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Nokia Lumia Icon

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: Verizon
Manufacturer: Nokia
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What's Hot: Great camera. Sharp, bright and colorful full HD 5" display, fast quad core CPU, wireless charging.

What's Not: A little less stylish than other Lumia phones, no storage expansion slot. Windows phone app store still weaker than Android and iOS.

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Reviewed March 23, 2014 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

We loved the Nokia Lumia 1520, and I personally said it was the best Windows phone that I would never use. Why? At 6", it was too big for me. Others who felt the same have patiently waited for Nokia to release a smartphone with the same cutting edge specs and 20MP PureView camera, but in a smaller package. Now we have it in the form of the Nokia Lumia Icon, a worldwide exclusive to Verizon Wireless.

Nokia Lumia Icon

What's Inside?

The 5.9 ounce Nokia Lumia Icon has a 5" full HD Clear Black OLED display with outdoor brightness mode and heightened touch sensitivity for gloves but no Nokia Glance feature. Like the 1520 it runs on a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad core CPU with Adreno 330 graphics and 2 gigs of RAM, giving it the same horsepower as top Android phones. It has 32 gigs of internal storage but no microSD card slot. The phone has dual band WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS and a front HD webcam. Qi wireless charging is built in- no need to buy a special charging back. The 20MP PureView camera that can shoot DNG RAW files? It's every bit as good as the excellent Lumia 1520 camera. And that makes it one of the top camera phones on the market, barring the 41MP Nokia Lumia 1020. The Lumia Icon runs Windows Phone 8 (specifically the "Lumia Black" release).

Design

The only place the Lumia Icon lets us down is looks. Lumia has been synonymous with unique and attractive styling, but the Icon looks a little boxy and dull. Somehow Nokia's Lumia models suffer on Verizon and we can only guess that carrier prefers staid looks and eschews zingy colors. The usually curvy Lumia design is squared off here, and in fact the sides are broad and flat enough that you can stand it on three of its four sides (the side with all the buttons won't work). The sides are unibody aluminum and the back is Nokia's usual matte polycarbonate, and the back has a gentle bulge. It looks like a quality piece. Verizon Wireless offers the phone in your choice of black or white for $199 on contract and $550 with no contract commitment.

Nokia Lumia Icon

Calling and Data

This is a CDMA phone with 4G LTE on Verizon's network. It also has unlocked GSM world roaming with 2G and 3G but no LTE for GSM networks. Call quality on Verizon was decent but not stellar, Nokia excels at voice phones for GSM, but their CDMA (Verizon and Sprint use CDMA) call quality lacks the fullness and clarity of their top GSM phones. That's not to say your conversations will be an unintelligible mess--that's not the case. You just won't enjoy landline equivalent clarity and bass to treble range. Data speeds are par for the course on Verizon's solid 4G LTE network and the Lumia Icon matched current Android phones and the iPhone 5S for download and upload speeds according to the SpeedTest.net app.

 

 

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Display

We're fans of Nokia's OLED displays because they're sharp, bright and color saturated without looking cartoonish or garish in terms of color. This is a full HD 1920 x 1080 display, currently a rarity on Windows Phone but standard fare on higher end Android phones. In a word: "great"! Videos look superb with strong black levels and high contrast, photos shot with the camera look scrumptious and text is clear with no jaggies. The display has an outdoor viewable mode to combat brightness, and it is indeed legible outdoors. Like other Lumia phones you can enable enhanced sensitivity if you wish to use the phone with gloves.

Camera

Beyond the top notch CPU and speedy internals, the 20 megapixel camera with f/2.4 Carl Zeiss lens and dual LED flash steal the show. Granted, it's not as impressive as the Nokia Lumia 1020 and its 41MP shooter (nothing is), but it's better than most high end camera phones on the market. It has a larger sensor than most: 1/2.5 inch (0.40" diagonally) that's just a hair smaller than point-and-shoot dedicated digital cameras that commonly use a 1/2.3 sensor (0.43" diagonally). Like the Lumia 1020 and 1520, the Icon by default shoots a 5MP image and a full res 19MP image that you can use for print and lossless zooming via crop. The Lumia 1020's shot times didn't impress us, and even the Lumia 1520 could be faster, and the Lumia Icon only slightly improves shot times over these two. For example, autofocus speeds are tolerable though still not quick. As with other Lumia smartphones, you can use software lenses to achieve different effects, and you'll find these on the Windows app store for free. Nokia also includes their Cinemagraph, StoryTeller and Nokia Camera apps.

