[alert type=alert-blue]Technical details[/alert]
OS Windows 8.1
Processor 2.2GHz quad-core
Screen 5 inches
Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
Memory 2GB RAM
Micro SD compatible? No
Camera 20MP rear-facing, 1.2MP front-facing
Dimensions 137 x 71 x 9.8 mm
It’s no great secret that Nokia has slipped down the pecking order in recent years. The chances are that if you ever owned a mobile phone before the smartphone era you would at some point have had a Nokia. The Finnish company simply dominated Europe like few brands have ever managed in any field of electronics. There was simply something special about Nokia.
If time makes fools of us all then Nokia, once the king, surely became the court jester. It struggled to make the leap from ‘dumb-phone’ to smartphone, and struggled badly. Rather than jump on the Android bandwagon it opted to create its own operating system, the ill-fated Symbian. Much like everything else it tried between 2007 to 2011 or so, it was met with a lukewarm reception and died an unmourned death.
Things finally began to show signs of improvement with the adoption of Windows Phone – a smartphone mobile operating system created by Microsoft. Since then, Nokia has become the standard bearer for the Windows Phone platform, with its Lumia range more often than not being the prime example of how to utilise it.
Just nine months ago we saw the first true Windows Phone flagship, the Nokia Lumia 1020. We liked it. We liked it rather a lot actually, enough to give it a five-star rating, making it the first and only Nokia handset to gain such a score in the smartphone era.
What has followed has been mostly disappointing in someway or another. Lumia devices have tended to err on the ‘entry-level’ side of things, meaning that even a perfectly capable, well-polished device could never really truly capture our imagination like the latest Samsung or iPhone so often did.
That is, until now – or so we hope. The Lumia 930 is undeniably a flagship device. If you were to take it on its specs sheet alone you would have a hard time distinguishing it from any leading Android handset, and that’s a very good thing.
A true, quad-core, Qualcomm-made processor pumping out 2.2GHz of power is a first for the Windows Phone platform. It’s such a key figure, one that smartphone tech-junkies will immediately search for, that its importance can’t be understated.
There’s also a full-HD 1080p OLED display, five inches in size. Again, this is now something of a bare minimum for any device hoping to compete at the highest level, but to have it present is obviously a very large checkmark in the Lumia 930’s favour.
It also utilises what Nokia calls ClearBlack technology to provide deeper blacks than on LCD displays – something rather important when black is the base colour of your operating system’s user interface. You can even tweak colour balance and warmth to counteract any distortion which may occur over time as the display ages – a nice touch.
Away from the essentials, there are a couple of pieces of hardware which you won’t find in your average Android device. Nokia was one of the earliest adopters of wireless charging in its mobile devices, and it’s inherently present within the Lumia 930. Not only that, but every Lumia 930 comes packaged with a wireless charging pad. It’s a wonderful convenience, charges your device just as quickly as a USB charger would, and does something to really distinguish the Lumia 930 from other handsets.
The other technological novelty is NFC, or ‘near field communication’. This allows the Lumia 930 to interact with other NFC-enabled devices, such as contactless payment machines, and sync with other devices.
Both NFC and wireless charging can be granted to other leading handset by virtue of a case or add-on, but for them both to be built in to the Lumia 930 is a real perk.
Cramming all of this tech in does take somewhat of a toll, though. The Lumia 930, whilst pleasingly blocky in its large, rectangular form, is noticeably weighty – and thick, too. At 9.8mm it’s the thickest high-end handset on the market bar none, and weighs in at 167g – that’s 15% heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S5 and 4% heavier than the all-metal HTC One M8.
That’s all the more impressive when you consider that the Lumia 930 is made, for the most part, of plastic. It has the same brightly coloured, monochrome plastic back as we’ve come to expect from a Lumia device, with a rather sleek, subtle silver band running around the edge connecting the screen and rear case. The inclusion of at least one visible metal component gives the device a premium feel, something which we really criticised the Samsung Galaxy S5 for lacking.
Unfortunately, despite opting for that plastic case, the Lumia 930’s rear is non-removable. That means no swapping of batteries, and, perhaps more pertinently, no expandable storage.
