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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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