Nokia Lumia 925 Review: is it just style over substance?

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It’s been described by Nokia as a “new interpretation” of the Lumia 920. However, while the spec sheets pretty much look the same except for some minor changes, the Lumia 925 offers something much more radical – a break from its unibody polycarbonate body that we’ve seen on its flagship devices for something more metallic.

Announced way back in May, the Lumia 925 only recently has hit Australia. It has been on sale since mid-July, with carriers starting offering the phone just as little as four weeks ago. It is extremely gorgeous; and surprisingly thinner and lighter than the Lumia 920. It has an updated camera too. But does that enough to warrant the price tag, since there is only a small difference between the Lumia 925 and its predecessor?

Given that I haven’t played around with the Lumia 920, it is hard to make a judgement call on that. A basic reading the spec sheet says probably not. But then again, reading the spec sheet tells us that the Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel camera means that its better than the Lumia 925 because of the higher megapixels – but in reality, it’s not. Plus, the Galaxy S4 is utter crap when it comes to low-light photography.

The better question we should be asking is it worth getting it now given that we know the successor – the Lumia 1020, with its 41-megapixel camera. Australian availability has not been confirmed, so should you buy this phone or wait?

Nokia Lumia 925 Review: is it just style over substance?

Design and Hardware

Most of the changes of the Lumia 925 compared to the Lumia 920 are cosmetic. The Lumia 925 ditches the polycarbonate unibody with a metal frame with a polycarbonate back. While it does mean that the bright body colours of the Lumia is known for are gone for the Lumia 925, it does look polished and has a premium feel – if you look from it at the front. The polycarbonate back feels a tad out of place with the overall design.

One of the biggest complaints about the Lumia 920 was its thickness – measuring at 10.7mm. The new metal frame now makes the Lumia 925’s thickness at a respectable 8.5mm, making it a tad easier to put it in your pockets without having a slight bulge. It is also surprisingly light, measuring at 139g. The back also has a slight protrusion due to the camera lens – it’s not noticeable until you place it on a table.

It does look polished and has a premium feel – if you look from it at the front

The display is pretty good. It is not as sharp as other displays and doesn’t feature 1080p support, but it certainly does the job with the colours. It is highly sensitive so you can wear gloves and can still interact with the phone, which makes this perfect for the Melbourne cold weather.

Specs-wise, the Lumia 925 is almost no different to the Lumia 920. However, when comparing it to other phones, it falls into the same problem the BlackBerry Z10 had – the specs are a tad dated.

They both have the same 4.5-inch display, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and an 8.7-megapixel rear camera. However, there are some small differences compared to the Lumia 920 – most of them are just minor tweaks like having an AMOLED display instead of IPS. It comes in two storage capacities – a 16GB model and the 32GB model. The latter is an exclusive to Vodafone, however.

Specs-wise, the Lumia 925 is almost no different to the Lumia 920.

The bad news is that you can’t expand the storage capacity with a microSD card slot – so you will need to be a bit wise on what you store on your phone, or take advantage of cloud solutions like Dropbox and SkyDrive (or whatever they end up calling it). We assume that it was jettisoned in order to reduce the size of the phone, as well as the wireless charging (this was a reason why the Lumia 1020 does not have wireless charging also). However, it doesn’t excuse the fact that such a standard feature on high-end smartphones (that are not Apple) is missing.

Also, oddly, the microUSB port is at the top of the phone, making it a bit awkward to use the phone when it is plugged in – especially when taking a call.

Connectivity-wise, the phone includes 4G and NFC support. It also includes the usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. That said, it officially supports Bluetooth 3.0 – meaning that you won’t get to use the Bluetooth Low Energy component that is found on the newer version 4.0, which is designed to be used for low-powered devices like the Fitbit. There is a Bluetooth 4.0 chipset inside the phone, so you won’t miss out – you just need to wait until Microsoft and Nokia update the OS to support it. However, that might take a while.

With the new Amber update, the Lumia 925 also gets FM radio. Most people won’t care about this feature, but it is a nice addition if you want to listen to radio while on the go and because of the nostalgia.