The handset only comes in one capacity – 32GB. That’s a good amount, and should be enough for most, but to not offer a 64GB variant when there’s no microSD capability seems unusual. You do get 7GB of OneDrive (Microsoft’s cloud storage program) free, though.
[alert type=alert-blue]Camera & Hardware[/alert]
One type of user who may still be left pining for more space is the avid photographer. And that is the one demographic which would be most excited for a new Lumia.
Whilst the Lumia 1020 had its flaws, what was completely without fault was its astonishing camera. With 41 megapixels and a host of intelligent software the Lumia 1020’s camera was undeniably, absolutely, without question the best available on any mobile handset ever.
Unfortunately (for those interested in the Lumia 930) that’s still the case. In order to preserve form, the camera on the Lumia 930 has been scaled back a little. At 20 megapixels it’s still one of the best on the market, quite possibly better than any Android or iPhone snapper out there, but it falls noticeably short of the obscene standards set by its predecessor.
That said, the accompanying Nokia Camera app still remains the best around. Taking a photo is just half of the fun, as Nokia provides a wonderfully comprehensive editing suite to fine tune your shots. There’s a wealth of editing options for colour, focus, exposure and the like, plus the obligatory list of Instagram-esque filters and the ability to ability blur and refocus a la the HTC One M8.
You can also add lenses to the Nokia Camera app (sort of like an app within an app, if you can imagine that) to get even more choice and variety out of your shooting. The presence of an actual, SLR-style shutter button on the side of the handset is a real bonus too, and makes the whole thing feel a lot more like an authentic photographic experience. The focus speed is a little on the slow side, but the shutter is quick enough to make up for it.
Slowness elsewhere on the Lumia 930 is a little harder to forgive. Despite the powerful processor that we mentioned earlier, the Lumia 930 isn’t the zippiest in everyday use. Apps can take a noticeable amount of time to open and close, which is most likely down to the fancy transitions used by Windows Phone 8.1. This is particularly unfortunate as the rest of Windows Phone experience is so smooth and sleek – it simply draws more attention to the delay.
Once you’re within apps, though, there’s no problem at all. Videos buffer swiftly, web page scroll smoothly and games play as they were meant to be played.
[alert type=alert-blue]Apps & Features[/alert]
Again, one of the Lumia 930’s big strengths is immediately followed by a drawback – in this case, the app selection. We all know that Windows Phone is very much the tertiary mobile operating system after Android and iOS, but that doesn’t make the lack of apps and games any less frustrating. Windows Phone has come on leaps and bounds over the past year – in fact it has twice as many apps and games as it did this time twelve months ago, at 255,000. But when Android’s Google Play Store has 1.3 million and the iOS App Store 1.2 million, the difference is stark.
No official YouTube app? No Instagram? Sure there are plenty of third party options, but it’s just not the same. Mobile gamers will be disappointed too, with the list of available titles reminiscent of the state of the iOS App Store three years ago.
It’s a good thing then that there’s a remarkable selection of Windows-native apps pre-installed on the Lumia 930. And, get this, they’re actually useful. Samsung would do well to take note, as Nokia manages to steer clear of piling the device high with bloatware and actually including functional apps with everyday use.
There’s News, Finance and Sport for all your news-needs, HERE Drive+ for turn-by-turn satellite navigation and MixRadio for a free alternative to Spotify. There’s a battery saving mode, a health and fitness app and even Microsoft Office. You are of course free to remove any and all of these should you see fit.
Cortana, the Microsoft equivalent of Siri and Google Now, is set to be arriving on UK Windows Phones any day now, too, so the user experience is about to get even better. Potential buyers should be warned though that, as nice as these features are, they still don’t quite make up for what is an operating system still noticeably behind compared to its rivals.
The plus side for those looking for something different is that Windows Phone has come along enough now that its mere presence on a handset isn’t enough to relegate it completely. The Lumia 930 is the flagship that the range has been crying out for for far too long now, and if you don’t mind having a relatively restricted ecosystem then you should have very few issues with it.
It’s great that the Nokia has developed a very distinct visual style for its devices, some of its more unique technical features are a terrific touch, and the camera is once again the Lumia’s crown jewel. It may not be ready to reclaim its throne just yet, but the Lumia is certainly now closer to prince than pauper.