previews of what is basically a combination of notifications and widgets.

Swipe to the right and you’ll have your app tray. As you might have come to expect, yes, it is not as big as Android’s. Similarly to the BlackBerry Z10, it was hard getting a lot of the same experiences I get from Android to translate. Again, similar to the Z10, the solution was to use mobile HTML versions.

What I did really like about Windows Phone 8 was the social media integration. The People app can use your Facebook account to display a built-in feed of your friends’ activity, which means you don’t need to get the dedicated Facebook app. As for messaging, you can use Facebook Chat straight from the messaging app.

nokia lumia 928 aa in hand with ui

Windows Phone 8 is appealing because of its grand ability to do the basics in a very clean, functional, and unique way. If you’re not big on apps, the Lumia 928 is a great device to get because all of the things you would generally need are baked into the OS. Many, including myself, like the same color motif of the user interface — it makes the experience seem unique while staying intuitive.

If you’re okay with the “what you see is what you get” idea, Windows Phone will be a perfect fit for you.

Video review

Price and final thoughts

To wrap up, the Lumia 928 is only available through Verizon Wireless for $99 on a new two-year contract with the mobile operator. Otherwise, you can purchase the device for $499 outright.

While the hardware, screen, and price point may make the Lumia 928 look like a mid-range device in the Android space, it’s important to keep in mind that Windows Phone 8 is a different beast. It’s very stylish, unique, and sluggishness is barely there. Packed together, Windows Phone 8 coupled with the impressive Lumia 928 make a truly beautiful experience, despite the fact that the Windows Phone ecosystem has a long way to go before it catches up to Android and iOS.

Regardless, if you’re looking to see what the other side of the pond looks like, the Lumia 928 is a great device to take for a spin.

Brad Ward contributed to this review.

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