Odds are, if you’re reading this you’ve never used a Windows Phone before, let alone the Nokia Lumia 928. It’s not that there’s any presumptions being made about our readers, it’s quite simply the fact that Windows Phone only comprises 2.7% of the overall worldwide smartphone market as of Q1 2014.
Personally, I’d never tried a Windows Phone before and never even had a friend that owned one. I thought, though, that it would be very important for our users to get an idea of what living with a Windows Phone was like. I thought, “It can’t be that terrible of a platform, but if nobody knows what it’s like they’re certainly never going to spend their hard-earned money on it.”
With all of that said, I approached my Verizon PR agent and asked her if I could test drive a Lumia 928. It may be last year’s phone, but odds are there are plenty of people that are still using it and it’s very comparable to a majority of the Windows Phone flagships that are available.
So I set off with my new phone in hand and began an adventure with the Lumia 928 to see what it would have in store for me.
Nokia Lumia 928 – The Looks
Obviously, you should never judge a book by its cover, but it’s still going to be the first thing you see when you pick up the metaphorical book. In this case, the book was the phone and from first glance, I was completely astonished by it’s beauty. The AMOLED screen of the Lumia 928 is absolutely gorgeous and its contrast between the absolute black and the Verizon red theme that is set by default is so striking that I had people look over my shoulder and comment on how fantastic it looked.
The body of the phone is a simple rectangle with no curves, but in an elegant sort of way. The design is a lot like many phones whose design was promised to be white, but the front is totally black and the back is totally white with the exception of the silver “Carl Zeiss” emblazoned camera lens.
Of course, being a Verizon phone means that it has a Verizon logo across the top, but in a way it balances the Nokia logo that is on the other side, so it’s not very intrusive.
The Lumia 928 Interface
Windows Phone is a type of interface that’s not going to change much across different devices or OEMs. HTC, Samsung, Nokia, and Yezz all make their own Windows Phones with their own OEM applications, but as far as the overall interface goes, it’s going to be very uniform across devices because Windows, as we know, is not nearly as open a system as is Android/Linux.
In other words, if you’ve seen what Windows Phone looks like before, you know what the interface of this phone is going to be like. The main screen has a series of live tiles and then you can swipe to the right to get to a full list of apps that are installed on the phone – or so I thought.
The Lumia 928 is still running Windows Phone 8, and though the entire lineup of WP devices running WP 8 right now will eventually be upgraded to WP 8.1 Cyan, I’ll not be able to speak for many of the changes that are brought about in 8.1. I can say, however, that WP 8 handles the location of games very strangely. The games on WP 8 aren’t listed in the main apps list at all and attempting to search for them will come up fruitless, they’re actually located in the Xbox/Games app.
To be completely honest, I’m not that surprised that Microsoft thought it was a clever idea, when I think about it completely in the mind of a Microsoft I could almost see myself doing the same thing. However, most users aren’t going to think that’s very intuitive. As a matter of fact, it took me quite some time to figure out where my games were and I thought they had somehow been accidentally deleted from the phone (though the store still said that they were installed).
Speaking of games, I installed two while I was using the phone over the couple of weeks that I tested it. I installed Words with Friends and Angry Birds Epic, the most pointless in the entire Angry Birds franchise of games.
When it came to normal processing on the phone such as moving about within the interface, typing a message, making a phone call, it was always very snappy, rarely did it even hiccup. However, when I went to play games, particularly Angry Birds Epic, which isn’t even that graphics intensive (imagine Angry Birds meets very sad RPG) it would cause the phone to suffer extreme battery drain, overheating and eventually the game would freeze for 30 seconds while it gathered its thoughts.
This wasn’t a constant problem, but if I played the game for more than 5-10 minutes the phone would complain about losing battery quickly and then would often freeze at one point or another.
Lumia 928’s Battery Life
When I wasn’t playing games, the battery life was actually pretty impressive. I would get up to go to work at about 8 and then I would go to bed around midnight (roughly 16 hours) with about 30% battery left on the clock and all of this is before the battery saver kicks in to squeeze a couple of extra hours out of the phone when you can’t make it back to a charger.
Over the few weeks that I was using the phone as my daily driver, I never had the battery die on me. Granted whenever I was doing something that I knew would lead to abnormally high use of the battery (games, navigation, etc) I would plug it in, but even that isn’t enough to save my Moto X on some of the higher usage days.
The Unexpected And Expected
To be completely honest, when I think of Verizon I think of quite a few things that I expect them to do that aren’t exactly the most consumer friendly practices. You may know, however, that I’m not a Verizon subscriber, but to much of my surprise when I popped my SIM card into the phone, it happily accepted it and all I had to do was give it my APN settings and it was ready to go.
I later discovered that this was a forced behavior from when Verizon purchased it’s LTE spectrum from T-Mobile in 2012 and was required to have all LTE devices unlocked out of the box. I wasn’t able to find a specific article citing this, but this CNET article has a section about Verizon LTE that should do the trick.