Nokia Lumia 925 Review: is it just style over substance?

Third-party apps are highly volatile – they may work one day but not the next.

Software

The phone does run Windows Phone 8 – and yes, this means I’m obligated to tell you that not all apps on iOS and Android are there. It is a great operating system with a pretty good user interface; but you cannot ignore that some of the more popular apps are not on this platform. If you mainly use Twitter and Facebook – like I do – then Windows Phone isn’t much of a problem. However, for those on Google+ or YouTube, you’re out of luck. In the end, it depends on what apps you critically need.

I should point out that third party developers are trying to fill that void by producing their own apps – like MetroTube for YouTube, and 6tag for Instgram. However, these third-party apps are highly volatile – they may work one day but not the next. For instance, the fiasco when third-party Instagram clients on Windows Phone broke because of a routine update to Instagram’s security. Others have been quickly removed from the store after legal threats – such as a BBC News application developed by a Microsoft employee; and a Snapchat client called Swapchat.

At least we can take a bit of comfort in that Microsoft and Nokia have been successful in securing some app developers to produce an official Windows Phone version like Vine (which is not out yet, but it is coming soon).

Like every other Nokia phone, it comes preloaded with its own applications – like HERE Maps, Nokia Music, and its camera additions (which will be covered in the ‘Camera’ section below). HERE Maps is a pretty good and decent alternative to Google Maps for directions; while the included HERE Drive+ transforms it to being more like a GPS with turn-by-turn navigations. Nokia Music offers free music streaming through mixes/playlists based on artists and genre – and while that’s great and all, it somewhat pales in comparison with Spotify.

Nokia Lumia 925 Review: is it just style over substance?

Camera

The Nokia Lumia 925 features an 8.7-megapixel rear camera with optical image stablisation, like the Lumia 920. However, Nokia has updated the camera to include “advanced lens technology” (which includes six lenses) to improve low-light photography.

The photo quality of the Lumia 925 is superb for a smartphone camera – the colour accuracy is pretty good, and the photos are sharp. That said, I was playing with the settings in order to get the best possible photo, because the automatic settings tend to produce different results with the white balance and focus; or taking multiple shots since the colours sometimes get washed out. All of this is mainly due to the environment, especially during dark cloud days.

The Lumia 925’s strength is the low-light photography, like its predecessor. It will take the photo on a slightly higher ISO and slower shutter speed, but the end results does look good. I should also stress that this will require you to have a really steady hand, because if you don’t then the end results will look terrible. The focus light does help a bit, but the image quality without it is also good.

The Nokia Lumia 925 comes preloaded with its Smart Camera and Cinemagraph applications, with the Pro Camera – which comes with the Lumia 1020 – can be downloaded from the Windows Store. The Smart Camera does have some neat features, such as removing objects and taking an ‘action shot’, by taking several photos in quick bursts; however, I had much fun using the Cinemagraph feature. It’s an interesting app that lets you make animated GIFs from the camera, but GIFs can be in the megabytes and images must be first uploaded to its servers before you can download them since the animated GIF isn’t stored in memory.

Smart Camera’s features also produce mixed results – especially with removing objects. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It will depend on the shot. The Smart Camera’s processing is also slow – we’re assuming it’s producing all possible scenarios so you can review it – but it would be much better to just let the user choose what they want first before processing, as opposed to processing every single option.

By default, Nokia uses the native Windows Phone interface – which is alright in a way, but many of the settings are buried behind menus. The Pro Camera app came out during the review period so I got to try it out on the Lumia 925, and I found that the interface was much better than the default interface. It also has several advantages such as adjusting the focus and improved video recording. So I suggest that you should download this app immediately if you decide to get the app.

Note: the animated GIF, while produced in Cinemagraph, has been cropped and had frames deleted in order to make it just under 1MB.