Nokia Lumia Icon

Nokia Lumia Icon

Video is crisp and clear, and we found the camera a more than adequate replacement for a point and shoot when taking photos and shooting video. You can shoot in your choice of 720 or 1080p at up to 30 fps. Nokia's high dynamic range microphones make much better than average stereo recording while shooting video and optical image stabilization keeps shaky video at bay without degrading video and image quality as digital stabilization sometimes does.

Battery Life

The Nokia has a 2420 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. That's a similar capacity to Android smartphones running on the same CPU with a 5" full HD display, so we expected similar runtimes. Indeed, like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, the Lumia Icon easily made it through a full day of moderate use with 25% left at 11pm. We used the web browser, email, social networking, played an hour of music with the display off, watched an hour of streaming video via Netflix, navigated a 5 mile trip with the GPS and shot 20 photos. We expect gaming to drain the battery more quickly, but in the Lumia Icon's case, shooting lots of photos and video will also drain the battery quickly.

Apps

You know the story: Windows Phone's app store selection is weak compared to Android and iOS, and that's something to keep in mind if you're a software junky looking to defect from those platforms. But the built-in programs like Microsoft's mobile MS Office suite, XBOX music, a strong PIM suite and social networking, MS Exchange support and a very good mobile IE web browser take core of core needs. Most of the top apps are available on Windows Phone, but some popular apps are still missing and the game selection is decent, but different from Android and iOS in terms of titles available. That said, I've managed to find apps to cover my needs with a few exceptions like my favorite grocery shopping list (Grocery IQ) and remote camera control and transfer apps from the likes of Canon and Sony.

The phone can sync with Google services for contacts, calendar and gmail, though push gmail went away when Google dropped Exchange ActiveSync support from free gmail accounts. POP and IMAP email are supported natively and as you'd guess MS Exchange works fine. The phone can use Microsoft's OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) cloud services for easy access to all manner of files including MS Office documents, photos and videos.

Conclusion

Looks aside, this is Nokia's best Lumia yet, unless you're a serious camera buff who lusts for the Nokia Lumia 1020. The Lumia Icon brings a full HD display, cutting edge CPU and graphics and an excellent camera to Windows Phone, and despite my aesthetic complaints, it looks and feels like a well made phone. If you're a Verizon customer and are interested in trying Windows Phone or upgrading, the Nokia Lumia Icon is easy to recommend.

Price: $199 with 2 year contract, $550 without contract

Websites: www.nokiausa.com, www.verizonwireless.com

Related:

HTC One M8 for Windows Review

Nokia Lumia 1520 Review

Nokia Lumia 1020 Review

Nokia Lumia 928 Review

Nokia Lumia 2520 Review

 

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Nokia Lumia Icon

 

 

Nokia Lumia Icon

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Specs:

Display: 5" capacitive multi-touch Clear Black OLED display with enhanced sensitivity for use with gloves. Resolution: 1920 x 1080 full HD, 441 ppi. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor.

Battery: 2420 Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad core CPU with Adreno 330 graphics. 2 gigs RAM and 32 gigs internal storage.

Size: 5.39 x 2.79 x 0.39 inches. Weight: 5.9 ounces.

Phone: CDMA dual band digital, 3G EV-DO Rev. A and LTE 4G on Verizon Wireless. Uses nano SIM Card. GSM quad band world phone with 3G HSPA+ (850/900/1900/2100MHz).

GPS: GPS with GLONASS. Nokia Maps and transit directions included.

Camera: 1.2MP front camera and 20MP rear camera with Carl Zeiss 6 element lens and dual LED flash. Has optical image stabilization and 2x digital zoom.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Windows Phone 8.

Expansion: None.

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