I was slightly less surprised when I wanted to tether my phone to my tablet. For reasons that I’ll explain later, I wanted to tether the Lumia 928 to my Android tablet. If you go to phone settings, there is a section called “Share my internet,” which is pretty clearly the tethering bit. However, no matter the circumstances, whenever I tried to enable sharing my internet, it would always tell me that it wasn’t available at this time. It’s hard to imagine that it’s always unavailable at this time unless Verizon totally disabled the feature unless you’re subscribing to a separate tethering plan, which costs an additional $20/mo. The whole thing is ridiculous if you ask me, data is data is data, but they want more money and they see us coming.
Like I said, I wasn’t surprised and on a closed system like Windows Phone, there’s likely no way around it. On an Android phone, you can normally do something with root or flash a custom ROM and not worry about it at all, but that’s not going to be the case with WP.
Nokia Additions And The Ecosystem
Not everything in the way of software is there because of Microsoft. Like I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of OEM applications that are there to convince you to buy a Nokia phone over any other WP OEM.
One of the value-adding applications is called Miix Radio, which is almost exactly what it sounds like. It’s a radio application a lot like Pandora that allows you to listen to your favorite music without commercials with up to six skips per hour.
I found Miix to be really nice, especially with the fact that there was no way to access my Google Play Music account from the Windows Phone, no matter what I did. Additionally, Spotify hasn’t updated their WP app to work without a premium subscription and the iHeartRadio app didn’t work until I uninstalled it and didn’t sign in when I reinstalled it.
Here Beta By Nokia
Here is basically a mapping system and application that can help you find things near you. The plain Here application can use some work (and is for some reason separate from the map application), but it was pretty good at finding local eateries when I went into the city and was looking for some Froyo.
The Here Drive+ beta is actually a really good navigation app and was able to take me from my old apartment to my friend’s house without a hitch. It displays the speed limit for every road and beeps to warn you when you are going over the limit or continue to accelerate after exceeding the limit. It was sometimes a little annoying, but overall I found it to be extremely useful in areas where I had to worry about speed cameras.
What should be noted about the Lumia 928 and other phones on Windows Phone 8 (as opposed to 8.1), there is no way to implement a third-party keyboard and there is no swipe function on the WP 8 keyboard. According to what I’ve heard, Windows Phone 8.1 will still be locked to the stock keyboard but it does have swipe, and if you’re an Android user, you probably know how valuable that can be.
On the contrary to the keyboard, for which there is no replacement, the browser can be replaced, so you aren’t stuck with Microsoft’s offerings of Internet Explorer. That said, you can’t change the default browser in WP 8, so any time you click a link you’re going to be sent back to IE.
The Windows Store
As we already know, Microsoft has incredible relationships with game developers and publishers through their already thriving Xbox network and the story doesn’t change a whole lot on their store for Windows Phone. The selection of games is excellent and though they are very different games than you would find on iOS or Android, they are great and arguably better choices. (This particular screenshot doesn’t necessarily demonstrate that)
On the other hand, the productivity apps, which are something that I find to be very important and something I use constantly on Android are severely lacking. Of course, this isn’t something that Nokia can do anything about themselves, unless they are to produce their own apps for accessing the file structure (something that third party apps can’t do in Windows Phone 8), which may be something that they want to look into.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything at all. I found a battery monitoring app that has a live tile that displays the current percentage and it was actually the app that warned me of excessive battery drain whenever I used a lot of power playing games. I also found an app that would let you manage the parts of the memory that are allowed to be accessed by third party apps in WP8, which is the Libraries, if you’re familiar with that in modern Windows desktop operating systems.
The Lumia 928 Camera
As I mentioned earlier, the camera has been designed by Carl Zeiss AG, who specializes in making precision lenses for all of the things. My experience with the camera has been above average for a phone that was released in mid-2013, and it did perform pretty well in low-light most of the time.
Most of the time the camera decided that it wanted to have high exposure during low-light but sometimes it decided that it would do with a quick snap and see what it could produce on its own (spoiler: not great).
Below are some of the pictures that I took with the phone. The ones of the UMD administration building, and at the bar are all in low light, the photo of the deer is taken at full zoom, and the last is in optimal conditions.
Drawing A Conclusion
The Lumia 928 is a beautiful phone, the UI is very snappy, and the camera is pretty great, even compared to brand new phones.
That said, its inability to handle some pretty normal gaming loads without freezing and some of the design choices by Microsoft makes it less intuitive to use and in some cases just a little frustrating (the keyboard).
In short, this phone is so close to something that I would be willing and in fact, eager to use as my daily driver but it’s just not quite there yet. Windows Phone 8.1 will certainly bring a lot of changes that make things easier to use and of course, Cortana, the Google Now/Siri competitor.
When WP 8.1 becomes more widespread and has made it to all of the flagships from last year, I would really like to take the Lumia 928 for a spin again, or even a newer phone to see what WP is capable of with newer hardware and an interface that has had more time to respond to customer feedback.