WP_20130812_003_th

cinemagraph

batter

Performance and Battery

Windows Phone 8 runs smoothly on the phone – as expected – and the battery life is pretty good as well. The phone’s battery lasts for a day (or around, depending on your usage) before you need to plug it in its charger during the night. The phone does also have a “battery saver” mode, which simply runs the application when you open it and turns off automatic syncing. However, I found that I only reach that stage if I’m really heavily using the phone or if I just left the phone overnight not plugged in during the weekend.

As stated before, the phone does not have wireless charging – it’s not entirely scrapped, however. You will need to buy a wireless charging cover if you plan to use that feature, plus the mat if you don’t have it already. Of course, you can just use a standard USB cable to charge the phone.

I’ve also noticed that the Lumia 925 does sometimes overheat. It mostly occurs when it is doing something processor intensive, but I found it also overheating randomly. It’s not a major problem, as some phones also do overheat – it’s just that the Lumia 925’s overheating occurs a bit more often compared to my Galaxy S3 (which does overheat sometimes, but not as much). According to one of our contributors, Norman Ma, it seems that the high-end Lumia phones have this problem too.

Conclusions

The Lumia 925 is a great reinterpretation of the Lumia 920 – it’s thinner, lighter and has a better camera. It looks absolutely beautiful with the metal frame, and can finally fit in your pocket without making it obvious. But you cannot ignore the features that have been cut in order to make it so, such as the removal of wireless charging inbuilt, and storage being cut in half with no expandable memory slot. It is essentially a facelift – more style than substance. However, you can live without the wireless charging, and 16GB is enough if you’re files are in the cloud.

However, what lets it down is – unfortunately, again – the operating system. Both Nokia and Microsoft are working hard to address problems (including the apps), but it has a long way to go in order to match Android and iOS in terms of the number of app developers and the market share. It would be nice to actually write a review where we don’t have to mention every single time the apps problems with Windows Phone; but hey, some people get upset when they hear there isn’t an official “Instagram” app for them.

It’s thinner, lighter and… looks absolutely beautiful with the metal frame

There’s the added curiosity that the phone is being launched now when we already know this phone will be superseded by the Lumia 1020, with its massive 41-megapixel camera. This isn’t entirely strange, however. Nokia Australia did launch the Nokia N9 before the first WP7-running Lumia devices in 2011.

So, should you get the Lumia 925 or wait for the Lumia 1020? It ultimately depends on what type of person you are. If you’re interested in photography, then you should probably wait until the Lumia 1020 comes to our shores. However, if you’re an everyday mobile user, the Lumia 925 satisfies with its camera. Plus you won’t be really missing much, since Nokia has a habit of putting most of the features found on its flagship devices down to other devices – such as the Pro Camera app from the Lumia 1020 can now be found on the Lumia 925.

The Lumia 925 is a great all-round device – only let down by something that it can’t really control itself.

  • Score:

    8.0 / 10

  • The Good:

    The design – thin, light and beautiful; 8.7-megapixel camera is brilliant, low-light photographs still its strength; Nokia additions to Windows Phone (e.g. Maps, Camera) are pretty good.

  • The Bad:

    No expandable memory support; specs are a tad outdated since Lumia 920 was announced last year; no Bluetooth 4.0 support.

  • Bottom Line:

    Lumia 925 is the best Windows Phone smartphone in the market right now – until the Lumia 1020 comes out.

Join the Conversation

  • Woñt☮n™

    One of the greater, more objective reviews I’ve read about this phone. I’m anticipating getting this phone (whenever I’m eligible for my upgrade) and you make the wait even more fruitful. Thank you. :)

  • ABHAY TIWARY

    Stop Nokia Lumia Music Player..
    Watch solution at forllowing youtube video:

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  • Chenny

    Wireless charging is included but you need to buy a separate acessory…

    • http://techgeek.com.au Terence Huynh

      I think I mentioned in the review that you will need to buy a separate accessory for wireless charging since it has been removed from the device.

  • Sanjay Negi

    Nokia Lumia 925 features 4.5 inches AMOLED display, Windows Phone OS, 1.5GHz Dual Core Processor and 8.7 MP rear camera. It is a wonderful phone to buy.

    http://www.91mobiles.com/nokia-lumia-925-price-in-india